Foraging for seasonal food

Picture: Lorne Campbell / Guzelian' The annual harvest of the apples
Picture: Lorne Campbell / Guzelian' The annual harvest of the apples

Zephyrine talks about foraging through and around Fairfield Community Orchard.

“Incredible Edible’s forage walks take place fortnightly from early May until the end of September. We meet at noon, at the town end of Fairfield Community Orchard, just off Sunnyside Lane, at the bench where the Fauna Nature Reserve path meets the orchard path.

Anna Clayton.

Anna Clayton.

“The walks run from noon to 2pm on fully disabled-accessible paths. The walk goes through Fairfield orchard and aims to learn about the wild plants and fruit crops planted there – apples, pears, cherries, blackcurrants, gooseberries and nuts (walnuts, sweet chestnuts). We then wander our way back up ‘the pads’, the ancient pathway on the outer edge of the orchard, for a shared picnic in the clearing at the town end of the community orchard.

“Incredible Edible’s forage walks are always held in the orchard, enabling foragers to become familiar with a small productive patch through the seasons.

“In May we learn to identify young leaves that are good for salads – such as wild garlic, cleavers, garlic mustard (Jack-by-the-hedge), and nettles which are good for soup. We picnic together off frittata (omelette) cooked on a little bucket-fire in the clearing.

“Gradually, as the season moves on to late spring and early summer, the leaves grow tough – not so pleasant to eat – and flowers begin to appear. As the first creamy elderflower appears we end up cooking elderflower fritters, with a dash of sugar and lemon juice, washed down with elderflower champagne or cordial.

“As the elderflowers fade and the rowan-berries begin to plump up we turn to making flower teas, collecting the last of the elderflowers, rose-petals, lime-flowers and meadowsweet (Queen of the meadow) during July and August. The top-fruit – gooseberries and currants – are good to pick now, too.

“In September, we turn our attention to the ripening apples and pears: there are over 20 apple varieties in the orchard, some ripening earlier than others. Now is the season for stewed blackberries and apples for our picnics.

“We look out for ripe elderberries and rowanberries, and sloes (which need a frost to be good for sloe gin). And late September brings walnuts and hazelnuts if the squirrels don’t get them first.

“Come and join us. The walks are free of charge and you will get to learn about the seasonal abundance on your doorstep here in Lancaster. Everyone is welcome.”

For details of the walks (alternately on Tuesdays and Thursdays), see the Incredible Edible Lancaster facebook page.