Monday, 20 October 2008

Food for Free

Posted by Rosie

Gleaning - to collect crops fallen to the ground after harvesting

Foraging - to collect wild food from town or countryside

And I have been doing both of these recently to augment animal diets and our larder . The farmers have been busy harvesting the fields of maize which they turn into silage for winter cattle feed, but whilst harvesting some of the cobs fall to the ground. Enter me with a couple of large bags and a beady eye for free food. The cobs are fed to the chickens and the pigs who adore them. I threw one into the turkeys, but I think they thought I was trying to poison them as they danced around it pipping loudly and waving their wings in a very agitated manner!!

I have been foraging for blackberries for weeks now and it has been a very good year. There are plenty in the freezer destined to be turned into crumbles, pies, jam and anything else I fancy. This year for the first time, I also foraged for rosehips and have made rosehip syrup. I used this recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall but as I had no bottles to store it in I thought I would freeze it. Some I put in small plastic containers - so far so good. The rest I put in ice cube trays thinking I could pop them into a plastic bag once frozen and then just take out what I needed. BUT...... (and I remembered this afterwards!) - high sugar syrups don't set - they just get more viscous.

Earlier in the autumn I kept looking at the haws on the hawthorn bushes wondering what I could do with them. Then last week on River Cottage Autumn, Hugh FW made a delicious looking hawberry sauce to go with duck ..... just as the haws here have gone over. Oh well - one to remember for next Autumn.

Through the year I have also foraged for wild garlic, elderflowers, dandelions, field mushrooms and elderberries. These freebies are all abundant in the locality and have given me a range of new recipes to try from wild garlic and leek risotto, to dandelion jam and elderflower cordial. The elderberries are in the freezer and now I have enough I plan to make Pontack sauce, thanks to an idea I pinched from Greentwinsmummy's blog - A life full of blessings.

The last of the tomatoes are ripening in the front room along with walnuts and borlotti beans drying in front of the fire. From some friends we have a bag of windfall and hail damaged apples waiting to be turned into apple jelly and compote. Two freezers are full of summer vegetables and three of our cockerels, whilst the drying box is currently drying herbs to go in our sausages. This year the vegetable patch been very productive and my weekly food bills have really fallen over the last few weeks. Next year we should have more fruit, more of our own meat and I hope to forage even more free foods from the local countryside.


  1. Oh well done! It is SUCH a good feeling, isn't it?

    We have been making cider and apple juice yesterday....

    and sampling the year old cider...(hic)

  2. sounds like a good harvest - and what a good feeling it is to have a store in when facing winter!

    agree with compostwoman - you *have* to sample last year's cider whilst pressing this years.. its the rules!

  3. Rosie you will love pontack sauce,I have used the bottle I couldnt wait to open lol! so much,just a dribble in gravies(red meat ones are best),casseroles ahhh its lovely,we had it with partridge,mmm mmmm! I have the other bottles I made,tucked away & am determined to keep at least one for the magic 7 years :o)

    I have noticed dropping food bills too,makes you wonder why for some folks the penny still hasnt dropped in trying to grow what you can,even if its only a wee bit it wll help
    GTM x


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