Monday, 23 August 2010

Foraging

We went out for walk, our usual walk, up our lane to where it turns to a rough track and up further to the ridge with the huge view over the Vale of Clwyd towards Snowdonia.  It's a walk of about half an hour each way and I am trying to make it my run.  So far I haven't yet managed to run up in one run, two or three minutes with a minute or so of walking in between is all I can manage going upwards.  But yesterday I managed to run all the way down.  I might have been short of breath and challenging a beetroot for colour, but I did it, and for the first time in the three weeks of trying to run, caught just a glimpse of why people might run for pleasure.  There were just moments when the track disappeared smoothly beneath my feet and the wind blew cool on my hot face and the sheep looked up in mild surprise when I thought I could perhaps get to like this.  Running, especially failing to run uphill, gives me the only possible reason for wishing I didn't live on a hill.  But I would then not have my view.

But we weren't running the other night.  We were walking when we saw a whole swathe of grass verge glistening red and gold.  They were bullaces, wild plums, prunus institia.


We didn't have a bag so Ian took his blue working jumper off, with the one or two tiny moth holes in the front,  and we laid it flat on the ground and covered it with plums.  It took a bit of experimenting to work out how to turn it into something we could carry up the hill, without scattering plums behind us as we went.  Eventually Ian managed it and we carried on walking.

By the time we got to the top of the hill the light was going.  The sun hung low and red and the vale was full of dusk.  Far down the vale to the north the sea still held the light in a silver gleam against the horizon.


The plums made a huge plum crumble which we are still eating.  We must go down to the Pwll Gwyn woods and see if there are damsons in the quantities we picked last year.  The damson jam was gone a couple of months ago and the last jar of the thicker, stiffer damson cheese to have with cheese and biscuits went to Blackden on Saturday.



And I still haven't used the got away courgettes to make marrow and ginger jam.

30 comments:

  1. And the autumn to look forward to...

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  2. I smiled at the thought of gathering plums in a jumper. I read on another blog in the last day or two that someone was so desperate not to miss out on wild damsons that she stuffed a few into her bra to get more of them home with her.

    Your image of the sunset took my breath away.

    I longed for a taste of the crumble.

    I loved this post.

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  3. Those plums just look fabulous. I think it's going to be a really good year for everything prunus-related if our damson tree is anything to go by, and the sloe bushes in the field are also full of promise... enjoy them.

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  4. Ah, damsons...I have a query. There's a tree in a park I've just discovered where we pick blackberries. It's a damson tree and they're the most beautiful blue-black colour, but rock hard. You can barely bite them and when you do they're so acidic they make your mouth do Esther Rantzen impressions, but they're falling off the tree by the hundreds. So, I'm assuming these blue-black damsons are 'proper' damsons - if so, do they ever go soft and sweet?

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  5. Tom - autumn is truly preserving time. I need to stop doing everything else and get into the kitchen. I shall smell of cider vinegar and brown sugar for weeks.
    Silverpebble - So many ingenious ways of fruit gathering! the crumble was/is (still some left!) very good but so hot! What is it about plum juice?
    LBD - hi, and lovely to see you! It's funny but our plums in the garden don't look good at all while the wild ones were seriously abundant. I wonder if one was in flower just a touch earlier than the other?
    Mrs Jones - well I am no expert but from my experience damsons never become edible raw. They are always too hard and sour. They are however transformed by cooking and sugar into something truly delectable (but they do have a lot of stones which need fishing out, be warned!). I would certainly pick whatever you can find and have a go.

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  6. Oh just the mention of plum jam....what a beautiful photo too.

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  7. It just makes my mouth water, talking about plum jam.

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  8. I was transported to another world as I read this post~it was wonderful~gail

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  9. I feel lile I've been somewhere... enchanting! My first time here, but not my last. It's like curling up with a good book on a sumnmer's day under the old weeping tree.

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  10. Foraging is such a pleasure . . . I've got my eyes on some crabapples and blackberries. Yesterday I was walking with a friend and we saw bluish-purple fruits of some sort. They had fallen to the ground already. Not very big; maybe the size of fat thumb? Do you have any idea what they might be?

    I liked your description of your run downhill. Funnily enough, I can't bear "jogging," but every now and then a sprint feels wonderful.

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  11. When we lived up in your area we also used to make pickled damsons.

    It's all go here in France with bottling etc.

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  12. I went foraging for plums on Sunday only to find the cherry plums and gages growing by the football ground are tiny this year owing to the drought we've had until recently.

    Also the council have built a new public footpath and have crown lifted the trees, so that even if they were a decent size they're now out of reach :(

    So no hedgerow plum jam for us this year. I'm contemplating the elderberries as an alternative

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  13. Well done with the running - it's always hard, but you get used to it and there's immense satisfaction in gradually stretching your distance or upping your pace.

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  14. Goodness , running too? Is there no end to your achievements?

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  15. Hello Elizabeth. I am so behind on blog reading, but have managed to dip into yours without leaving a comment till today. I particularly have been meaning to leave my thoughts on the stepmother post as so much of it resonated with me, but think I will email you my thoughts instead - bit lengthy for here so you have been warned!
    Damsons from my tree and the river banks near here do indeed go beautifully sweet, but it is very hard to catch them before they rot. It seems to happen overnight. In fact, I have just eaten some from our Merryweather. Maybe it depends on the variety? x

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  16. Nice post. Damson cheese sounds really good - I've never had that.

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  17. Found treasures, those plums. I'll be checking out our trees when I get home, but I doubt there'll be enough for jam this year. Lots of apples, but few plums at our place.
    I loved your description of the pleasure of running.

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  18. Exquisite photos, and plums to make the mouth water, too.

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  19. My blackberries have ripened nicely, so I'm eating crumble too. I used to love mushrooming when I was a kid and my uncle had the farm :)

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  20. It's your photographs! They make you want to lick the screen. But how come the fruit is so unblemished? It just looks wonderful. Our greengages sadly are splitting before they are properly tree ripe (the skins are still a tad bitter) and once split they are attacked by insects. there's been so much rain that the poor tree is desperately trying to soak it up and pump it into the fruit. Like little balloons.

    Love that hilltop picture, too. I have a hill too, here. But have only ever walked it. From the top a can see right over Exmoor.

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  21. Raz and Nora - I love plum jam too, rarely make it because our plum trees are nowhere near as prolific as our apples.
    Gail - it is its own special world up here!
    Meredhuit - hi and good to meet you. What a great thing to say. do hope you will come again.
    Kim- we often walk up simply to see what the sunset is doing. They can be incredible.
    Bee - pretty sure your fruit are damsons. They make the most delectable jam but have loads of stones. Worth it though. Pick them quick. They will be scrumped!
    Cro - I have never really got into bottling, rather than jam making but it used to very big when we lived in New Zealand. Might have a go.
    VP - elderberry makes a great jelly or conserve. Sounds good.

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  22. Chris - I knew you would clock the running! I would just like to point out that what I am doing barely qualifies for the title.
    Rachel - see above, sounds better than it is!
    Pipany - you are right about catching damsons before they turn. I still haven't been looking for ours, bet it will be too late when I get there.
    Fran - damson cheese is fab.
    Pondside - I love the idea of found treasures, just the right phrase for wild plums.
    Jinksy - the plums were sweet enough to eat without cooking, just!
    H - I would love to have a go at mushrooming and bought a book last year but wimped out at the last minute. Scary if you get it wrong!
    Fennie - I am amazed the fruit was so unblemished, better than the plums in the garden but were well and truly wasped. Myabe they go for the sweeter cultivated plum before the wild one?

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  23. Fabulous. They taste even better for having been foraged, eh?

    Mad x

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  24. damson cheese - yum - must remember to make some this year.
    isn't it great finding wild foods :)

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  25. Mrs Jones - is it possible the very blue black "damsons" are sloughs - smaller and much harder ?
    the tree's are very similar, but i think the leaf size and the size of the thorns might be the distinction ??? both will do the job !
    i have had damson gin - a variation on the slough one and its definately much more plumby in taste

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  26. Damsons are almost solid on the trees round here, there are so many of them - but we don't have plums. Yours look lovely!

    Esther

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  27. Have been wondering whether it's time for damsons too having stewed mounds of them last year - still remember thinking that I had got all the stones out when yet another one floated to the top and then another ...... :)

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