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Sunday, 31 August 2014

My hunter gatherer genes take over!

Thank you all for your comments on my previous post re pens.  I wouldn't like you to think that I sit here worrying all the time about the environment for as Dreaming in Stitches said there is no black and white in being green!  The post was supposed to be a slightly humorous tongue in cheek sort of post but on a subject which does concern me.  I am always glad to see other people's opinions though and am open to any suggestions.  However just because my nano efforts won't make a dot of difference doesn't mean I shouldn't try and if we all did maybe it would make a difference.  I feel better for having tried anyway!

Anyway another week another post and this past week has been busy for us as with nothing in the diary we decided to use the time to do some of the things we've been meaning to do but not getting round to.  For a start we decided not to do any food shopping but to use up what we already had.

I keep a stock of things in the freezer and cupboards in case we can't get to the shops when the snow is on the ground or we fall ill with colds or something but since it is unlikely that there will be snow any time soon I thought we should eat what we had and defrost the freezer in readiness for new stocks.  So we had some odd meals last week and sometimes we each had something different but the freezer and fridge were sorted out and defrosted and by Saturday the fridge was bare - well almost! 

Another job we wanted to get done was behind the fence where the wood threatens to take over our garden - you may remember I did it a couple of years ago and posted here about it.  Well of course it didn't stay cleared and although we did a bit last year we were back to where we started again now.  So donning my wellie boots, stout gloves and old waxed jacket (it was too hot but it did offer some sort of protection!) I clambered through the fence and made a start on the nettles and brambles along with the rosa rugosa which had spread from our side of the fence to form an almost impenetrable jungle taller than me by several feet!  Mr M joined me after a while and took on the job of raking the cuttings to the end of the fence where we formed a huge compost pile or wildlife refuge perhaps?  Our reward for all this labour was a harvest of blackberries which was then revealed and which for a little light relief I picked and we had in a crumble pudding (using the remains of a loaf of bread for the breadcrumbs) for dessert.  I now also have several pounds of them in the freezer which had been defrosted in readiness.  Whilst the path remains cleared I intend to pick more as they ripen and then we'll have plenty of blackberries if nothing else during the winter!

This morning I woke to see an apricot light on the rose hips along the boundary of the wood and resolved to pick some and make something with them.  I had, during my rest breaks from my machete wielding activities, been reading The Thrifty Forager by Alys Fowler and she had given a recipe for rose hip syrup which I had thought I'd try and then I noticed in the magazine Landscape in Smith's yesterday that there was an article on using rose hips and a recipe for jam which I liked the sound of but not wanting to buy the magazine I tried to remember what it said!

I gathered my rosehips while I may to quote roughly Robert Herrick's poem illustrated below by John William Waterhouse...

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.

Must say I wouldn't have fancied gathering my rosehips or buds with bare feet though!

....and set to.  I decided to try the jam which was actually a cheese really as I sieved the pulp.  I did try to deseed each rosehip but I don't think I needed to bother since I would be sieving the fruit anyway and it was awfully fiddly.  I added a couple of crab apples for pectin and guessed at the quantities of water and sugar and produced a few pots of what I hoped would be a useful preserve.

I made a few scones to go with our afternoon cup of tea and tried the leftovers on my scone.  It hadn't set properly and although Delia tells me I could tip it all back in the pan with the juice of a lemon and boil it up again I think I might just keep it as it is and use it on my porridge instead of honey or as a syrup over ice cream or something as it is a bit bland and very sweet.  Of course I could also dilute it with hot water to make a drink for when we have a cold as it is supposed to be high in Vit C - those of us of a certain age will remember taking it by the spoonful when oranges were so had to obtain after the war.

We have a lot of self seeded nasturtiums in the garden and I have been adding a few flowers to my salads for weeks now and I also tried pickling some of the seeds which are supposed to be rather like capers.  Why I would bother since I don't think I have ever used capers in anything I don't know but my hunter gatherer genes suggested I should try it.  If it's there for the gathering I feel impelled to use it be it rosehips, blackberries or nasturtiums!

I have no idea whether they taste like capers nor whether I will actually use them but here they are.  Every time I see the name Sacla I am reminded of the little You tube video I showed you here  which in case you didn't see it I make no apology for adding again below!

So what with all this messing about the week sped by and although I hoped to be able to show you my finished bag I fear it is no further forward than it was before since I decided it was too thick to stitch with the pocket on the back and unpicked it and removed the pocket before sewing it back together; then the lining had me flummoxed as it seemed a bit thin and I feared the bag wouldn't have enough body so I unpicked that and added a layer of felt to it to stiffen it but now it's too thick and I fear the bag might end up in the back of the cupboard before long.

This coming week I have more social activities so there won't be so much time for hunting nor gathering but I did wonder whether to set myself a little challenge and try not to use the oven for a week having read that generating electricity is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide - not that the generators of electricity will produce less if I use less so again it's not black and white but a grey area.  I might try some one pot recipes on the gas hob this week or maybe even the electric slow cooker - it will be interesting to see how much difference it will make to the weekly readings we take.  But I shan't be worrying too much about it and as I don't think Mr M will take kindly to reading by candle-light and my cooking his dinners in a hay box I shan't be going too far with it all!


  1. Caro at The Urban Veg Patch just mentioned something about that primaeval need to forage and gather, I know exactly what you both mean. The rosehips look fantastic, we used to have rosehip jelly when I was little, it was such a beautiful colour. You've had a satisfyingly productive time I think, sorting out the freezer and the fence. I need to have a kitchen declutter (well, a house declutter actually) and use up some of the stranger things that are lurking about the place. I do so love a spacious organised cupboard and fridge. I shall start at once. CJ xx

  2. It is definitely that time of year isn't it. I've gathered blackberries and harvested apples and plums so far.

  3. I agree. We can't make much difference alone, greenwise, but add all our little bits together and they will make a difference! Have had some "interesting" meals here too when trying to use everything up so we could start afresh. Such a beautiful colour on your rosehips and in the sunny nasturtium bed and I absolutely loved the video (and half a dozen others it led me to!)

  4. We used to dry rose hip berries and when we got sick, we would make a drink by boiling/brewing the berries and adding a bit of honey to it. Like your idea of using all the things you had in fridge/freezer. I do that sometimes too (should do more often) and it always amazes me what dishes/meals I can come up with when I have quite a limited choice of ingredients. One pot meals are great, so quick and easy to make but at the same time really tasty. Thank you for the great video!

  5. Hello there fellow forager! I've had a lovely time reading back through a few of your posts, particularly your visits to London as a good friend lived in Kensington Church Street until her move to Cornwall so it's an area I know quite well. I've never been up to the Roof Gardens though and want to visit now! I remember when Derry and Tom's became the Biba fashion store, I adored it. I'm waiting to pick my next round of rose hips as I have to find some crab apples first - I fancy making a jelly out of the two. Love the name of your blog, is there a history to it, I wonder? Good of CJ to make introductions - nice to meet you too! Caro x

  6. I know that urge to make something from nothing. I used to make Elderberry things and Blackcurrant things but it took me ages to realise that I don't ever use them, so a waste of money and time. I hope you enjoy your results though.

  7. Goodness Jane you put me to shame, I am smiling though at the idea of you wielding a machete! :)
    I remember when I was young my Mum would always give me a spoonful of Delrosa every day......I hated it!!

  8. I love to read about gathering blackberries and such. It sounds so wonderful and of course doesn't happen here.... and I'd love to have an apple tree in my garden too. My cousin in Wales has a Damson plum which supplies her with lots of fruit for crumbles too. The closest we get is our neighbour's passionfruit vine ( which was terrific as we love passionfruit) but she's pulled it out as it was too vigourous ! Guess it's off to the supermarket for us !!

  9. I love picking and foraging. I have been eating some of my home grown green beans, tomatoes, berries. I may have to try the nasturtiums!

  10. oooh I remember rose hip syrup! C x

  11. It is that time of year isn't it? Preparing ourselves for the winter to come. I am feeling an urge to go foraging too!

    I made rosehip syrup last year it was delicious on porridge :)

  12. You make an excellent huner-gatherer Jane. I have been most wasteful this year in letting my tomatoes over ripen and drop off. At least the slugs are getting fed! I like the idea of you cooking dinner in a hay box! x

  13. I'm just catching up here. .My mother used to add ginger to rosehip recipes, a little not enough to overpower their delicate flavour. Rosehip and ginger ice cream was a favourite.

  14. The hunter/gatherer gene seems to kick in at this time of year. I'm madly gathering the tomatoes and making salsa, as well as canning tomatoes. One batch is in the canner as I write.
    You asked about a dry sink - it's a piece of furniture, used before the advent of indoor plumbing. Its characteristics are a top with a lip and a closed cabinet beneath. The top was lipped to contain water used in washing vegetables and such, and the bottom cabinet stored the buckets and necessary equipment out of sight.
    They were often used in kitchens and bedrooms. If you do an internet search for "dry sink" you'll see many of them. They are now just used as decorative pieces - I store my crystal in mine.

  15. Seriously - have you ever used a hay-box? I've used one for casseroles on caravan holidays and they can be very good.


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