Good Food Blog
Feast for freePosted at 11:15AM, 28 August 2008 by Carol Wilson - Food writer
As the last weeks of summer stretch into early autumn, this is the best time of year to go foraging for wild fruits; autumn hedgerows, moorlands and canal towpaths provide a treasure trove of delicious seasonal fruits such as blackberries and bilberries and hazelnuts or filberts. Part of the pleasure for me is the satisfaction of getting something for nothing!
It's inevitable that fingers and faces will be streaked with inky juices!
Children love to go blackberrying; I give out plastic boxes (with lids) and we have great fun seeing who can fill theirs first. I take some wipes along, as it's inevitable that fingers and faces will be streaked with inky juices! I like to eat the juicy purplish berries raw, when they're soft and full of juice, with perhaps a sprinkling of sugar and some thick cream or yogurt. I sprinkle raw blackberries into trifle and over a bowl of breakfast cereal or porridge, add a couple of handfuls to an apple pie or crumble just before baking, and of course they make terrific jam and jelly. Puréed blackberries are also fantastic with roast pork or game. The soft berries quickly become mushy, but will keep in the fridge for a day.
Purplish-blue bilberries or blueberries have a faint dusty 'bloom' and tart flavour. Picking them is quite laborious, as the moorland shrubs grow only around 30cm high, but well worth it, as the small berries are delicious eaten with cream and sugar or made into tarts, puddings and pies.
Hazelnuts, freshly picked in their green husks, are succulent with a delicate, milky flavour. I roast the nuts to bring out their full flavour. Spread them on a baking tray and put into a preheated moderate oven for 5-8 minutes only -watch them as they burn easily. Put the hot nuts in the centre of a clean tea towel; pull the towel up around the nuts and twist tightly. Rub briskly to remove the skins. Add the nuts to bread dough and cake mixtures or mix into melted chocolate for an indulgent treat.
Foraging for wild food is fun and has become fashionable again as we all try to reduce food miles and cut the household budget; even celebrity chefs are joining in and extolling the virtues of local wild foods. A word of caution though - make sure that you pick only berries growing away from busy roads, as those growing at the roadside will be contaminated with exhaust fumes. And do remember - don't eat anything unless you know for certain what it is!