It may well be the beginning of November, but summer seems to have lingered. The hedgerows along the footpaths around Beachamwell are a riot of glorious colours in all shades of red and purple berries. These hips, haws, sloes and remaining blackberries will provide much needed food for our winter bird visitors as they arrive from colder northern climes.
We too can harvest these autumn fruits to brighten our dark winter days: blackberries add flavour to many a pudding; and sloes can be transformed from their bitter taste to a wonderful warming sloe gin.
Nowadays rose hips are generally left to the birds, but during the Second World War they were main ingredient of a major industry to keep the nation’s children healthy by drinking vitamin-rich rose hip syrup. Rose hips were also harvested in earlier times and prepared for sweet pastry fillings. This was a long drawn-out process. The hips were split, cleaned of seeds and hairs, and left to soak until soft enough to be sieved, mixed with sugar or honey, potted and stored until needed.
The cook also picked haws, added them to crab apples and made a jelly to serve with cold meats.
Words and Photos: Sue Pennell