Alongside perpetually sunny summers and white Christmas', the stained fingers and slightly gritty teeth of a blackberry forage are abiding memories of my Norfolk childhood. But somehow, over the years, I stopped picking berries - maybe too much time spent in cities with folk vaguely suspicious about edible wildlife.
But this past fortnight, I've started to look at hedgerows properly again thanks to a wonderful day of foraging and jam making with the lovely people of Abundance Oxford. Based at Hogacre Common, an old college cricket ground, Abundance is run by volunteers passionate about urban fruit harvesting. Our guide Joe, was particularly interested in medicinal properties of plants - while quite a lot of the things he uncovered for us tasted of "green" my favourite plant finds were horseradish (never knew that the leaves are tasty too) and mustard. But it's definitley the fruit that got me all fired up - plums, apples, hoar berries, rosehips, and sloes to name just a few of our fabulous finds.
We've since been exploring the fields and hedgerows near us, and have been amazed at just how many sloes, elderberries, damsons and blackberries there are. On our foraging day, we learnt how to make jam and jellies - I'll definitely be attempting to achieve a good "gel matrix" again at home, thanks to our Science of Jam lesson from the incredibly knowledable Andy. However, it has to be acknowledged that so far, pretty much everything I've foraged has been put into gin!