This season, these Colourful wild berries add a pop of vibrancy to any meal.
Arbutus or the Strawberry fruit tree, is a tree with strawberry coloured berries. During the summer They turn from hard, green little berries into rich, red, soft berries by mid to end September through the autumn. Surprisingly, These berries contain a mild flavoured, bright orange flesh, with small insignificant seeds. Pick them directly from the tree and wash to remove any cobwebs (a familiar sight at this time of year!) Eaten fresh and raw, They make a nice addition to breakfasts, fruit desserts and as a garnish on any cake/tart/pie, with a dairy free cream or yogurt. A rich source of vitamin C.
This week it was wonderful opportunity to join the Festival of creative Ageing Creative Walk In Ladywell area, in collaboration with GCDA. Our artists goodie bag contained an A4 sketchbook journal, a graphite stick, sketch pencil, 2 polystyrene printing tiles.
Looking around the area, taking in the local sites and heard about the history. The tour began at St Mary’s Church yard which has stood on the site since Saxon times! This ancient site was central to Lewisham life including trade along the main rd of Rushey Green which contained pubs for the travellers along the way in the age of horse drawn carriages. since then and held community together. Next, past the old fire station (now a training group and hairdressers) which used to house the firefighters in flats above and still has the cobbled courtyard for their horses which pulled the carts, plus a tall tower where the hoses are believed to have been hung, out to dry after use.
Next, around to see the coroners court! Now Overgrown and full of foliage, plus rusty gates. Looking up, we see an Elder (Sambucus nigra), in full fruit with proudly reaching towards the sunlight with rich burgundy berry clusters. This forms my inspiration for a later design. Next door is the old dilapidated Play Tower, a former nursery, which will be turned into a cinema in due course. Previously it was the first public swimming baths, as The red brick wall outside still testifies; apparently children used to grind their entrance pennies into the wall, whilst queuing outside the entrance and the pits are still visible!
Further up the road, towards ladywell on the opposite side of the railway bridge, the words SHELTER FOR 700 are painted in bold capital letters, inferring to an air raid shelter, from WWII built beneath the bridge.
Turning into Ladywell park (the ‘rec’ recreation ground as it was known when we went there in training at school).
history of this local area, a place where each of us had previously visited (in my case daily, as I went to school up the road 1986-1991) gave us each a sense of time and place, much more grounded, feeling centred and part of the ongoing history.
Following the pathway Back to St Mary’s and an exploration of The wellbeing garden. Here we mediated amongst the raised vegetable beds and chose a spot to focus on an artistic piece. Finding an old cherry tree with raised roots, I sat down and made an imprint in granite across the back of the bark. I found a leathery old leaf for a pattern to design later. I looked around the garden; it’s so pretty and peaceful.
Our next stop was at the war memorial where The invictus / Pegasus horse adorns the tall gate posts leading towards the statue. There are wreaths and special stones inlaid into the pathway dedicated to all the young lives which were lost during the wars. My father took me there as a child, more of an escape from home, on Saturdays and we used to play rolling down the raised mound flower bed.
Further on, we walked into Lewisham park, which is bordered by large private houses; previously this park was more of their land. In the centre, a large hollowed our area belied a former lake, now long gone. The ancient London Plane trees had shed their bark so I collected some to add to the collage and piece together as a landscape puzzle. A yew tree held a mass of succulent berries which we enjoyed (whilst delicately removing the poisonous black seeds). Walk over, we drew our ideas at st Mauritius house and artist Ellie demonstrated a print making demo; instantly it brought back my Memories of making roller paint prints as a girl. Those were the days! Back then, during the 1980s, our art drawer contained ink rollers (sadly, long since discarded as they were no longer regularly used.) perhaps a visit to hobby craft is now in order!
On Thursday 12th September Was a mild day to lead a wellbeing group Herbal walk around a local park. We set off to find more edible plant species that Mountsfield park has to offer, with cloth bags and scissors. @FOMP http://www.mountsfieldpark.wordpress.com (find out more of the history of Mountsfield park here). Francis kindly donated organically grown fresh produce from the QVT garden: a crown prince pumpkin, potatoes and a courgette.
In season, Locally sourced Wild ‘weeds’ provide an abundance of minerals, much like a mini supplement/vitamin pill instead of which, these offer small medicinal properties including calming iron, calcium and magnesium.
Walking up the south circular road was very noisy and polluted so we turned off earlier than planned into looking up, I noticed tiny black grapes hung in clusters above our heads. Paul (tallest member in the group) collected several bunches and before long we’d all savoured the sweet/sour juice and crunchy pips.
we met another participant at the park and stood or sat beneath the arbour in the community garden. There We studied the flame coloured nasturtium flowers (strong/hot flavour leaves and flowers) and milder calendulas. The rich vibrant colours are abundant in an array of plants and vegetables including cardoons, beans and purple sprouting broccoli. Everyone experiences the positive effects of nature on our wellbeing. (Note: The garden is open to visitors but all produce belongs to the park volunteers!)
Preserving these wild foods, can be easily achieved; by making sauces from hawthorn berries, drying nettles, mint and lemon balm for tea and sprinkle nettle seeds to garnish salads and soups. Plantain leaves stem blood flow and are antiseptic; these have a robust flavour for use in salad and juice. Similarly yarrow’s feathery leaves and dandelion (lion’s tooth plant) and burdock leaves for opening and flushing/cleansing the urinary tract. Nettle leaves offer an energy boost of iron; now the seeds are developed these can be harvested (carefully!) and dried out on a tray in a cloth bag and store in a jar and use as an alternative to pepper.
Back at the QVT site kitchen we chose our tasks and prepared a great lunch together: a pumpkin, horseradish (donated by award winning gardener Mary from her allotment), potato, green lentil and ginger soup served with rye bread and organic sunflower spread plus salads: courgette ribbons creamy herb pesto style dressing with cashew nuts, olive oil, avocado, tomatoes (from our garden) and washed herbs from the park garnish of sliced red (pink!) cabbage, yellow rocket flowers, and living lentil sprouts for extra crunch and protein. Plus stuffed little gem lettuce leaves with avocado and tomato dressing.
For our Dessert we handmade individual chocolate, date and walnut truffles with an apple and blackberry compote (premade with cinnamon) and topped with a Catford grape! We made a refreshing fresh mint tea and tried mallow (lavatera) flowers for soothing digestion. Norman has nicknamed me as a Plant Professor!
A natural no-added sugar dessert has been shown to improve our mood and mental balance.
Wheat-free recipes for optimising well-being and reducing bloating and fatigue.
Homemade Natural remedies with local Wild Elderberries.
To take home Benefits to our winter health introduction to elderberries.
Now We’re in September, autumn draws nearer has a chill in the early morning air and the nights are drawing in.
Back In May, We prepared a refreshing elderflower tonic in Tessa’s Tiny Tots, from the Tree outside in the back garden. An Elderberry cluster looks like bronchioles in our lungs; a system of branches. Following the ‘Doctrine of signatures’, Therefore these tiny, dark burgundy berries, support our respiratory tract against common disorders like colds and flu. Elderberry is a rich source of vitamin C. For treatment of coughs & colds, have them to hand, ready for the winter months ahead. Preparation: a cluster snaps off easily and cleanly from the tree (or bush) Prize off the tiny berries using a fork. Uses: as a garnish, on top of desserts. As a tea! A sugar free Syrup – replace white sugar and use an alternative sweetener.
Join us at Forster Memorial Park foraging on Saturday 14th September at the funday from 11-12noon by the cafe and playground Whitefoot lane entrance.
Apple and blackberry sauce (no added sugar). For adding into yogurt, cereal or as a low sugar spread.
My neighbour kindly shares her apples which I collected and went on a blackberry harvest from the back. Fortunately together they’re sweet enough and not too sharp to turn them into a compote (spread/jam) with added spices.
Prepare the apples and remove any bruised parts or caterpillar eggs infestation. These look like small brown dots amongst the core. Take care when consuming wild apples, In case a caterpillar has hatched inside!
Ensure that the Blackberries are clean and insect free by soaking well in water and leave immersed for 15 mins. Rinse and remove any floating larvae, or insects which crawl to the surface!
Place both fruit together into a saucepan with a cup of water to cover the bottom and cook gently until the apples soften, approx 10 mins. Stir in the spices; generous pinches of cinnamon, nutmeg, freshly grated or ground ginger and a mini pinch of cloves.
When cool, add white chia seeds (preferably ground) and melted coconut oil to enable the setting process (although the latter may solidify into white particles).
The result is a delicious seasonal fruit spread (no added sugar).
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