Recipes and Locations for Wild Harvest Foods

In 2009 Ed and I decided to finally put into practice what he had wanted to do for a few years: to make and sell some ‘functional foods’. He had done a lot of research over the previous years, making fruit leathers, marchmallows and syrups. Together we decided we had the man-power to make enough of one or two products to sell and raise awareness of the wonderful bounty in the local hedgerows. Ed did a lot of research into the recipe for the elderberry syrup especially. We ended up using a slightly modified version of the recipe found in the book ‘Hedgerow Medicine’ (Bruton-Seal) and had to up the sugar content to increase the shelf life of the product as we were going to sell it in Sunshine Health over the year.

The elderberries all came from the Stroud valleys and hills and we kept a note of where each batch came from, when it was picked and what else was ready to harvest at the same time. Obviously the weather changes every year and so this is a very vague guide to when and where to pick, but what it does show is just how easy it is to find the elderberries, how much we picked and how much syrup we made. We love hedging, who wouldn’t love going out on a beautiful day, finding some fresh, free food and making something delicious out of it that day?

Elderberry Syrup

Picking 1: 20th August 2009 Summer Street and below the Leazes. Good picking and lots within easy reach. In the Leazes  there were about a dozen thickly laden trees. A blustery morning.

1 hour picking gave 1 large bag full and made 2.75 litres of syrup before sugar addition.

Picking 2: 29th August 2009, Kings Stanley. A beautiful sunny day and a wonderful walk up to the woods. Plenty of elderberries up in the corner near the spring. (this is a great place for a picnic!). Lots of blackberries too, which we picked and ate.

picked 2 large bags which gave 4.5 ltrs of syrup before sugar addition.

Picking 3: 5th September 2009, Wick Street

This is a truly magical part of Stroud, one of our favourite walks. There were lots of elderberries right from the bottom of the lane and the trees were all heavily laden. It is an easy way to walk, along the path or accross arable land and through woodland. The higher elderberries were still to ripen. We also took a couple of small rooted vine cutting from the side of the road where they spilled over from someone’s property, we noticed plenty of hips and haws for future pickings too.

picked 2 large bags which gave 4.5 ltrs of syrup before sugar addition.

Picking 4: 6th September 2009, The Heavens

A warm day but overcast. This is also a magical place to walk, accross streams and through the beech woods. At this point there were very few elderberries and those that were ripe were out of reach, food for the birds! Lots of blackberries made up for this and huge numbers of hips and haws.

picked 1 bag which gave 2.5 ltrs of syrup before sugar addition.

Picking 5: 7th September 2009, Nympsfield

Ed cycled to the fields in Nympsfield and picked these alone, he noticed lots on the way up from Stroud. He spent around 3 hours picking and came back heavily laden with a huge ikea bag full to bursting strapped to the back of the bike!

Picked 1 huge ikea bag full which gave over 5 ltrs of syrup before sugar addition.

Hawthorn Haws

We also produced a small quantity of hawthorn syrup, which we ended up not selling as the quantity was insufficient. They made a beautiful light pink syrup that tasted of strawberries (after a slightly worrying phase in the syrup making where they smelt of fish!).

25th September, The Heavens: A sunny day, ripe haws and very sweet blackberries. We picked one big bag full of haws. And lots of blackberries for a pie!

5th October, Rodborough: Autumn coming in, a grey day and hard work picking. Filled a plastic bag full of haws.

We hope that this information has inspired you to look around and see what you can harvest. At the moment (early March) the wild garlic (ramsons) is starting to appear and the earliest flush of green is spreading over the five valleys. You can make like a rabbit and liven up a salad with delicate primula/polyanthus flowers and wait for the first harvest of the year!

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