The first part of the summer foraging season, May & June, is a bit late for picking the really fresh & tender leaves & nettles for salads and soups but it’s too early to see much fruit on the trees either. Running a little foraging workshop in June put me in the mood to learn a lot more this year about the hedgerows, and I was wondering what this early summer season was really best for. Gardeners sometimes refer to this season as the ‘June Gap’ – where your garden might be caught between the spring flower season and the first blooms of summer. Well when it comes to foraging there is no such thing fortunately – and it turns out that this early summer period is great for flowers and herbs that you can make into tea! The hedgerows change so much month on month and this year is the first year where I feel that I’m really following its progress – and June was a month of pretty pink dog roses at every turn. I love dog roses – the name of which may refer to their commonness as opposed to the cultivated varieties in formal rose gardens, or apparently may refer to their uses in treating rabid dog bites in the 18th-19th century! Although I enjoy a rare orchid as much as the next person, I can’t help enjoying the most common of wild flowers the most, for their stubborn determination to flower anywhere that they can possibly take root. And with these and other summer flowers & leaves – elderflower, ground ivy leaves, wild mint, chamomile & mallow flowers – they make a fabulous tea.
Although making homemade tea is as easy as picking a sprig of chamomile and popping it into a teapot with hot water, I was kindly lent a dehumidifier recently and had a go at drying out some foraged goods myself. I gave it a good clean – they are also great for drying out fruit leathers or even meat, but this means that they can be a bit on the sticky side. I spread out my leaves & petals carefully, with nothing overlapping, pointed the temperature gauge to 40 degrees, and left it whirring away for a few hours. I came upstairs later and Dom came bounding over and told me to go and smell the room it was in. I went over with some trepidation, half expecting to be met with the pong of 20 year old beef jerky remains. I opened the door… and the room smelt of sweet roses! Which reminds me – this is of course would have the alternative use of making homemade foraged pot pourri. It’s on the list for next year.
Sadly I’m a bit behind with blogging this summer season, so I know that the dog roses are well in the past now. However, there are still beautiful purple mallow flowers about, although I don’t know what mallow tea tastes like, and chamomile is one of my favourites. What is really exciting right now however, is the beginning of the fruit season. I have made jam after jam over the last couple of years – after all, what could be more simple & satisfying than the magical mix of sugar & fruit to boil into jam? A walk through the extensive land of Heythrop Park, chosen due to its punctuation by teeny waterfalls, and which brought the surprising and exciting moment of my first ever kingfisher sighting, resulted in the discovery of the most enormous patch of wild raspberries – not a common fruit to stumble across! We came back with 1.2kg of them. It is a July of happy breakfasts.