GORSE: A Snatch of Tropical Summer!

There’s a knack to picking gorse flowers. Gorse, or Ulex Europaeus, is spiny as all hell. The trick is to pluck the open flowers right at the end of the twigs – the open flowers have more of the scent that you want to impart flavours to your drinks (be they alcoholic or otherwise). Plus, always pluck AWAY from the twig – if you push your hand towards it you are going to get spiked.

This is what gorse looks like. it is common in Britain on sandy, acid soils. Look out for it on heathland, moorland, near the beach, and near pine trees.

There is actually loads of gorse right near my boat, in Tesco car park, but that’s not where you want to be picking – they’ll be covered in exhaust fumes and probably contain rats and empty cans of cheap cider. Far better to pick somewhere away from all that. I trotted over to Rushmere Country Park and immersed myself in the tranquility below tall windswept Scots pines, like the middle class reprobate I am. So here is a poetry warning. Look away now if you need to.

warm coconut lemon wind,

bumbles humming;

fingers pricked as they pluck

silken imperial yellow.

soft grass like hay,

birds fluting stunning morse

and those orchid blooms

held by gladiators fearsome.

After picking my way like a deer through snares of bramble, I managed to collect about three pint cups worth of gorse blooms. It did take quite a while, (two hours), but perhaps that was due to me suffering from a few too many down the Black Lion the night before. Things were made more amusing when a man and dog came over to check I hadn’t met my end in a bush, having seen what they thought was an abandoned bag!

One pint I bunged straight away into clean jam jar and filled it to the brim with white rum, adding just half a tsp of sugar and half a lime zest.. Hey presto! Gorse rum! Strain the flowers out after 24 hours.

I had a go at mixing a generous shot of gorse rum with a shot of gorse cordial, then topping it up with sparkling water and a slice of lime in a Prosecco glass. The result? Very moreish, but a bit on the sweet side!! I will do it with bitter lemon water next time, and maybe half as much cordial…

Check out Riverford Organics take on a classic Dark & Stormy cocktail, using ginger, citrus and soda water and lots of gorse rum.

For those of you that need to operate heavy machinery in the next 12 hours, or if you are under 18, try Gorse Cordial.

The recipe I used called for:

2 cups gorse flowers (1 pint glass)

250g sugar

1 lime, with zest grated

1 orange, zest grated

1 pint of water

All you do is put the water and sugar in a saucepan, boil it for 10 minutes, then let it cool for a few minutes. Add the grated citrus zests and squeeze in the juices. Then bung in the gorse flowers and cover Leave it in the fridge or in a cool place overnight. If you want to use it in the next few days, you can just sieve out the flowers and zest and bottle it. If you want it to last longer, boil it again for a few minutes then pour into a sterilised bottle and seal. A voila! Gorse cordial. Make it into a pretty gift by wrapping some hessian or that checker cheesecloth stuff over the top of the bottle, and make a label.

Gorse cordial, Gorse rum and a glass of cordial, not rum. (It was a weekday, just before picking the kid up from school).

Next I thought id try a Gorse Jelly, after reading exciting accounts from previous Master Chef contestants. (Yours truly is NOT a previous Master Chef contestant). I used a sachet of Vegi Gel, the Gorse cordial, half a lime, some Oatly since cream, some grated dark chocolate and grated ginger and a handful of Gorse flowers.

Gorse jelly (I made 2 of these) with dark chocolate and ginger flakes.

My verdict? Maybe I should have used fresh gorse flowers instead of the cordial. Some recipes seem to use these. It was tasty enough, but I couldn’t taste much of the ‘coconutty’ scent and taste of the gorse. I guess ginger is quite overpowering too. So next time I will use twice as many flowers and leave out the ginger…

Stay tuned for some wild booze cocktail experiments with my friend Rick the cocktail barman soon…

GORSE: A Snatch of Tropical Summer!

Hedgewitch Adventures Foraging Courses – Spring 2022

Here’s what’s on at Easter (when my Mum has my hyperactive 7 year old…)

Sat 9th April : Spring Forage and Pub Quiz : 2 hours of foraging tuition in the lovely Ouzel River Meadows, then back to the pub for a fun quiz!

The Globe Inn, Linslade, 10am-1pm, max 15 spaces

£15 adult/£7.50 child 5-15

To book: Links on my Facebook page ‘Hedgewitch Adventures’/ Eventbrite/ Paypal to hedgewitchkat@gmail.com

Weds 13th April: Lacto-fermentation Cookery School – Making Wild Kimchi: One and a half hours of foraging then back at the Globe we will be making Kimchi from wild and traditional Asian ingredients.

The Globe Inn, Linslade 10am -1pm, max 10 spaces

£25 adult/£12 child 5-15

To book: see Facebook page ‘Hedgewitch Adventures’ to click on events link / Eventbrite/ Paypal to hedgewitchkat@gmail.com

Sat 16th April: Spring Foraging with Tapas Tasters : 3 hour forage with tapas style tasters!

Tiddenfoot Waterside Park (meet at car park)

£15 adult/£7.50 child 5-15, max 15 spaces

To book: see Facebook page ‘Hedgewitch Adventures’ to click on events link / Eventbrite / Paypal to hedgewitchkat@gmail.com

For more info: See my Facebook page ‘Hedgewitch Adventures’ or email me on hedgewitchkat@gmail.com

See you there!

From Hedgewitch Kat

My latest article for Kitchen Garden magazine
Hedgewitch Adventures Foraging Courses – Spring 2022

COW PARSLEY: The Story of ‘Mother-Die’

Cow parsley, or Anthriscus sylvestris, is so entrenched at the sides of our ditches, waysides and collective consciousness that we are almost blind to its creamy flurry of umbrellalike blossoms, its ferny carrot top fronds of vibrant green. it is often one of the first plants to show its head come Spring. As you may have guessed, it is a member of the Umbellifer or Apiaceae family – that majestic hall of fame that involves some delicious edibles, yet also some that have been used historically as Greek execution poisons. A very good reason to do extensive homework before picking cow parsley, abundant though it may be.

So – here’s the important homework.

We are looking at a plant that starts life as a rosette of 2-3 times pinnate leaves. Pinnate means ‘divided’. So you are looking at how many times the leaf splits into smaller leaflets. The base of the plant, where it meets the ground, may have a pink blush but NOT have spots or blotches. If it has got spots or blotches, avoid it like the plague, as it is likely to be Hemlock (Conium maculatum) with no less than three lethal alkaloids (including conine), and it will send you to the hereafter in half an hour if you mix it in a potato salad. Plants are fighting to survive too, and some fight dirty!

If you pick a stem of cow parsley and hold the stem up to the light, you should be able to just make out a fine line of downy hairs that runs down the length of the stem. The main stems are hollow and slightly ridged, and in times past were used by errant school children as pea shooters.

Hemlock, in contrast, has smooth, perfectly rounded, hairless stems (that are also hollow). The leaves of hemlock are also more finely divided, 3- 4 times, giving them the look of intricate lace. if you look at the leaves and your’e thinking ‘how lovely and lacy’, don’t eat it! I have seen hemlock growing in London that has leaves only 3 times pinnate, so never go by leaf divisions alone to identify cow parsley. Use every sense. This really does come to the fore when the plants flower, as hemlock flowers stink of mouse urine, or the sickly sweet smell of failing kidneys. Listen to the hemlock – its really trying to tell you something! Their flowering seasons are also different, with cow parsley flowering first and hemlock after. Cow parsley rarely grows higher than 1 metre and hemlock can easily overshadow a 2 metre high man. Most poisonings happen when hemlock is young and close to the ground, sometimes growing with cow parsley and an incautious forager tips it in with the rest of their haul. If you think you or someone else may have eaten hemlock, call an ambulance. Fast.

Anthriscus sylvestris can be roughly translated from the Latin as ‘woody chervil’. It is also known as wild chervil, Mother-Die, Queen Anne’s lace or ‘keck’. One can always tell how enshrined a plant is in our traditions and history by the amount of nicknames it has! The rather morbid name of ‘Mother-Die’ came from rural villages, where parents spread the rumour that if a child brought cow parsley into the house, their mother would die. This was probably intended to stop children picking the dangerous hemlock, cowbane, or hemlock water-dropwort by accident. It is a shame that cow parsley has this reputation, which is thoroughly undeserved. It is in fact a harmless edible, with a fresh, slightly peppery taste. However, pregnant women are advised not to eat it (just like they are advised not to eat many other things) as it may contain chemicals which cause the womb to contract. In the past it was used as a contraceptive, though not a very effective one!

Now for the recipes. What can we do with this abundant gift of Nature?

So far I have made lacto-ferments of the finely chopped leaves, which brings out the intensity of the celery flavour. It doesn’t look all that appetising prepared like this, it looks like some gaseous green sludge in a jar with a brown broth on top, but it is bursting with Vitamin C, probiotic bacteria and other elements that have been made more readily digestible. I promise It tastes nice. Really. Try it mixed in a soup, stew, curry, smoothie or sandwich. Anything goes. It adds a tangy, umami richness to an otherwise bland dish.

Used like parsley, cow parley can be chopped and added to a potato salad. It tends to be a bit on the dry side, so dishes with plenty of creaminess such as mayonnaise or white sauce are ideal. The clarifying flavours of cow parsley contrast well with the fats of the other ingredients. Use the fresh stems chopped like celery for that juicy, peppery crunch in a salad with raisins and nuts.

Cow parsley stems and leaves finely chopped – potato salad with raisins and walnuts a la Waldorf!

Or try finely chopped leaves in a creamy fish sauce with trout, as chef Heston Blumenthal does with foraging outfit Woodland Ways.

Like I said, don’t be put off foraging for cow parsley. Just do it mindfully – always check the base of each plant as you pick. You will soon get the hang of identifying it. Or else you will die of multiple organ failure. It’s a jungle out there.

COW PARSLEY: The Story of ‘Mother-Die’

Winter BUSHMOOT: Fire Cookery Masterclass

Myself and the lad are fresh back from the deep woods of Cranham Scout campsite in Gloucester. Here we camped in about a foot of thick, curd-like February mud and learned of the further arts of camp fire cookery from Wayne and Beth (and other Chefs!) of Forest Knights Bushcraft School. Whilst my son threw himself into the stream a few times.

SAND PIT FIRE TABLE

The first inspiring idea was the wooden table with a fire on top of it. Er, wooden table? Fire? How do they mix without the obvious happening? In my oblivious state, it took me a while to realise the what I thought was solid wood was actually a wooden sandbox about 6in deep, chock full of sand. Clever. We had our food cooked on this solidly for almost a week and it didn’t burn down. Great if you don’t fancy all the squatting and bending over a fire on the ground, and you can store stuff underneath the table.

Curry night, cooked on the fire sandpit table at back.

DEER BUTCHERY

The guys then brought in two (already deceased) deer, a muntjac and a fallow, and showed us how to butcher them. Fans of my earlier posts will know that I have already done this, badly, with a roadkill muntjac. So it was interesting to see how to do it properly. the main idea was to completely gut the Deer as soon as it is killed to prevent spoiling (which I didn’t do before). Wayne let everyone get stuck in learning how to do it, but I had to go off and pull my son out of the stream again. Here you can see the two skins after they finished and the meat was carried to the kitchen.

KEFIR SWEET & SAVOURY FLATBREADS

Beth showed us all how to mix kefir, vinegar, bicarb of soda, flour, and either rosemary or raisins into little flatbreads which we cooked in a pan with garlic butter and oil. Delicious on a cold and damp day in the woods! The kefir contains healthy bacteria which help you digest your food, and gives bread that lovely sour-dough taste. Marty got stuck right into this bit, (even if he did have to wash his hands three times before Beth would let him near the dough).

SMOKING VENISON

The fallow deer was jointed and the leg joints spread with Jamaican jerk seasoning before they were put in the smoker. The smoker looks like a large metal barrel with metal racks inside, where the meat Is stacked in layers over the internal embers. One of our chefs, Tim, had an electronic control with which he could adjust the temperature of the smoker and time how long it had been in there. It took most of the afternoon to smoke the venison and we ate at 1830.

SPATCHCOCK MUNTJAC

The muntjac was split in half and tied onto a wooden frame, which was hung over the fire pit. Wooden stakes held out the bottom half. At first it wasn’t close enough and had to be brought down lower to cook. Judging the distance can be tricky. There was also a great design for a wooden stake kettle holder which had notches in the back to adjust the height of the kettle. I was worried the kettle would slip when I let it go, but the tension of the bent stake prevented it doing so.

BUSHMOOT DEBRIEF!

Every day we were stuffed to the gills with food. English breakfast rolls, which were very generous, were £3.50, and dinner was £7.50. If you didn’t want to buy it you could bring your own food. The whole week’s camping and workshops cost £120 for me and £70 for Marty (child 5-15), and the camp site had showers and toilets. The only downside was that because of the gale forecast we had to evacuate our camping spots in the woods on Thursday and drag our stuff to the other side of the site. Of course, yours truly left half her stuff in the woods, including the hot water bottles, as we spent most of Thursday warming up in TGI Fridays in Gloucester and only moved when it got dark!

To do the Winter Moot again ideally I would want a bell tent with a stove. You can get one for about £300. Though Marty was absolutely fine, I got cold on some nights, especially when we we on the other side without a fire. Good air beds or self inflating mattresses a must, also lots and lots of spare lanterns, as Marty dropped the batteries out of ours and lost my headlamp right underneath the double mattress for three whole days. My ukulele and tongue drum went down a treat too, as did a bottle of Carnivor Zinfandel. When in the woods in Feb, you need the heat in a decent red…

Winter BUSHMOOT: Fire Cookery Masterclass

Sap from Quick Silver

We can all feel the quickening, so now’s the time to talk about Birch, that fast growing speeding deciduous, first into the fray in the epic poem ‘Battle of the Trees’ from the Celtic ‘Book of Taliesin’. Birch is a useful tree in many ways. It really is first to colonise new spaces, being a pioneer species. It marks January in the Celtic tree calendar, under the ancient name of ‘Beithe’. It is the tree of new beginnings and rebirth.

Silver Birch (Betula pendula) is the most common species in the UK. When young, it forms a slender tree up to 26m high, with a narrow crown and a smooth white-silver bark with horizontal brown darts on it. Older birches tend to spread out more, and their bark is patterned with dark triangles or diamonds.

Close cousin Downy Birch (Betula pubescens) is differentiated by it’s more oval leaf shape, and the softly downy buds in Spring. The other two you will come across in people’s gardens and verges are the Paper-Bark Birch (Betula papyrifera) and the Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis), with its pretty golden-white peeling bark. When I was a kid (and even now, if I had the time) I loved collecting the semi translucent sheets of papery bark and putting them up to the light, imagining making the most delightful artists paper out of them. So apologies, folks, it’s time for a poem.

columns of Viking daydream;

powder greys of gunshot, white satin bride’s regalia

where Brunhilde walked with Beowulf

amongst those slender icy silver halls;

thirsty for the crystal gift of waters

from the Newest born.

Anyway…

What can we do with Birch?

Birch sap can be tapped and drunk straight, purified by the filtration system of the tree. if you are ever stuck out in mid-March (approximately) without access to clean water, this will save your life. No matter how unlikely you are to be that far from a pub. I have tapped birches in the woods near me, and yes, the sap is like very pleasant soft water. Not as sweet as I’d expected, but it tasted decent.

So how do you do it? The process is akin to giving blood.

You will need:

  • Plastic water bottles (2 litre lemonade ones are good, but smaller is fine)
  • Strong twine
  • Hand drill with bit the width of the drinking straw or slightly smaller
  • Scissors
  • Knife
  • Drinking straws
  • First aid plasters!

1 ) Find a large birch in mid March. Older ones are better as they are bigger and carry more sap.

2) Drill carefully and neatly with the hand drill at an angle of 45 degrees, slanting upward, into the trunk.

3) You should only need to drill about 1cm -1.5cm before the sap starts running out. When this happens, don’t drill any further. Take out the drill.

4) Insert the drinking straw into the hole. If you have measured it to the drill bit, it should be a tight fit.

5) Position the water bottle just below the dripping straw, close enough so you can angle it into the neck of the bottle.

6) Tie the bottle firmly to the trunk with the twine.

7) Leave it for several hours, or most of the day, or overnight, depending how much you want and how much time you have. I got about a litre in 2 hours.

8) Collect your birch sap and enjoy!

9) It is considerate to the tree to protect the wound, just like we do, from fungal spores and other tree germs. I like to stick a first aid plaster over the hole to help the tree heal.

If you can be bothered, and you have a LOT of birch trees nearby, and a lot of free time, you can try to make Birch Syrup by boiling down the sap. This is quite a tax on the trees however, you need a lot of sap just to make a tiny amount of syrup. If you ask me, I’m sticking to honey.

Fresh green Birch leaves can be used to make a cleansing tonic tisane (posh word for tea). Boil the leaves for several minutes then strain them out. Great if you need vitamins after a long winter stuffing yourself with chocolate! Birch leaves contain flavonoids and astringent tannins, having long been used as a beauty tonic, invigorating drink and facial wash by Celtic maidens attempting to snare the man of their dreams. Well, you never know.

Sap from Quick Silver

(Very Cautiously) Edible Tree of the Week: YEW

When I say ‘caution’ I mean the same caution that lovers of Japanese pufferfish fugu must exhibit while enjoying their meal. Do you trust your chef?!!

The only part of yew that you want to be eating is the aril, the fleshy red fruit that surrounds the black seed.

DO NOT EAT THE SEED WITHIN. Or the leaves, or the bark. Or the wood, should you have felt the urge. Yew, or Taxus baccata, contains the lethal alkaloid taxin, which causes cardiac arrest, coma, and, obviously, death. I recently read about a 39 year old idiot who made a bet with his friend and voluntarily drank a cup of yew needle tea. The only reason he didn’t die was the fact apart from every other heart stimulation the hospital could throw at him, they used the antidote to taxin. He was in a coma for weeks. (This just shows why there were less men than women cave people in the olden times).

Yew tree in All Saints churchyard

Yew grows in many churchyards and sites of antiquity. Some yews can be thousands of years old. The tree is roughly conical and has short (up to 4cm long and 3mm wide) flattened, needle shaped leaves which are evergreen. They are deep glossy green above and paler below, with dual pale yellow bands.

Yew timber was prized (and still is) for making longbows, which were powerful enough to puncture armour. They were made with a combination of the heartwood for strength and the sapwood for flexibility.

Yew bark is used by pharmaceutical companies to make Taxol, which is used in the treatment of breast and ovarian cancer. (Don’t try this at home).

So now I’ve told you all the bad bits, let’s go ahead and make Yew Berry Fugu Jam.

  1. Find a yew tree with berries…usually out from late Autumn to Winter.
  2. The trick is to separate the arils from the seeds, which is best done by hand with the blunt tine of a fork or other not too sharp object. DO NOT TRY AND BOIL OFF THE SEEDS -if you do this, there is a chance taxin may leach into your jam. Yew arils are very sweet and form a very gloopy goo, great if you are desperate for sugar.
  3. . Once you have got rid of all the seeds, add just enough water to cover and bring to a boil, then simmer until jam like consistency is achieved. This shouldn’t be too hard as like I said, the berries are very gloopy. Add mashed crab apple if you like, to help it set, though this will muddy the lovely pink colour.
  4. If it is too insipidly sweet (I’m not a huge fan of really sweet stuff!), add lemon juice to taste. Simmer again til jam consistency.
  5. Scoop into a pre sterilised jar (which you have boiled and dried for 5 plus minutes) Put a circle of greaseproof paper over the top of the yew jam to seal. Screw on the lid.
  6. Enjoy on sourdough bread with something sour like goat’s cheese. or freeze into ice cubes and make tropical tasting winter cocktails with rum. Wow friends at parties with your cutting edge risqué knowledge. Let people know first so they can make an informed decision! Just don’t kill anyone.

DISCLAIMER: The is risky foraging, only try it if you are paying attention and have got rid of ALL the seeds, needles etc. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

(Very Cautiously) Edible Tree of the Week: YEW

Evergreens of Rushmere Country Park

I go for a walk with my son in the clear cold air. Rushmere Country Park is evergreen Plantation at one end, but at the Stockgrove end is mostly much older Broadleaf woodland. It’s all beautiful no matter which end…

Now is the time to have fun learning to tell which evergreen tree is which. They may all look like a blur of dark green at first glance, but bring out a Collins guide and the conifers, pines, yews, cypresses and cedars all start popping out of the green sward.

Clockwise from top: California Redwood, White Spruce, Blue Colorado Spruce, Scots Pine, Leyland Cypress.

So can you use any part of these trees, for food or otherwise?

Well, you can eat young spruce tips – watch outdoor the new young growth in Spring. When I get hold of some I’m putting them in a rice salad with some fruit. Yummy.

The Scots pine exudes a resin when cut (NB: It wasn’t me that cut them! It was like that when I got here.) When this is mixed with powdered bone and powdered charcoal, it makes a strong waterproof resin glue that can be used to waterproof canoes and containers. The bone gives it the flexibility so it doesn’t crack like pure resin would. When I tried this with my son, I tried grating some old sheep bones (you might not want to use your Mum’s best grater, there’s a lingering scent of mutton grease) but it was quite a mission, especially with a then 4 year old in tow. In the end we melted the charcoal, bone gratings and pine resin together in a pan and dipped a thick stick in the goo again and again until they was a big blob on the end. This can be heated up and dripped onto the thing that wants glueing, a bit like an archaic glue gun. it was fun anyhow, even if it was hellish cleaning the pan afterwards.

Redwood is good for looking a bit posh, and Leyland Cypress is good for..um..causing disputes with the neighbours – then blocking out said disgruntled neighbours. If your’e into that sort of thing. It does smell nice though.

Evergreens of Rushmere Country Park

The Hungry Gap

January, traditionally known as the ‘hungry gap’, where the feast of Christmas was over and all that was left was dried broad beans, pickled veg and whatever porridge oats the rats hadn’t got at. It’s not quite the same today, with food flown in from the tropics and out of us with fridge freezers powered off the grid. However, for those of us wanting to live lightly on the planet, its worth going back to the wisdom of ages past.

Beans, beans the musical fruit…

First off…do you REALLY need a fridge in this weather? I have lived the last 17 years with no form of refrigeration excepting a zeer pot. More about that when it gets hotter and we need a fridge. For now, all I do is stick my perishables in wicker baskets in the bathroom. The wicker lets the air circulate around the food, which stops vegetables rotting. Instead they just dry out. A metal lockable box just outside works well too. The floor is always colder, store milk and suchlike in boxes with water in down there. Hundreds of years ago, this room would have been the classic pantry, or a cellar. Fridges use a lot of power, so you are saving the planet and your wallet as well! (Plus you don’t have to listen to that annoying humming noise).

Wicker and willow boxes in the bathroom.

So what vegetables and fruit would be in season?

This is the perfect excuse to try Medlar, Mespilus Germanica, a relative of apples and quinces. This strange fruit was eaten as a dessert in the 19th century and in the time of the Tudors. It is eaten once it is bletted (frozen) and left to ferment, which makes the astringent fruit very soft and sweet. Eat it with cream or ice cream for the full whammy! It is hard to find at Tesco, try to make friends with a neighbour with a medlar tree or grow your own.

Kale and winter cabbage are still trooping on if you planted them early enough in the late summer and early autumn. Their thick fleshy leaves are resistant to frost and full of iron.

As for forageable veg, much depends on the severity of the frosts.

I’m still finding Chickweed, or Stellaria media, at the top of the Canal bridge in window boxes and in cracks along paths. This delicious salad leaf is sweet, tender and full of much needed Vitamin C. Cleavers, Galium aperine, is still poking up tender shoots which help cleanse the blood and kidneys of toxins – just what the doctor ordered after Christmas indulgence!

Lastly, we equate January’s cruel deluge of bills and taxes with Janus, the two faced Roman god of doorways, change and transition. It is important to remember that the freezing weather is actually essential for many British native trees to reproduce. Many seeds, such as apples, need a period of scarification by being frozen for a certain period of time. which ‘unlocks’ them so they can grow in the Spring. In these times of global warming, many British trees that reproduce this way face an uncertain future. We could expect to see plants and trees from Mediterranean climates start to thrive instead.

The Hungry Gap

Foraging – Monkey Puzzle Nuts

Some awesome research here and a great recipe. We have these up in Plantation Woods…

Urban Huntress

Well, I’ll be a monkey’s niece! Monkey Puzzle trees produce these amazing big edible nuts!

Okay. They’re actually seeds, but I like calling them nuts since we’re all familiar with pine nuts. And, yes, those are actually seeds as well.

Araucaria araucana (a.k.a. monkey puzzle tree, monkey tail tree, Chilean pine, or pehuén) is an evergreen tree which can reach over 150 feet in height and can live to be a thousand years old. These trees take twenty years to reach sexual maturity and similar to other ancient trees like gingko biloba, and fellow Araucaria genus member the bunya, they are dioecious having distinct male and female trees with different cones. This means it takes a male and a female to produce their nut-like seeds. The pollen from the oblong-shaped male cones is blown by the wind to the female cones. This feature of the tree…

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Gallery

Winter Meat

This being hunting season, when greens are scarce and meat would have sustained us, I will share some of my wild game stories with you. Traditionally the meat that would have been available to the Commoners (that’s us) would have been Rabbit and Wood Pigeon, with Pheasants poached from the rich people…

Pheasant that gave his life (to someone’s car) so we could eat.

RABBIT

The first time I ate Rabbit was when the owner of a greyhound handed a dead rabbit to me and my friends on the GU canal in Brentford. The dog had raced off and killed the rabbit of its’ own accord. I skinned it with the help of my then boyfriend, he cut off the head with an axe whilst I skinned. I peeled the skin from the hind legs up to the neck. I kept wondering how it would feel if it was done to me. It did make me squirm. We boiled it in a pot in a tipi on our shared Permaculture allotment and whist we were waiting, a very sensitive vegan type we knew came and had a chat. She couldn’t even handle someone eating a supermarket chicken sandwitch.

“What’s in the pot?” she kept saying.

We didn’t have the heart to tell her, we kept fibbing.

It tasted like chicken, but more tender.

PHEASANT

Myself and my then boyfriend were on a bike ride along the North Downs Way when the car in front of us hit a male Pheasant. He was still warm, but his neck was broken and he was gone. I admired his chestnut and satiny green-blue beauty, his feathers light and warm gossamer. I said a prayer then put him in a pannier. We camped in Guildford Woods (illicitly) and I plucked him, I can’t honestly remember if I gutted him or not. We cooked him on a spit over a camp fire, with roast potatoes and carrots in the embers and a Cep mushroom I had found in the woods at the end. In the morning we got kicked out by a ranger who had spotted our fire smoke.

He tasted like bloody chicken again. Tasty though.

WOOD PIGEON

I was gifted two shot wood pigeon when I moored my boat in Rugby. A local boaty guy had an air rifle and had been catching them for food. Wood pigeon has been known through the centuries as the poor man’s food, so I wasn’t expecting much. But what a surprise!

I plucked the two birds (I didn’t hang them or anything, letting maggots drop out is not my idea of appetising), then basted them with a blob of butter and honey and roasted them for 40 mins in my vintage 1970’s boat oven. They are only little, so you may get away with less than this, but I was being cautious.

The dark meat was delicious, rich and gamey. this has to rank as my favourite wild game, and I have had deer too, but good pigeon is still my favourite.

As far as ethics go ,I feel happier eating something when I know it has had a good life doing what it does rather than being farmed.

What do others think? Im aware this a controversial topic!

Winter Meat