Wickedly Wild Strawberries

With so much fresh food coming out of the vegetable and fruit garden just now, there’s hardly time, let alone need, to forage for anything wild. It’s been hot and dry, so I’m not expecting much in the way of more fungi, but this week we’ve had a couple of downpours, so I must go and check out the woods soon.

I don’t have to wander far for one wild food mainstay, the wild strawberry, which starts in June and continues right through to the autumn. Andrew had one plant – one! – in his latest abortive attempt at a rock garden by the front door and from there it has smothered the alpines, flowed freely along the cracks in the paving, inserted itself at the base of the wall and marched off down the path towards the gate.

(I digress, but, much as we love alpine plants and admire them,  people like us shouldn’t be allowed to own them. Any plant so lacking in thuggish attributes doesn’t stand a prayer in our garden, given our predilection for rampant weeds like variegated ground elder and croppable monsters like Burdock and Bistort. And after all, there are some excellent botanic gardens and plant collections around here where we can visit happy alpines that are cared for as they deserve.)

So the wild strawberries hold sway, and we share them with a number of birds, for there are enough for us all. (Although I have to say the sheer greed of our resident blackbird is awe-inspiring. He pigs so many of our raspberries and blackcurrants sometimes he is seriously challenged when it comes to flying off and just squats still all day in a feathery-bothered heap under the bushes.)  I sprinkle them liberally over my breakfast cereal, make wild strawberry smoothies, muffins and any number of desserts. Gathering enough for a decent batch of jam or wine would be possible, but so far I haven’t had the patience! The fruits are small, but packed with flavour. We’re also gathering wild bilberries, or blaeberries, now – these are incomparable, messy and tasy, and make excellent jam. Maybe I’ll try a mix of the two.

I gathered the last of the elderflowers today and made another batch of cordial. Maybe it’s the recession making me act like there’s rationing and making me horde food, but, well, we gave one bottle of cordial away and there are only two more in the freezer…. Three weeks till the elderflower champagne is ready – I’m looking forward to that!

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