Wild harvest

What better way to add to your pantry than to harvest something for free. But what about wild harvesting? Ok, I know the concept and I love it. It’s about harvesting from nature, not from other homesteaders, property owners or farmers but direct from Mother Nature, planted by her where she wills and grown by her hand entirely. That’s where, in my book, it gets a little scary.

When you’re harvesting from nature you need to KNOW what you’ re harvesting, not just pretty sure but because you haven’t planted the seeds yourself there is no manual or seed packet to remind you. Many plants are poisonous as are many mushrooms, some lethally Β so and taste is no indicator so seriously, KNOW WHAT YOU ARE HARVESTING!

In this instance I knew what I was harvesting. Several sources have confirmed it and even a cursory glance at google backed me up. I KNEW what I was doing in this instance but trust me, that will not make me confident. Even knowing and being sure and convinced and all the rest I was still nervous… Just in case. I had to make sure I’d done the necessary worrying before things went wrong just in case they do. πŸ˜‰ Yeah yeah, I’m a worry wart. πŸ˜›

I’ve taken these photos from Dr Google as I picked and cooked all of mine before realising I should maybe take some photos. Not the brightest spark in the fire, am I?

Pretty flowers, sadly no scent. When we cleaned up access to the creek we hacked off many of the lower branches and hence, most of the flowers and hence, most of the berries. Lesson learned. What the goats don’t eat, we will next year.

So this time we harvested our Hawthorns. Hawthorns are really beautiful trees. They have lovely green foliage, frothy white bunches of small flowers in Spring and in late Summer and early Autumn they are covered in bright red berries hanging in little clusters, not unlike a Barbie doll sized apple but in clusters like cherries. They are however, one of the most vicious trees I know. For those that are of Christian belief, this is the bush widely held to be the supplier of the branches woven into the crown of thorns. Some of the thorns are inches long! And the rotten things sting like billy-o if you’re unlucky enough to impale yourself on one. And if you’re seriously unlucky the tip will break off inside whatever unfortunate piece of flesh you stabbed yourself in. And if you are the unluckiest of the unlucky, you will react to whatever toxin is inside or on those thorns, causing the pain to increase 10 fold. When I stabbed myself I resorted to vicious methods to extract the 1mm long thorn tip embedded deeply in my hand as there was nothing short of amputation that could have possibly hurt more. Thankfully today we are victorious with zero casualties. Yay!

You really do NOT want to find out about one of these the hard way. Trust me!

So, whilst Orik slept, Jasper, Allegra and I, armed with out 15L stock pot (overkill in hindsight) headed out to the other side of the fence, keeping a wary eye out for any unwanted legless visitors (we saw none thankfully) and picked any of those lovely red berries we could find. Once we’d stripped every berry within arms reach and a few more besides we headed inside to remove leaves and stems. We ended up with 640g of berries. We’re following this recipe. I washed my haws as the berries are rightly known, threw them in Hermy the Thermy and gave them 60 mins/100*C/sp slow reverse. I did forget the mashing step but they kind of mashed up pretty well anyway. Martin picked up 1/2kg of white sugar on the way home last night. Normally this is something we never have. Sugar is refined, bleached and totally devoid of anything remotely resembling nutrition and it’s highly addictive but sadly, rapadura doesn’t really cut it for jam making. It’s different in many ways so on the odd occasion I can deal with a little sugar. I tipped my haws into the jelly bag to drain, gathering the liquid in a bowl underneath.

The liquid, around 640g (it works out similar in ml but the Thermy works only in grams) so in went all the sugar – 500g and on to 100/60 mins/sp 2. I checked for gelling. Nope, but close. 15 more minutes and I thought I had it. Into their sterilised jars, clear cellophane covers on and labels on the jars. I’ve checked them this morning now that they’re cool and a little later it will be off with the cellophane and back into Hermy the Thermy for about 30 minutes. No gel, just thick viscous sweet and delicious syrup. Bugger. 😦

Well, you live and learn and I’ve always been a little premature on the gel front. Except for the lemon marmalade I made whilst on the phone to Ing a few years back. That stuff was nearly teeth breaking! I have it on good authority that it was delicious though but I cannot attest to that being truth. Who in their right mind eats lemon peel in any way shape or form. Any peel for that matter. Bleuch!

Well, when they’re done I’ll share a photo of my 3 finished jars. πŸ™‚

I would like to get into wild harvesting a lot more but I know I need to learn a lot more before I do. I would simply adore to be able to safely and confidently go mushrooming but I might stick to buying used mushroom compost for now or a grow your own kit. There’s too much at stake to play around with mushrooms. Or any wild harvest when you don’t have the knowledge to be honest. Still, it’s exciting to know that there is food just waiting to be discovered and picked. πŸ™‚


9 thoughts on “Wild harvest

  1. Linne says:

    I have to admit, that is ME eating peels of most sorts. Another reason to buy organic, but, sadly, not always possible for me. Lots of vitamins in and near peel. I never peeled potatoes (very upsetting to my sibs if they came to visit; one sister going so far as to say she never ate anything that touched dirt!!); even my mashed potatoes have the peels in (I slice thinly before cooking and the peels are in tiny bits), And candied peels . . . love ’em! whether for Christmas or not; in Christmas baking or not. But I don’t care for most winter squash peels. This reminds me of my Dad’s father, who ate apples beginning at one end and going right through to the other; core, peel and all! I haven’t gotten to that yet, and I hope we are never in a situation that requires it. He was, in Russia after the revolution, when all the foreigners were suspect and many hounded out of the country. But, again, I digress . . .

    I was a successful mushroomer when I lived in BC; my secret was to only eat wild mushrooms that had no poisonous ‘look-alike’; varieties like Inky Caps, Morels (they look like brains on a stem) and Chanterelles (my all-time favourites; like orange trumpets turned inside-out, they only grow in a belt a certain height above sea level). I have no idea what you have down there (up there??) in the way of mushrooms, but you are right to be very cautious. My Mum and Dad harvested, too; once they picked a pan of mushrooms, cooked them and shared them with an Aunt and Uncle who were camping with them; they were all deathly ill; too ill to drive to a hospital. They all lived, but they never forgot it!

    One caution: if you harvest soft berries such as blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc., don’t pick any that grow near to a roadway. The heavy metals from vehicle exhaust accumulate in the berries and washing doesn’t help; the metals are right in the flesh. I was shocked when I learned this, as I had often picked by the roads; lots of berries due to the increased exposure to sun, and very easy to get to.

    I have never picked hawthorns; they look related to apples and roses. I have picked wild rose hips and made syrup out of them (after the first batch of jam, I learned the hard way to remove all the innards first; the furry bits stick in the throat something awful! The syrup is supposed to be a very good source of Vitamin C in the winter.

    Love your photos, even if from Dr. G.

    Just remembered (and this isn’t wildcrafting); did you know that you can stuff your male squash and pumpkin flowers and bake them in the oven? Very yummy and pretty, too. I used to use a chicken-style stuffing, but I expect there are lots that would be delicious. I never tried a nut-based one, but it is on my ‘someday’ list . . . ~ Linne

    • Yes, peels are a great source of vitamin C, just like the rest of the citrus fruit the peel comes from. I just hate and have always hated the bitterness. Bleuch. I follow a great blog by the Eco Mum whom I have linked here before and she just posted a great post on making your own vit c powder from the peels. I’m going to give it a try once I get some organic oranges.
      I knew that berries were all extremely high pesticide crops and all marked on the dirty dozen foods you should always buy organic. I didn’t know about the heavy metals but no real surprises though. It does put the kybosh on my idea to go berrying on the road sides. Spuds are also on the dirty dozen list too sadly. I too only peel spuds for roasting. Making mash in the thermy I just scrub them up really well and no-one has even noticed, let alone commented. If I make pumpkin soup I use butternut pumpkin (butternut squash in the UK but not sure what else it may be known as) and the skin of butternuts is really soft so you if you can blend it well you never notice it. I also leave the seeds in, no matter which pumpkin I use. They all blend down and add heaps of extra nutritional value. Also, waste not want not. πŸ™‚ If you ask my bro n sil though they will tell you I’m the weird one in the family. My parents agree, but I too digress. πŸ™‚
      I know precious little about mushrooms to be honest and I’m planning on getting used mushroom compost (they clear it out after 1 crop but there are subsequent crops of lesser yield that will grow) and I have to be honest that makes me nervous enough. What if…? Glad your family made it through their brush with bad mushrooms. How scary for you all. And a poignant lesson not to muck around with them too. There is a nasty mushroom here in Australia that at first glance looks exactly like a button mushroom or those normal white ones you get in the supermarket. I remember when I was a kid and I first heard about them we found them a few days later growing on our nature strip. They look exactly the same… Until you bruise them slightly. A mushroom either marks very little or goes that browny grey or off white colour but these copycat mushrooms stain yellow. http://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/science/information-and-resources/identification-and-information-services/edible-and-poisonous-fungi/agaricus-xanthodermus is a link I’ve just found on them. They will make you sick!
      As for stuffed pumpkin flowers I have a glut of male flowers at the moment. I’ve heard of stuffing them before but it always sounded like too much work. Maybe I should try it.:)

  2. LyndaD says:

    I like the idea of wild harvesting but like you not too sure of what i am doing so i leave it up to Hugh in The River Cottage. Lucky me, my husband download about 6 series which i previously hadnt seen right back to the beginning. It a pleasure to watch. Best of all it was free.

    • I am dying to watch that series! I’ve heard so very much about it and it’s right up my alley of course.
      Thank you sooo much for the bikes, gift box (yet to be opened) and the helmet too. I have been trying to find the time to sit and scribe an email thanking you but this came up first. πŸ™‚

  3. Leiani says:

    Very brave of you, I’d be so worried about poisoning myself as I am an over the top worry wort too πŸ™‚ But I do think it’s wonderful that you’re doing it. And ouch on the thorn front. I think that alone would put me off! lol

    • If you KNOW and I mean K.N.O.W. 100% what you’re eating then there’s no risk. If it’s something that isn’t too risky (I would personally avoid mushies like the plague as I’m such a beginner) then it might be worth trying.

  4. narf77 says:

    Kudos on your persistance and on your thorny haul. We have hawthorns out in full red all over the place and so many that the blackbirds decided to not bother with them this year. The blackberry harvest is just about over so they might start getting interested soon and I am wondering if I might take a leaf out of your esteemed book and do “something” with some haws, and some of the wild rose hips that are shining out like tiny beacons all over the place at the moment. I am thinking of perhaps making some “Froggy” Pate de fruit or fruit paste out of it, perhaps mixed with some apple or pear to add body and tame the flavour? I might just shoot straight past go and make syrup from the hips and condense it down to make a type of molasses, thick, viscous and rich. Not sure if I can even be bothered to head out of doors and collect them! Quelle horreur! I seem to be as sapped of energy and will at the moment as the garden is. The grass gave up growing back in December last year and goodness only knows what is going to take it’s place when we get some rain ;). There is another hawthorn called a washington hawthorn with ENORMOUS spikes but almost edible fruit that is grown around here. I am trying to get cuttings of it so that I can have a go at growing some for fruit and for habitat for the birds. I love messing about with wild fruits and foods πŸ™‚

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