I’m lucky enough to have caught onto the allotment movement before it suddenly became in-vogue again and the demand for plots rocketed. In addition, I was incredibly lucky to have signed up for a plot within days of the allotment manager having cleared the list, and only had to wait about two months before I was digging, shovelling, and manuring my way to thriving crops and bountiful harvests. Meanwhile, failing having an allotment, I have a small postage stamp London garden which, though devoted to ornamental plants, I could have used for vegetables. But for those who don’t have anywhere to grow, it doesn’t mean that you can’t take advantage of Mother Nature. Simply hit the woods, countrysides, and even parks, and forage your way to new foody heights.
Having a large number of gardening clients, I’m often shocked at the amount of food that is simply let go to waste in gardens. Apple and pear tree’s are incredibly common in gardens across Britain, yet all that delectable fruit is almost always left to drop, rot and become wasp fodder. Plums and greengages are mowed up and thrown on the compost heap. Blackberries go unpicked, turning into bird food – which is no bad thing – but could be made into fantastic jams and crumbles. Apples and pears are easily stored in dry conditions by lining with newspaper and can provide a year round supply, whilst plums and similar fruits can be preserved in kilner jars.
Attending a client’s garden recently I found an absolute glut of field mushrooms, food which had I bought in the shop would have cost me the best part of a fiver. Here, I could pick them directly from the soil. However, with mushrooms especially, ensure they are edible! After much googling, texting and tweeting to ensure that they were safe, I made a fantastic mushroom sauce from this free food, though I admit, I may have had a post-dinner anxiety attack where I thought I could have just poisoned myself!
Meanwhile, a trip into the local woods with the dog ended up paying far more dividends than simply exhausting an overexcitable Springer. A sloe bush was weighed down with fruit, dripping off of it likely tiny blue baubells. Gin! I spent the following evening sat at the kitchen table pricking what seemed to be thousands of sloes for gin. A fantastic and easy recipe (a third gin, a third sloes, a third sugar) and there are now an obscene number of home-made sloe gin bottles slowly maturing.
So even if you don’t have an allotment, a garden, or even a balcony to grow plants, there’s no reason not to use Earth’s bountiful harvest. Parks are often host to apple and pear tree’s, whilst a neighbour may be more than happy for you to haul fruit away which would otherwise become a hive of stinging insects. Hedges and woods can provide all sorts of delectable treats, and as long as you carefully ensure that produce can be safely eaten, foraging can be a great way to find fresh, naturally grown food.
*This blog was originally posted at www.theguidetogaygardening.com