Sunday, 25 September 2011

Life On Pig Row: Hedgerow Harvest

The autumn equinox has been and gone, the nights are drawing in and winter is slowly taking grip of us all. Yet, there is still something we can all do. 





We can all get outside, find a canal, find a roadside verge and look for the forgotten harvest. Our ancestors spent the month of September foraging the landscape, it is an art that has been forgotten, it is a harvest left to rot or worst still to be grubbed up for a fence or worst still a fencing panel. There is plenty to go at, there are late berries, crab apples, wild apples, wild plums and other fruit that would never be seen in a supermarket. They are exotic. They wouldn't even be in top rated restaurant. They would confuse the celebrity chefs and make them cry into their flat breads and battered courgette flowers. I spent my childhood in a state of foraging, my wife also spent her childhood bent over picking wimberries; we're not experts but we can tell the difference between wild garlic and foxgloves. One adds something to a dish, the other puts you in a grave. That is the fear that most people have, that they will pick something poisonous, that they will themselves. I would never suggest foraging without a guide book and I would never advise eating anything that you cannot identify. I do though advise getting out whilst you can, introducing your family to the landscape around you, it matters little if you're in an urban area or in the countryside, it is simply a matter of reclaiming the area you live in. We have introduced Little D to foraging and from his pushchair he inspected each plum we picked, each cherry plucked and even at nineteen months old he could guess which ones could be eaten and which should be discarded. It is in our bones, even in supermarkets we forage, we find, we take home and we eat.