When I was kid I lived on a small council estate in Bath, UK and next to our block of houses at end of our street stood a large house that was built a couple of hundred years ago, way before the likes of us common folk were born or even had thoughts of invading the area.
The large house which is called Montague house is a tall building of Victorian origin and in their grounds there used to be an orchard there, (this was before they decided in the 1980’s that the upkeep of an orchard was too expensive, and so they dug it all up, tarmacked it over sold the land, turning the orchard into a block of flats with garages) which would of catered only to the well-off dwellers within its domain – Interestingly a fossil hunter called Joseph Chaning Pearce (1811-1847) who lived there with is family from 1845 retired there and subsequently died inside one of the rooms of a lung complaint two years later.
But we weren’t after the old man’s fossils…
We used to climb over a 20 foot mesh fence the owners had hastily erected to keep the local riff raff (me and my kind) segregated from their private little paradise.
We’d climb that fence like pirates aboard an ocean vessel, scaling the fence like we were up the masts of a huge ship we’d just captured. Down the other side of the fence we’d drop in hiden amongst the canopy of the fruit trees. Armed with carrier bags and Hessian bags, and any type of bag fit for the purpose of (which in Somerset is known as) ‘Scrumping’ we would set to work.
I must of been about 10 years old at the time…
There were apples, pears, plums, gooseberries, redcurrants, rhubarb and all manner of fresh fruit and vegetables at hand, it was like the fresh food isle at the local supermarket, only the goods from this particular orchard were truly fresh, highly nutritious, and of course abundantly free.
It was the start of a wonderful childhood spent living close to a busy city but it was also a time where we were close enough to the countryside where not only could we enjoy the fruits (and other peoples) fruits of the land, but also spend our time as wild council house yobs acquiring the secret knowledge of foraging, passed down from generation to generation by poor buggers, the likes of whom would of liked nothing more to do than, ‘get one over’ on his rich neighbour, or lord who was more than likely so stinkingly rich, would horde everything like a dragon – To forage for wild foods, not only the ‘common’ types associated with land ownership as previously mentioned, but little known rare nuggets of free stuff growing wild that either escaped these rich peoples properties or was left growing wild since the neolithic hunter gatherer times.
In the next few days, weeks and months (when I can be arsed basically) – I’m going to gather some of this information about wild food and create a series of blog posts on the subject – I want to try and keep it seasonal so if you want to go out and forage yourself you can do. I’ll also try include a few recipes and things I’ve acquired along with the descriptions of the plants themselves.