Enjoy the fruits of your foraging

FORAGING is the fashionable word in food circles, but in fact country people have been doing this for centuries (for ever!) and the first, and still the finest, guide to foraging for wild food is Food For Free, by this country’s greatest natural history writer, Richard Mabey.

But a new book from two women who have developed a business selling wild fruit jellies, relishes and fruit cheeses, is an attractive and valuable addition to the cookery shelves.

The Hedgrow Cookbook: Wild at Heart, by Ginny Knox and Caro Willson, is mouthwatering from the moment you pick it up – the front cover is a Bramble Fool, a pretty pud that is a great way to celebrate the bounty of early autumn hedgerows, with sugar, double cream and Greek yoghurt.

Blackberries are the wild fruit that we all know, love and feel quite safe picking and eating, so it is the perfect start.

Ginny and Caro are lifelong friends and share a passion for food, talking about it, making it, reading about it, and eating, lots!

After more than 20 years with big companies (finance and food) they were both ready for a change of direction, wanted to do something together, and went back to their foodie roots.

“We set out to rediscover the pleasures of wild, native or ancient fruits that had perhaps been overlooked in this supermarket age of perfect strawberries all year round.”

They wanted to create food that tasted homemade, and so after busy months gathering and boiling fruits, “boiling away like witches at their cauldrons”, in the spring of 2011 they started selling traditional accompaniments for meats and cheeses under the name Wild at Heart. Their first products were crab-apple and medlar jellies, damson and quince cheeses, wild plum chutney and red onion marmalade.

The response from customers was enthusiastic. They built up their business, sourcing more supplies of rare and native fruits from farmers and nurserymen, and selling through farm shops, delis and butchers, and securing listings from bigger stores.

The Hedgerow Cookbook was the natural next step, expanding the range from the original wild and traditional fruits to include drinks, savoury dishes, puddings, cakes, sweets and treats.

There are the familiar and traditional wild favourites, such as Elderflower Cordial or Sloe Gin, but also mouthwatering and inspiring new and ancient recipes, such as Beef, Beer and Chestnuts Suet Crust Pie or Pontack Sauce (a 17th century concoction of elderberries, with spices, sugar and vinegar to serve with duck, pork, offal or other rich meat.

One of Scotland’s greatest treats, Cranachan is here, in a delicious and sophisticated version with crunchy nuggets of hazelnuts, oats and heather honey, layered with whisky cream and wild raspberries. Too good to just serve on Burns Night!

Wild at Heart is published by Pavilion Books, price 16.99.