Foraging with children is a great way to help them appreciate the bounty of nature, especially around harvest time. It also helps them acquire life skills as they begin to learn which fruits and berries are tasty and safe to eat, how to cook with them and which are inedible or poisonous. I began foraging young, in the Welsh lanes and mountains with my Granny. Some of my most cherished memories include wild eating - picking bilberries on warm heathland slopes and searching the lanes for cobnuts in the autumn - experiences I want to pass onto my children.
So this afternoon we set off to the local park, armed with a basket and boxes, to collect the ingredients for Hedgerow Jelly. We passed two crab apple trees on a grass verge with large red fruit – possibly ‘Red Sentinel’.
Around half the apples had fallen in high winds a couple of days ago, but many were unbruised so we collected several handfuls, leaving the rest for other foragers and the birds. A little further through the housing estate, we found another crab apple, but this time it had tiny yellow fruits – ‘Golden Hornet’ perhaps?
Before we reached the park and our berrying spot there was a lovely surprise; outside the Mill House, a flowering quince (Chaenomeles x superba ‘Crimson and Gold’) had dropped its sizeable fruits beneath low shrubby branches. The house owner kindly allowed us to harvest them so they went in the basket too, adding a mellow fruity aroma to the apples.
At the end of park field, we collected a few windfall apples, small this year, little bigger than the crabs and then we began berrying along the hedgerow. All that remained of the elderberries were their purple stems and the blackberries were nearly over, but sloes and haws were abundant, low down on the bushes, easy for the kids to pick provided they avoided the thorns.
Then it was back to the park to play on the zipwire and in the stream before setting off home for tea. For a delicious hedgerow jelly, try following this recipe from Tanya’s blog Lovely Greens
Make sure you're foraging on public land and be sure to know what you're eating, if in doubt, leave it out!