There’s a rowan tree planted beside the bus stop on Grecian Way, and this autumn it’s laden with bright red berries.
In the spirit of my wamble with forager Mark Lane, I nipped out on Thursday to cut a few sprays of berries. There’s something about suburbia that makes me feel slightly guilty whenever I do anything more exotic in public than mowing my front lawn or walking or cycling to get somewhere. Certainly, the dog-walker gave me strange looks as I jumped to grab branches and snipped away with my secateurs. But it’s not in anyone’s garden, I was taking a very small fraction of the berries, and the rest will only fall down and make a mess on the pavement. So it’s probable I should feel eccentric*, but why feel guilty?
Anyway, way back in the time, my uncle gave me a book on Wild Food, which includes recipes for rowan wine and rowan jelly. The jelly offers more instant rewards, and a chance for a case-control study of the impact on taste and clarity of the addition of apple.
First things first, the interweb-thingy suggested ‘denaturing’ the berries by freezing them. So I did, even though boiling them to a mush might be thought to have enough of an effect. Here they are, just out of the freezer; only 300g, but it took me not much more than a minute to pick them, and there’s enough for my experiment.
And here are the finished products. I started off with the same total weights of fruit and volume of water, so it’s odd that I got more than twice as much from the rowan-apple mix. I tipped the rowan-apple mush on top of the rowan mush in the jelly bag, so a bit more wouldn’t have been a surprise, but twice as much? I think the rowan-solo is slightly clearer, but the taste is pretty astringent, and adding the apple makes a milder jelly. I think I’ll try them both with plain scones and clotted cream, and with lamb.
One further note. It would be better to take berries from trees that are not by the side of a road. The concern is that run-off from the road – oil and general toxic yuk – gets taken up by the roots and concentrated in the fruit. Grecian Way isn’t very busy, but there are a few buses. So if I ever make any more, I’ll pick the berries on Dartmoor.
* On the other hand, is it possible to feel eccentric, given that I’m at the centre of my zone of perception, or can I only be eccentric from others’ perspectives?