Hedgerow Harvest

I can’t help but be filled with glee around this time of year when the autumnal equinox arrives in the Northern Hemisphere and like magic, hedgerows everywhere dress themselves in jewel-toned berries, hips and haws. John Keats encapsulated the season in six little words, my favourite description of this time of year: Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

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One of the ways I like to welcome in the season is to spend an afternoon bumbling along hedgerows looking for wild fruit. It’s easier in the countryside but even in the most built up areas there are places where wild things grow. I’ve been blackberrying in Seattle‘s Discovery Park and London‘s Hampstead Heath. There are year round foraging tours through many of New York’s parks which make for a fascinating way to spend an afternoon. Central Park is home to a wealth of wild greens, nuts, berries, mushrooms, even an occasional persimmon tree. In Manhattan, however, I find myself more inclined to look but not pick. I figure Gotham wildlife have a hard enough time surviving without us humans trying to pinch their food. A more exciting approach to harvesting in urban areas comes from the UK’s charity The Urban Orchard Project. Around the country they are rejuvenating neglected orchards and planting new community orchards. In urban areas, apart from planting new orchards, they identify existing fruit trees where fruit would normally go to waste and organize groups to harvest and redistribute the fruit throughout the community.

This year I’ve been watching autumn progress along the winding lanes of the Irish countryside. Hedgerows are dripping with rosehips, elderberries and blackberries, and tree branches are groaning under the weight of sour, crunchy crab apples just begging to be made into jelly.

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Yesterday I stole an hour to gather together some wild berries and apples for a hedgerow jelly, some rose hips for a batch of rose hip syrup (the sexiest way to get your daily dose of vitamin C) and a bunch of elderberries for a ye olde worlde (and super tasty) Elderberry Rob (syrup) to guard against flu.

foraging, wild food, wild fruit, berries, ireland, hedgerow, autumn, travel, travelogue, ailsa prideaux-mooney

I also spotted a clump of blackthorn trees sporting the elusive sloe berry and made a mental note to return after the first frosts have readied the sloes for a batch of sloe gin….

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…took time out to make friends with the locals…

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… then cooked up a batch of rose hip syrup.

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Not a bad way to spend an autumn evening.

xxx Ailsa

 

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About ailsapm

Hi there! I’m Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney. I’ve lived in many places, and travelled to many more. I had a lot of fun getting there and being there, wherever there happened to be at the time. I climbed a castle wall in Czesky Krumlov, abseiled down cliffs to go caving in the west of Ireland, slept on the beach in Paros, got chased by a swarm of bees in Vourvourou (ok that wasn’t fun, but it was exciting), learned flower arranging in Tokyo, found myself in the middle of a riot in Seoul, learned to snowboard in Salzburg, got lost in a labyrinth in Budapest and had my ice cream stolen by a gull in Cornwall. And I’m just getting started. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, I’d love you to follow my travelogue - wheresmybackpack.com - and remember, anyone who tries to tell you it’s a small world hasn’t tried to see it all.
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30 Responses to Hedgerow Harvest

  1. Debbie Smyth says:

    Sounds like a great autumn evening!

  2. aj vosse says:

    Indeed… not a bad way to celebrate the fine autumn we had so far!! Have you ever eaten one of those sloes? For the fun?? 😉

  3. So beautiful, Ailsa. 🙂 Rose hip syrup looks good.

  4. markd60 says:

    I love it when wild berries are available for picking!

  5. CurlsnSkirls says:

    Gorgeous colours, and yummy concoctions, Ms. A! Wonderful to know there are folk who can recognise, enjoy & savour such a lovely harvest. Thanks for sharing the bounty! xx del

    • ailsapm says:

      I’m pretty nifty at identifying berries and nuts, but draw the line at mushrooms – I’m convinced I’d find the one poisonous mushroom in a field of edible ones! Glad you enjoyed my hedgerow harvest. xxx Ailsa 🙂

  6. ianbcross says:

    My mother used to give me rosehip syrup when I was a child, in the 1950s. Probably to ward off scurvy or something.

    • ailsapm says:

      I read somewhere it was popularized in England during WW2 when they couldn’t get citrus fruit and rose hips provided a valuable source of vitamin C. Apparently the WI arranged for school children to get time off school and bussed them out to pick rose hips (they were paid 3d per pound) which were then sent off to Delrosa to be turned into syrup.

  7. justmusing says:

    Simply lovely – by color, taste ; ) and atmosphere..

  8. julieallyn says:

    Great post! Smiled all the way to the very end. Nice photos too!

  9. Angeline M says:

    This is a beautiful post. I never knew where sloe gin came from 🙂 Those are lovely berries.

  10. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Wonderful Ailsa, I’ve made a lot of damson jelly and jam this year!

  11. Your post reminds me of my childhood in Auckland. We were in a new subdivision and there were lots of wild brambles. We had so much fun going out and finding where the best berries were and came home with bright red faces from the juices. 😀

  12. Francesca says:

    I love the idea of gathering wild food and berries. An evocative post.

  13. Those crabapples look delicious.

  14. Great bunch of photos. Your posts always give me camera envy, or more appropriately, Photographic Ability Envy. Thanks for sharing your creative thoughts.

  15. I love Elderberry anything. Brilliant flavour.

  16. Pingback: Travel theme: Autumn | Where's my backpack?

  17. You are so lucky to be surrounded by all that wild food and to know WHAT it is and how to use it. Most people no longer learn about wild foods, or might know only one or two. I have identified about 40 wild foods on my property alone and always love finding something on my walks. Now, of course, it’s down to acorns and nuts. All the berries and greens are gone. I am surprised to see that you are still able to harvest elderberries. Mine were ripe at least 6 to 8 weeks ago and I only got to harvest them because I had placed some birdnetting over them, just in time…
    Elderberry syrup is very popular in Europe as a preventative and cold and flu fighter (I made sure I made plenty this year). Hawthorn tea is used as a heart tonic. I am building up my wild roses to harvest enough rose hip for rose hip jam and syrup!

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