On hedgerow foraging

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Hedgerows:  doesn’t that sound so very…English?  I confess to a certain admiration for the long gardening tradition of the British isles, and I readily admit having a huge crush on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  But hedgerows.  I can’t claim to have hedgerows here in Michigan.  For one, our property lines only go back about 100 years (not nearly long enough for a proper hedge) and two, ours are poison ivy- and bramble-filled ditches, not something as tempting a foraging target as some misty Cotswold or Yorkshire hedgerow.

But it is the season for elderflowers, the pretty creamy-white blossoms of the black elderberry.  And–wonder of wonders–I have elderberry bushes in the hedges ditches around my property.  So!  Time to get out the scissors and the wading boots (all the better to fend off the poison ivy tendrils) and get snipping.

In honor of another Dorset bloke who’s a champion hedgerow forager, I made some of Hedgewizard’s elderflower champagne this week, as well as elderflower crepes.  It will be a while before the fizzy, nonalcoholic champagne can be sipped and enjoyed, but boy did those crepes get eaten quickly!  Our gooseberries are near ripening, too, so it’s time to try Hugh’s Elderflower/Gooseberry fool.

It is quite fun harvesting food from the farm I had no hand in growing, you know?  Just watch the poison ivy, which, alas, is not edible.

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15 responses to “On hedgerow foraging

  1. Well I’m jealous. We planted two elderberries this year, but they’re tiny still. My summertime treat after working up a good sweat in the garden is a tall glass of fizzy water with elderflower syrup and a squeeze of lime. It’s sublime, and I hope to supply myself starting next year.

    I’d love a hedge too. Maybe when our fence rots we’ll replace it with a hedge instead of a new fence. One can dream anyway.

  2. Thanks for the great ideas on elderberries, I love the flowers fragrence. I look forward to them every spring and we always pick and freeze the berries… elderflower crepes sound really good. River cottage looks to be an interesting site, I look forward to perusing it some more.

    It is not hedgegrows with me, but walled victorian kitchen gardens and greenhouses. The kind Harry Dodson used to wonder through in the old B B C television series “The Victorian Kitchen Garden”.

    Imagine all the time and effort it took/takes to create a true hedgegrow. It boggles the mind. Thanks for these links, I will enjoy them.

  3. grandmabecker

    I cant get near my wood line or the ditch. I would be eaten alive.
    The bugs are really bad this year. The skitters will carry you off!!!
    And everytime I come in, I have to really check for ticks. They seem bad this year too. I hate those guys, creeps me out!
    We have had unusual cool nights and a cool spring here. Not summer yet.
    Today it is overcast again, with rain coming later. It will be 70 and muggy. About right for the Michigan – Canadian border.
    Have a great weekend.

  4. grandmabecker

    Oh, I have to say everyone around here is sad. Our Detroit Red Wings lost the Stanley Cup!!!
    My husband and sons are in mourning!!!

  5. you too, he?
    I just picked some and I am going for cordial & syrup… road side and ditch-side the here grow. Mucking boots indeed mandatory.

    I am glad the season last longer than locust blossom, which I totally missed this year!

  6. non-alcoholic you say? I am in : ) Now, if I can only find some flowers. I see some on the road. Will go down to the real farm down the road this weekend and see if they have any. Thanks for the recipe.

  7. Ahhh… poison ivy. My mania against it is already starting for this season. I’ve found a few plants on our property already. Time to spray the hell out of it again, I guess. It invades even my dreams. I hate the stuff.

  8. I’ve never tasted elderberries, I’ll have to see if there are some in this area. Likely not, as this is a newer part, but maybe in the surrounding towns/farms.

  9. You should try Eldelower cordial… it’s much quicker than the champange and there is a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe on his river cottage website.

  10. Mmmmmm. Elderflower cordial. I’ve only had the imported kind, but so good.

  11. I’m seeing more poison ivy around my place and it looks a little bigger, more vigorous. Are you noticing that , too? One of the consequences of global warming, the ivy thrives on the higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. So a little more time and effort to hold it back.

  12. Kate, that drink sounds really refreshing. This stuff sure smelled good when it was “cooking” on the stove for a day+. It might not be too late for you to find some roadside flowers, though…

    Mike, you’re welcome. I think that in our pursuit of all things boxed-up and suburban we have lost a lot of these little quality-of-life skills, like jam-making and hedgerow-foraging. There’s stigma attached to a person getting out of one’s car (because of course we don’t walk anywhere here) and picking roadside edibles, and it’s a shame. Time to rectify it!

    Grandmabecker my daughter is with you on the ticks. She had one on her ear recently and it was a cause for a big freak-out on her part, but then I told her that her guineas would like to eat it (and all was well). You know, the bugs haven’t been too bad here this year! And sorry about those Redwings…

    Sylvie, I might have to hit you up for some syrup ideas: we have bushes in bloom still and I think that would be lovely!

    WF, yeah, in fact I wanted to make sure I clarified my statement because I would bet that the “champagne” would turn some folks off. The natural carbonation is a result of the yeasts eating up some of the sugars in the drink: the product is a gas but I don’t think you could ever get drunk off of it. I used vinegar as the acidifier.

    Laurene I do too and it’s just such a battle on about 1/3 of my property. I will never win! Sigh. Sorry it’s in your dreams.

    MC, well, the berries are kind of bitter but they do make a good cordial on their own. This is the year of Liquid Experiments here on the homestead so I will be trying to make some elderberry liqueur later this year.

    Lyssa, thanks for the mention. Frankly I went for the champagne recipe because I didn’t have enough flower heads to make the cordial! If I had waited a day or two though…but I do like the idea of something I can dilute with water. As it is, the champagne will come out when we watch movies with our home-grown popcorn.

    Stef, I can see your wheels turning from here!

    Dennis, I have no idea. The stuff is mythic no matter what the reason: seriously huge vines, some as thick as my calf, encircle some trees behind us, and the stuff is BLOOMING now too. Yuck, double yuck!

  13. If you want to add an interesting hedgerow to your property, here’s your local source (local as in Michigan, I don’t know if they are near your homestead)

    Oikos Tree Crops

    Their catalog is fantastic and full of good things like serviceberry, pawpaw, oak and hazelnuts. I was thinking about planting the precocious hazelnuts as a row at my old place.

    Mmmmm… hazelnut chicken….

    • Hi Jenn! Are you missing deciduous midwestern trees yet? Yes, I do know Oikos! They’re in Kzoo and about 45 mins. east of me. I got some persimmons and pawpaws from them a couple of years back. (It may even be a pawpaw year though I thought they took a good 10 to produce!) But hazelnuts! They grew near my house (in the dunes) when I was a kid; I loved finding and eating them, if I could beat the squirrels that is… Thanks for the suggestion!

  14. Pingback: Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener » Elder Blossom Lemonade

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