Foraging for the hedgerow harvest

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Foraging is an excellent way to experience new flavours and enjoy the great outdoors. There’s a wealth of delicious edibles growing all around us, even right on our doorstep – and it’s free!

Autumn is a time of abundance for foragers, and one of the most common sights in the hedgerows at this time of year are the red berries, or haws, of the Hawthorn. If you are going to harvest these, wear heavy duty gloves as those thorns are vicious!

The seeds within the haws, like those of many other fruits, contain a cyanide inducing chemical, so it’s only the flesh we’ll be using. The best way to process is to heat the berries in just enough water to cover them, then remove from the heat when the skins are well split, and then mash through a sieve.

The flesh has exceptionally high levels of pectin, making it a great asset to the jam making enthusiast and excellent for setting fruit leathers. However, one of the nicest ways to use Hawthorn is to create a delicious savoury ketchup.

Ingredients
500g haw berries
300ml water
300ml cider or white wine vinegar
175g sugar
Salt
Black pepper

Method
1. Remove the leaves and stalks from haw berries and rinse
2. Put the haw berries, water and vinegar into a large pan. Bring the mixture to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. The skins on the berries should split
3. Remove from the heat and pour the contents into a sieve suspended over a container. Push the berries around to push as much of the flesh through the sieve as possible, but keeping the stones in the sieve
4. Clean your original pan and transfer the sieved pulp back into it
5. Add the sugar and season well with salt and pepper
6. Bring the mixture to the boil then simmer for 5-10 mins until the mixture is thick and syrupy, and the sugar has dissolved
7. Transfer to sterilised jars

To add some more kick, add finely chopped chillies or garlic at stage five.

This mixture can sometimes get very thick, so jars from which it can be spooned from are better than bottles. If the jars are correctly sterilised, the ketchup should keep for several months if unopened.

There are many poisonous plants and fungi growing in UK. Do not eat anything unless you are absolutely certain of its identity and that it is safe to consume.

Kerry Bowness

Kerry is a foraging instructor and runs courses across The Midlands, including Warwickshire and Northamptonshire.
To book, visit www.kerrybowness.com

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