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Foraging for free fruit

Hayes Garden World in Ambleside, shares with us how you can find free delicious wild fruit this Autumn.

Pick your own delicious organic, pesticide free food

Autumn is the time when Mother Nature provides lots of free food in the form of fruit, nuts and fungi. Why buy expensive trays of fruit from the supermarket when, with a little effort, you can pick your own delicious organic, pesticide free food. Just remember the rules of foraging, don’t trespass onto farmer’s fields without permission and avoid the hedgerows besides busy main roads, also please don’t park blocking farm gates. If you are not sure what you are picking leave it alone. Another main benefit to foraging is that you get fresh air and exercise and it’s one thing the whole family can do together. You are also learning about the natural world, spotting birds and finding their nests and identifying wild plants; just remember to take a pair of binoculars and ID books.

Blackberries (Rubus)

Blackberries are widespread in our hedgerows and have been eaten for thousands of years. They have many uses including, jams, jellies, pies (mixed with apples), crumbles, wine and as a dye. They are extremely thorny so use a pair of thick gardening gloves and take a walking stick to pull down the branches. They are extremely healthy, containing manganese, folic acid, vitamin K and high levels of vitamin C.

Bullace (Prunus domestica sub species)

The bullace is a small round blue-black fruit, a bit like a cross between damsons and sloes; until fully ripe it is extremely acidic. It is usually just cooked into jams or pies but can also be made into a compote and served with game or pork. It also makes a lovely wine or infused into gin. 

Crab apples (Malus)

Crab apples range in colour in shades of red, yellow and green. Almost all are too sour to be eaten raw and are usually made into a jelly which comes in shades of pink and amber. It needs plenty of sugar but they are high in pectin so don’t need a setting agent. The jelly is delicious eaten on toast or with cold meats and cheese. The cultivated varieties make a lovely small tree for the garden giving flowers in spring, which is an early source of nectar for the bees, fruit and lovely autumn colour.

Elderberries (Sambucus)

These blue-black berries hang in large clusters and can be used as a dye. They must be cooked as they are toxic in their raw state. They make lovely jams and jellies, but can also be made into wine. They are a rich source of vitamin C and also contain B6 and iron. The flowers in spring make absolutely delicious champagne and cordial.

Hawthorn Berries (Crataegus monogyna)

The red berries hang in small clusters and are an important winter food for the birds. They can be made into a jelly which is delicious with cold meats and cheese and wine. The cultivated varieties make a good small tree for the garden. The spring flowers and early source of nectar coupled with the berries over winter are an important source of food for insects and birds.

Rose Hips (Rosa)

These small hard fruits are rich in vitamin C and most commonly made into a syrup or herbal tea. The insides of the hips are much beloved of children as they serve as an itching powder! Just watch out for the thorns.

Rowan Berries (Sorbus)

These small red berries are one of nature’s superfoods having several unique properties due to their antioxydants. They are said to act as a cancer prevention agent, aid digestion, relieve asthma and congestion and be antibacterial. They also contain high levels of vitamin C. Freeze before processing as this reduces their bitterness; they must be cooked and make delicious jelly to eat with game. They also make a Turkish Delight which isn’t quite as sweet as the traditional rose delight; make into a juice before making the sweet.

Sloes, Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)

These small blue-black berries are very like the bullaces just a little smaller. They are extremely bitter and usually made into a gin. Take care when picking as the plant has very sharp thorns. Pick them when they have acquired their bluish white bloom. They are traditionally picked after the first frost but can be placed in the freezer before processing.


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