What's in the hedgerow now?

Fancy a forage in the hedgerow this weekend? This is the page that tells you what you might find.

Nuts are just starting to fall now. Keep an eye out for walnuts and hazelnuts but don't look up, look on the ground for fallen nuts. Don't bother trying to pluck them off the tree, wait for the ripe ones to land in your lap. Hazelnuts are common but so are squirrels, it's harder to find trees that aren't monopolised by our furry friends but hazelnuts all over the floor are a sure sign that the squirrels aren't bothering with them.

The hot Autumn weather has played havoc with the sloes. Traditionally, they're not picked until after the first frost which is reputed to make the skins more porous and give a tastier sloe gin. We went out and checked our local sloes this week and were horrified to discover they're dried and shrivelled like raisins. We managed to pick enough to make some Sloe and Port Jelly and a few bottles of Sloe Gin but nowhere near our usual amounts.

Oh well, to compensate the warm weather has dried the walnuts beautifully.

Apples and pears may still be hanging around. Crab apple jelly makes a great base for many other jellies such as Lavender or Rosehip Jelly. The flesh also makes a great fruit butter base (see Apple and Blackberry Butter below). We have also made cider in the past, it's a bit hit and miss but good fun to experiment with.

Wild pears can sometimes be disappointing but if you find some good ones, why not try bottling them in mulled cider?

You may also still find some elderberries. I've experimented with them in the past and found that jam made with them tends to go mouldy very quickly and doesn't set very easily (let me know your tips and hints if you disagree!) They also have a very strong taste which we found too much in our fruit liqueurs. The only thing I've used them successfully for is Blackberry and Elderberry cordial and forager's reward crumble. I recently found a recipe book in a charity shop which suggests flavouring crab apple jelly with elderberries by merely dragging a bunch through the hot apple juice and whipping them out again once it's taken on the elderberry colour.

Some blackberries are still around, here are my favourite recipes. Blackberry and Elderberry cordial, is popular with the children and makes the ideal base for a mid-winter hot toddy, Bramble Jelly is surely the king of jams and Apple and Blackberry Butter is unrivalled  as a jam tart filler (it doesn't boil over the top but sits in the case in a satisfyingly thick layer) and as a cake filler (as it's nice and stiff it doesn't dribble down the sides and holds up the top cake nicely). Once the damsons so ripen up, they're nice bottled with blackberries in a spiced red wine syrup - I use Pam Corabin's recipes in the River Cottage Preserves book. We're also going to have a go at blackberry wine this year, I'll report back in 2012 and let  you know if it's any good!

Don't forget though - don't pick any blackberries after October 11th because that's when Satan pisses on them .....

If you're very lucky you may find a wild Quince tree, they ripen slightly later than apples but once they're nice and yellow and fluffy you're good to go. Why not try crystalised quince slices or the more traditional Membrillo