Taking on the challenge of being self-sufficient can be very rewarding, from rearing livestock to stocking your pantry with home-grown produce and even foraging. In The New Homesteader, authors Bella and Nick Ivins take you on a journey and invite you into their lives giving you advice on aspects of homesteading from their firsthand experiences, including what to forage throughout the year and what can be found in September.
The pleasure of collecting free food from the hedgerows and surrounding land appeals to the hunter-gatherer within all of us. After 10 years on the homestead, we know where the best mushrooms will appear, where to forage for sloes and where the juiciest blackberries can be found. It is a joy to be able to harvest this natural forage at just the right moment, before birds or other wildlife get there first.
Early May is the start of the foraging season here at Walnuts Farm. At this time of year, we head down to the shady cool of the brook and are overwhelmed by the pungent scent of garlic in the air. Wild garlic (Allium ursinum), with its large spear-shaped green leaves and delicate white flowers, is also known as ramsons. Wild garlic is a wonderful source of flavour, imparting garlicky juices from the leaves and flower stalks at least three months before our kitchen garden crop of garlic has come to maturity.
Another favourite early in the year is elderflower, which is only available for about a month from late May. It grows like a weed here and we always pick it in great quantities.
Later in the year, in early September, we forage for ripe blackberries and sloes, which both freeze well until needed. At this time of year, there are also wild mushrooms to be found, which we add to risotto, one of our favourite autumn dishes.
The New Homesteader by Bella and Nick Ivins, published by Ryland Peters and Small www.rylandpeters.com, RRP £19.99.
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