Flowers

Flowers

Friday, 13 September 2013

Hedgerow harvest

There's an expression you commonly hear in Scotland at this time of year (indeed, my husband, who was originally from Speyside, used to say it nearly every day in September). "Aye, the nights are fair drawing in." Roughly translated, it means: "Yes, the evenings really are getting darker."
It's a time of year I love. You still get lots of sunshine, the weather is still mild, even if it is raining, and the hedgerows are full of blackberries, elderberries and sloes. It's the perfect time of year to go for a walk AND come back with something to eat.
Where I live, in the Cotswolds, the hedgerows tend to be the classic mixture of mainly hawthorn, with field maple (Acer campestre),  native hazel (Corylus avallana) and wild rose (Rosa canina). You find brambles, ivy and Travellers' Joy (Clematis vitalba) scrambling about too, with the inevitable elders (Sambucus nigra) that seem to self-seed everywhere in the Cotswolds.
A mixed hedge supports a greater diversity of wildlife than a single species hedge. This makes them much more fascinating - there's a greater seasonal change to observe, and all sorts of creatures use the hedge as a larder or a home. At this time of year, they are humming with activity as bees, wasps and other insects gorge themselves on blackberries.
Perhaps it's childhood memories of blackberrying that makes me love traditional hedgerows. It's that element of serendipity - you never know what you are going to find, but it's always going to be interesting.
So today I took Rufus and a pail and headed up the hill to see what I could find.


This is one of my favourite walks: a public footpath which runs alongside the fields. There is a project going on here to encourage native wildflowers and skylark habitats.


 The sead heads of wild carrot (Daucus carota), which look like mini upturned crinolines.


Rufus likes this walk too. He just wishes I'd stop gawping at plants and get a move on.


September is a busy time for farmers, who have finished harvesting and now started ploughing. The fields are a patchwork of beige, chocolate and green.


Travellers' Joy, our native wild clematis, also known as Old Man's Beard. The funny thing about this plant is that I only ever notice it at this time of the year, when its silky seedheads are on display. I never seem to notice it when it is in flower.


The footpath leads up quite a steep hill (puff, puff), but once at the top, you get a fantastic view of the village, looking as if it is dozing in the late afternoon sun


Blackberries! Not the best crop I've ever seen or the sweetest, but there were enough to fill my pail. I wonder whether being able to buy cultivated blackberries (unheard-of when I was a child but now easily available in the supermarkets) has spoilt our taste for hedgerow brambles?


There were other berries in the hedgerows too. Hawthorn, above, 
which always looks so cheerful. 


Elderberries, from which you can make wine or cordial. I thought about it, but then reality stepped in. I knew I'd never get round to it. Don't eat the raw berries - always cook them


So here we are back home with a hedgerow bouquet (don't worry, it's all from my garden or creeping over the wall into my garden) and some blackberries. Walking home, I pondered what to make with them. Crumble? Apple and blackberry pie? In the end, I settled on bramble jelly, because it seemed to offer the best long-term reward for the time and effort involved.
The trouble with autumn is that one is overwhelmed with enthusiasm for new and interesting ways to use up fruit and vegetables. I'm the only person in my household who eats chutney, so there is absolutely no point in making jars and jars of it. On the other hand, everyone eats toast and jam, and a batch of bramble jelly will last for months. I'm going to cheat and use preserving sugar that has pectin added to it. Give me a break, I've just been on a really long walk!

27 comments:

  1. And I feel like I've just been on a walk, too, along a hedgerow in England. Thanks for taking us along. I'm sure the jelly will be a wonderful treat.

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  2. Bramble jelly sounds delicious and it has to taste better then any store purchased jams. Thank you for the walk and the hedgerow tour. Your hilltop view of the village is delightful. gail

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    1. I love home-made jam, especially the varieties that you can't easily buy in the shops. If you and Frances ever want to reprise your Malvern trip, Gail, come and stay! xxx

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  3. Stunning - perfect pics and the feeling of walking with you. xx

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  4. Blackberries - yum! I also love the views! Pictures # 4 and 6 are wonderful! You chose a great place to live, Victoria!

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  5. What a pleasant walk, Victoria and the most wonderful company! Good choice on the blackberry jelly.
    xoxoxo
    Frances

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    1. Thanks, Frances (see my reply to Gail). I'm only halfway through the bramble jelly - I've strained the cooked fruit, but I'm still looking for my jam jars, which I haven't unpacked since I moved. They're in the garage somewhere... xxx

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  6. What I'd give for some walking, talking, and cooking with you! BTW, I also love chutney but have never heard of making it with runner beans (as mentioned in a prior post or link.)

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    1. Well, you'll have to come over here and walk and talk and cook! It would be great to see you, though you may not like my low ceilings...

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  7. Beautiful countryside and a gorgeous fall bouquet. You are making me feel so home sick for that time of year. One summer when I was home caring for my mother for an extended period I picked pounds of blackberries. Few people seem to have the time or inclination to bother these days. I certainly would. Only once have I had sloe gin. I am not a gin drinker but that was delicious.

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    1. I love sloe gin! Gordon's (as in Gordon's Gin) make it, as do Marks and Spencer, and their versions are pretty good - almost as good as home-made. It's great as a liqueur or with tonic.

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  8. How I dearly would love living close to hedgerows! Rufus has grown up :)

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    1. Aw - I suspect my virtual ones might do you more good! Rufus has not really grown up - he's going through an appalling teenage phase, where he thinks he knows it all and doesn't have to do as I say.

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  9. We have 1kg of elderberries in the fridge, picked last weekend that we haven't got round to cooking off yet. You can spend a fortune on Sambucol to try to ward off colds, so we thought we'd give making our own a try. Ynfortunately my wife now has a cold so we haven't got round to making it!

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    1. Lol! You put me to shame - I keep looking at the berries round here and feeling I ought to do something with them. They must be bursting with anthocyanins. I also have a crab apple which is going unharvested - the trouble is, it overhangs the front wall, so any attempt at picking the apples would be constantly interrupted by tourists taking pictures of me in unflattering poses.
      Hope your wife's cold is better soon.

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    2. If you don't get to pick the crab apples at the moment, they make great natural christmas decorations, so give it till later on in the year when there are less people about. And if you don't get to them, then the blackbirds love them in the winter, ours is teaming with birds in in January.

      Just as was about to press submit on the comment, I've been told by wellywoman that it depends on the variety; as ours seems to be a little unusual in its late retention of the fruit.

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  10. I agree so much about mixed hedges! We have planted two up here which are suddenly this year large and thick and full of stuff. Heavenly.

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  11. So satisfying, isn't it, when a long-term planting project bears fruit, if you'll excuse the pun!

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  12. Ahhh, I love that expression of 'the nights fair drawing in'. I can almost hear the brogue. Thank you for taking us on this walk. I have always wondered what the hedgerow holds.

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  13. Oh my, I have never heard of preserving sugar over here! What a great idea!

    Our blackberries are fair done with here in Nova Scotia...blueberries now. On the west coast of Canada think they are still going strong.

    Very good crop and goodness, little Rufus has grown!

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  14. I loved seeing where you live! Its lovely, so different and yet SO familiar- blackberries everywhere. :-)

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  15. I loved walking the hills of the Cotswolds with you, even if I was just a virtual companion! Hope the bramble jelly is as tasty as the walk was beautiful!

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  16. Our hedgerow blackberries are rubbish this year even though there are millions of them. They are so disgusting their only use is to spit them out. Very disappointing. So don't despair. Something must have gone wrong with the weather if yours aren't any good either. Next year may be better and you'll find sweet and tasty fruit then. Wish we had hazel nuts.

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  17. I too enjoyed the walk. What a lovely bouquet you have along with fruit for the table. Just wonderful.

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  18. Nice to finally get to visit your blog today. Nice photos and a beautiful place. JC

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  19. Hi Victoria,

    I have just been looking through your blog at all the beautiful photos of your kitchen, puppy and surrounding countryside. And those borders are absolutely gorgeous! Looking forward to seeing what you get up to in 2014. Happy New Year!

    Rachel (of Citybumpkin) xxx

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