Food from hedges
Fresh, organic & seasonal fruit, berries, nuts, leaves & flowers bursting with their own unique flavours. Nature needs no marketing budget to promote its producel. Get more information from Catherine Keena Teagasc Paul Flynn, Tannery Restaurant, Dungarvan & Rosemarie Cusack Cookery Demonstrator
‘A single plump blackberry sat proudly on my wild berry roulade in a downtown Manhattan restaurant. I was instantly transported to my childhood, recalling vividly the fresh berry taste and purple tinted fingertips as I picked blackberries, filling lunchboxes to overflowing with my brother and sister in the green fields round Ferbane’, recounted an Irish emigrant from County Offaly.
Our connection with wild food collected as children remains deep in our memory, such a simple, pleasurable activity for the whole family.
What is it only harvesting the bountiful supply that nature provides us? Fresh, organic and seasonal fruit, berries, nuts, leaves and flowers bursting with their own unique flavours. Pick your own with a free self-service checkout. Leaving some for others to find and of course remembering that this is the food source for many birds and small mammals, foraging creates its own unique, mindfulness opportunity. We can be totally focussed on the natural world around us while sharing the experience with others. There is something very special about creating a meal using foraged ingredients.
Take home handfuls of blackberries for muffins with a little brown sugar and cinnamon on top, made in minutes when you return from your foraging trip. Or freeze them for later to make jam or jelly or blackberry mousse with a beautiful deep pink colour, they make such a nice desert or as toppings for yoghurt or muesli. There are endless possibilities for using blackberries.
Shiny red rosehips can be made into rose hip syrup, packed with vitamin C with a light fruity taste, perfect with ice-cream, meringues, or to flavour sparkling water. Rosehips have that special sweet and tart flavour which goes so well with game and duck or can be used to enhance the taste of a sauce.
The dark purple sloe on the blackthorn makes wonderful sloe gin with its beautiful rich colour, worth savouring at Christmas or to make an ideal home crafted gift. Sloes can also make a wonderful jelly to accompany chocolate mousse and cream - now doesn’t that sound enticing!
Crab apples are tiny, hard and sour and make a rich red jelly, with a hint of cloves, needing nothing more than a slice of hot buttery toast to yield it sweet and aromatic taste. Crab apple cheese can be made from the pulp remaining from a batch of crab apple jelly, a perfect example of zero food waste. It is a lovely fruit spread for breads and can be served with pork, bacon or a hunk of mature cheddar cheese.
Elderflowers & elderberries
In early summer many of us are familiar with the white fluffy elderflowers which when made into a cordial can be added to sparkling water or even white wine. They can also be used to make a lovely ice-cream or dipped in batter and deep fried as fritters to serve with ice-cream. In Autumn, the elderberries can be made into a jelly with a sugar syrup and flavoured with cinnamon and cloves. Just the perfect topping for a salad with goat’s cheese.
Hazel nuts gathered from the hedges roasted gently and skins removed by rubbing in a tea towel, give a lovely texture and flavour to a salad. Pair them with smoked bacon, sherry and red wine vinegar in a dressing gives a dark comforting flavour - who can resist that taste and nutty crunch?
In today’s world where we are ever more conscious of reducing waste and minimizing packaging, foraging for food is so important. So, next autumn, let’s set forth with the family and look at the hedges in a new light.
For a selection of recipes and further ideas see
Find out more about the value of hedges and Hedgerow Week here