Sorry, I'm pretty much away with the fairies as far gardening is concerned at the moment. I'm planning and plotting stuff for the Stripey Cat Supper Club Underground Restaurant gigs (about which I promise to shut up now, here at least.), the end of the season is fast approaching with all the stress and confusion of the move back to the UK and my hand was asked for in marriage, which after 14 years or so of side-stepping the issue I have gladly agreed to. There's a lot on my mind.
So I've been drifting around, in the mostly rather lovely weather, doing things like picking rosehips to make Parfait Amour (from this recipe in the Guardian, not sure where they got it from, it seems unique on the web and not much like any commercial effort) which is very good and only possible because I had a stash of Rosehip Syrup from last year. These rosehips are to replace that so I can make it again next year.
I've also been enjoying a late bounty of wood strawberries, just as well since the blueberries are finished now.
Foraging for hazelnuts most days now for over a week. I did have a whole post planned on this but everyone and his dog seems to have covered it now so I'll confine myself to a few top tips:
- Don't pick too early. Unless at least one of the nuts will come out of its leafy cluster fairly easily then it's unlikely any of them will be mature enough to ripen off the tree.
- Don't bother with anything small, picking the biggest and the best is much less heartbreaking.
- Take care not to damage the newly forming catkins and female flowers if you want to pick more nuts next year.
- When you get your nuts home, clean them up from the leaf husks and then dump the whole lot into a bowl of water. A lot will float. The ones that sink are mostly good, with solid kernels. The ones that float are between 50% and 85% (I did tests) empty shells or full of maggot and unless you're a masochist should be discarded.
- Obviously you don't need me to tell you that anything with a neat little hole already drilled in it is a non-starter.
- Dry them in a shallow tray, not more than one or two nuts deep and riffle through them regularly to turn. When they're dry store them in the fridge for a few weeks but they won't last forever.
Yesterday I gathered seed pods from the nasturtiums to make pickles. People describe these as false capers but I think that's misleading as they are far spicier and more pungent. Pick only fairly young crisp seeds, they can become tough when they're nearly mature. The reddish ones in here are from the variety Cobra but they taste the same.
Soak them overnight in a strong brine (10g salt to 100g water) then rinse and drain well before packing in cider vinegar. You can add extra pickling spices like coriander seed or fennel for more flavour.
The first and last Map butterfly of the year. Still loads of Peacocks out there but it's nearly all over. Until next time.