Armed with our walking and foraging books, a good picnic and lots of water, we made the most of the beautiful weather on Sunday and set off on another foraging adventure. This time we went South close to Brighton, starting from a village called Hassock and finishing in Lewes (Itinerary here). Another bountiful land! We saw our old friend the Eldertree, now busy readying its berries for the Autumn. A few Sloe not ready yet, which I want to use to perfume Gin. Patches of Silverweed, for which I am still not sure if I will have the patience to wait until October, dig, clean, peel roots the size of a green bean, cook and mash, but I still have a few months to prepare myself for the challenge.
What we saw the most, and collected too, was Blackberries. There were bushes absolutely everywhere and so filled with “yet to be ripe” blackberries that I will have to call this walk the Bramble Walk. Another few weeks and these green firm tiny balls will be black juicy gorgeous berries. So you guessed that it isn’t high season yet, but this year’s weather has been warm enough to convince some bushes to produce some early blackberries for the most observant foragers. We collected just under 300g, not enough for jam but enough for a Blackberry and Apple Crumble (see recipe below).
We also found another berry not as common and known as the Blackberry, which is the Dewberry. Dewberries grow much closer to the ground unlike Blackberry bushes that can reach so tall that I always have to sadly leave the unattainable berries behind. Dewberries look like dusty blackberries, with a dull cloudy dark blue colour. They are very fragile and fall apart easily, and the only other reason why we didn’t bring any back with us is because they taste wonderful. It is a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry, a very intense berry flavour impossible to resist.
Another discovery was Wild Marjoram. This is quite useful since our Oregano plant didn’t like the heat from the past few weeks and doesn’t look like I will be able to cut nice branches to dry for the winter months. Marjoram is from the same family as Oregano and is a very good substitute when cooking, although a little weaker. Add it to a can of tomato, along with salt, a little thyme, garlic and an onion cut thinly, reduce for 15minutes and you have the perfect sauce for pasta or pizza topping! The pretty Marjoram flowers even created a romantic setting for these Five-spot Burnets to mate. I now have a bunch of Marjoram drying nicely to use later in the year when my Oregano plant will be hibernating.
Blackberry and Apple Crumble
- 100g slightly salted President butter (use good quality butter)
- 100g light brown sugar + a bit more to sprinkle
- 140g plain flour
- 60g porridge oats
- 30g flaked almonds
- 275g foraged Blackberries
- 2 big Bramley apples
Mix the flour and the butter together with your hands until it forms crumbs. Add the sugar and porridge oat and mix well. It was so warm that I had to set aside in the fridge while preparing the fruits. Peel the apples, slice them in thick slices and place at the bottom of a pie dish. Rinse the blackberries and dry them roughly. Drop them on top of the apple and sprinkle with a little brown sugar. If you use shop-bought blackberries, they are usually too sweet, so I wouldn’t add any extra sugar. Sprinkle the crumble mix on top in a thick layer, add the flaked almonds and bake at 170C until the top looks well cooked, it was about 40 minutes for my oven.
That was a well deserved treat after an 18km walk!