Grow, forage, cook

It’s the bucolic dream: cooking with produce fresh from your veg patch, or plucked from the hedgerow with your own fair hands.

A lamb bleats contentedly in the background, the birds cheep overhead, the sun shines down through the trees, the dappled shade ripples over your wheelbarrow and far away up a hill, a shepherdess tends to her flock…

…okay, it’s possible I’m getting just a little carried away, but this new series, Grow, forage, cook, aims to celebrate the very best of at least the first part of that lovely scene: cooking with fresh seasonal produce.

Together with my friend Laura (of the frequently bucolic Circle of Pine Trees) we plan to bring you our favourite recipes, foraging ideas and gardening tips for growing and eating seasonal produce.

I’ll be sharing some of the bits and pieces I’ve learnt (and am still learning) on my horticulture  courses to help grow the finest veg, fruit and herbs in the land. Plus, of course, some recipes that use said incredible produce, most likely booze or chutney related as I have something of an addiction to both. (Note to self: perhaps don’t admit to an “addiction to booze” on the internet…)

Laura, meanwhile, (as well as being the best photographer I’ve ever met in my life) is the world’s finest baker, so expect a range of cakes so delicious-looking you’ll be drooling over your computer keyboard. She is also a mighty fine forager, who can spot a sloe in the hedgerow at a hundred paces, and who loves to use foraged finds in her cooking.

We’ll be taking it in turns to publish a piece once a fortnight, so do check in and find out what we’re up to…

We’d also love you to join in as well. If you’re growing, foraging or cooking with seasonal produce, please do take a photo and tag it with #growforagecook on instagram; or tweet us with the same hashtag, or go the whole hog and join in with your own blog posts!

The story so far:

As we go, I’ll gather together all our articles here, so you can have a really good look through them all if you wish…

On Wolves in London:

A Christmas hamper

Homemade Christmas hamper from Wolves in London
Christmas hamper

If there’s a better present in the world than a hamper at Christmas, I’ve yet to come across it.

Oh, wait, I do know of a better one: a homemade hamper, stuffed to bursting with delicious goodies made over the previous 12 months. (Note to readers: please do feel free to read this as a hint, if you’ve been umming and ahhing about what to get me for Christmas, ha ha…)

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Planning a kitchen garden (part two)

Planning a kitchen garden | Wolves in London
Kitchen garden

If you’re in the enviable position of having a selection as to where you grow your veg, fruit and herbs, I’m pretty jealous!

In my garden, there is one suitable space only, a bed at the back, on the south side, which used to be full of rhododendrons, but is now empty. My kitchen garden will go there. End of story.

But if you’ve got a choice, either because you’re re-planning your whole garden, or you’ve got a selection of different places you could give over to food, then there are a few things to think about first…

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Planning a kitchen garden

Planning a kitchen garden
Kitchen garden

When I took my first horticulture course last year, one of the modules I was looking forward to the least was called “Growing fruit and veg”…

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m not interested in doing just that. It’s that I was already doing just that. Really, I thought, what more could I need to know?

Of course, the answer turned out to be, a helluva lot…

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September round-up

Grow, forage, cook September roundup
September roundup

Ah, September, always one of my favourite months of the year.

I say this not just because it is the auspicious month of my birth. (Actually, my birthday was a rather muted affair this year; the sproglet choosing the day to give me two full-on hour-long tantrums and my birthday cake not lovingly made by the hubby, but purchased from the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Not that I’m complaining, as my Mum came up for the day and was the one who bought me the cake, but the hub could do well to take a leaf from Laura’s book, who made this fantastically toothsome looking creation for her husband D’s birthday: Ginger and pear cake.)

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Saving seeds (and free seed envelope template)

Vintage style seed envelopes: free download | Wolves in London
Saving seeds

Far be it from me to deny the joys of veg gardening (of which there are many, even in years of disappointing harvest) but I have to confess that one of my absolute favourite benefits of growing your own is the chance to get something for nothing.

Yes, it is just quite possible I am a massive skinflint, but it makes me very happy to spend a pound or two on a packet of seeds and then enjoy fresh tomatoes for the entire summer months. And saving and storing some seeds from said tomatoes to grow a full summer’s worth the following year entirely for free is enough to put a beam on your face throughout the whole of a miserable dark winter…

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A disappointing harvest

Homegrown apples | Wolves in London
Apples from my tree: about the only edible thing in my garden right now

As August has bid us farewell and summer has melted into the season of mellow fruitfulness, I’ve started to feel a little bit of a fraud.

It’s been great to see so many of you joining in with our Grow, forage, cook series; Laura posted what we hope will be the first of many round ups of some of your mouth-watering photos and recipes last week: August round up.

I am practically salivating onto my keyboard at the sight of all the wonderful jams, pies, salads and other delights, made from homegrown or foraged foods…

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Spicy plum chutney

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London
Spicy plum chutney

There’s been a definite chill in the air this week and I have to keep reminding myself that, yes, it is still officially August and still officially summer. For one more week at least…

I’m sure I can feel the days shortening imperceptibly each evening and my summer duvet is wrapped more tightly around me each night.

I’m trying not to moan because, after all, we did have a glorious July, but there is something a little depressing about an August that already feels as if autumn has hit…

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Morello cherry vodka

Cherry vodka| Wolves in London
Morello cherry vodka

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you might know that the wonderfully talented Laura at Circle of Pine Trees is a good friend of mine.

Laura and I met back in our student days at Bristol Uni, both of us studying English Literature and then taking a masters in poetry (otherwise known as wasting a year in a rather enjoyable but completely pointless pursuit…)

It wasn’t over our mutual love of 20th century poetry though, that we really bonded, but through our mutual love of cooking (and perhaps more specifically a love of cakes, now I think about it…)…

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On Circle of Pine Trees

October round-up

Grow, forage, cook October round-up
October roundup

October, for me, is resplendent with hedgerow pickings- hips and sloes, and with the bounty of the fruit trees, apple in particular. Thanks to a generous friend with an apple tree, and a ever-replenishing basket of free windfalls up the road from our house, there have been windfall apples in my kitchen every day this month. Whilst they sometimes get stewed, or added to a crumble, most of them end up in Windfall Apple Cakes, the cake tin being refilled with a fresh one each weekend. I’ve written a little about this cake, and shared the recipe, over at Leonie Wise’s gorgeous site Weekends Collected….

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A foraged feast with Fore/Adventure

Fore/Adventure feast: grow, forage, cook
Fore/Adventure feast

Since starting the #growforagecook project with Sabrina, it’s been so exciting to to connect with others who share our enthusiasm for growing, foraging and cooking! Over on Instagram, I got chatting to Rachel, who works by the coast in Dorset for Fore/Adventure. She posts the most fabulous images of foraged goodness. I discovered that Fore/Adventure provide all sorts of adventuring opportunities, from kayaking to coasteering, bushcraft to beach school, all of which look amazing. I was particularly interested, however, to learn more about their thoughts on and experiences of wild food and foraging.

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Pear and ginger cake

Pear ginger cake: grow, forage, cook
Pear ginger cake

My love’s birthday is in September (in actual fact, he and Sabrina are cosmic twins!). Whilst we are rarely short of cake in our house, this is always his opportunity to choose his favourite. He’s a fan of chocolate cake, but it’s sticky pear and ginger upside-down cake which has made the most appearances on his birthday table over the years. The pears for this year’s incarnation were carefully selected from one of the ‘pick and mix’ fruit stalls at the farmer’s market, at their juicy best…

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Damson gin

Damson gin: grow, forage, cook
Damson gin

On Saturday, we took a trip to the farmers market in the sweet September sunshine. The stalls were laden down with glorious late summer bounty: crisp local apples, plump purple plums, ears of golden corn and bunches of cosmos and dahlias. I couldn’t resist a paper bag full of homegrown damsons: small and firm with an ebony gloss. I toyed with the idea of jamming them, but I have some already stashed away in my freezer, from my mother-in-law’s tree. This fresh bag called out to the bottle of gin in my cupboard-  time to make a fruit liqueur for sipping when the cold winter evenings make their inevitable appearance….

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August round-up

Grow, forage, cook August round-up
August round-up

Late summer is such a wonderful time for growing, foraging and cooking. My kitchen is brimming with fabulous produce and the only limit to my baking, preserving and bottling endeavours is my lack of time! Of all the delights that this season has to offer, it’s blackberries which are my favourites, and there seem to have been a particularly plump and juicy crop of them this year. As a child, we picked blackberries every summer, and now I do the same with my own children, returning from our rambles carrying a groaning basket, with bruise coloured fingers and purple-stained mouths…

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A basket of plums

Plums; grow, forage, cook

In my last post, I introduced a brand new collaborative blog series: grow, forage cook, which I’m starting with my friend Sabrina.  I’m going to begin my #growforagecook adventures with the large basket of plums which was has been gracing my kitchen table…

At our local PYO farm, there is a row of slightly neglected Victoria plum trees, straggling down the edge of the field between the rhubarb and the strawberries. We picked (and jammed) more than our fair share of strawberries at the start of the summer. Now that late summer is upon us with its warm, languorous abundance, plums are our fruit of choice, and a far cheaper option than the last of the berries…

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