Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Wasteland Foraging.

There's a scruffy bit of land on the outskirts of town where I walk my dog - he gets to root around in the earth, drag around some ten foot lengths of  abandoned qualduct and eviscerate headless dollies, single shoes and other detritus that fellow humans dump on there with depressing frequency. 
 As grim as all that sounds, there have been the most fabulous shows of poppies and dog daisies this year - whether by intent or design, there has been a lot of different types of poppies, from the early, large poppies that look like loads of layered tissue paper to tiny poppies in bush form and the familiar black centred single poppy in every shade of red through to orange. 
I have scattered lots of the seed heads and gathered some as well, hope they make an equally fabulous display next year.
Over by a pylon, there are some huge fennel that have somehow naturalised themselves, I guess they may have been dumped by one of the garden centres, as I often find empty plant pots strewn across the waste ground. They are now going to seed but at the base of the pylons are those thorny jewels of Autumn - blackberries and a thought is forming of a pairing of blackberry and aniseedy fennel in a syrup; a great cough suppressant and all round winter pick me up ..... further thoughts are of syrup paired with alcohol for a less sweet form of pastis - I am partial to the odd Pernod but refuse to pay 33.99 for a bottle in the supermarket, so wondering whether a base of vodka or gin would fit best and whether the fennel would sufficiently infuse to give that aniseed flavour - maybe I'll add some seeds as well. 

Blackberries are just shiny free super foods and really there's no excuse for not boosting your immune system with these little wonder berries before Winter kicks in.  Blackberries are also loaded with all kinds of goodness. They have high levels of anthocyanins, which are what give berries their characteristic red, blue and black colours. Antioxidants protect the heart and circulatory system, staving off mental decline and beating back the ageing process. (I'll take as much as I can get!) The darker the berry the higher concentration of antioxidants so blackberries rate pretty high.Of course the very best way to eat blackberries is raw, fresh off the vine. That is when they are full of all the nutrients that nature gave them. When you cook them they lose a lot of their nutrient value but still retain their antioxidant benefits. (Amazingly enough, frozen fruit does not lose much nutrient value).

A couple of weeks ago someone gave Keith a jar of their homegrown Tipperary honey and it looks amazing - it's a really pale golden tinged honey, although I am not a fan of honey in general, I am determined to try this in a paleo style raw blackberry sauce. 
Last Sunday I picked enough berries for a couple of jars of blackberry compote (I use half the sugar and keep it in the fridge) but they have proved rather popular in our house and wont last the week at this rate - I wanted to try a coconut milk and cream layered dessert with some blackberry compote and ginger, an ice cream would be rather nice but I don't have a churn and cannot buy yet another kitchen gadget.
So we are off blackberry picking - I was out earlier scouting the brambles, they are filled with drunken wasps gorging on blackberry nectar - between those and the thorns, I think we may have to pay in blood for our haul. 

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