There’s a suspicious tinge of orange on the leaves. The nights are drawing in. It would seem that Autumn is upon us.
It’s hard to put a finger on the start of Autumn, it’s one of those seasons that sneaks up on you. One minute you’re thinking about taking a jumper out in case it gets chilly in the evening, the next you’re trying to figure out where your thermals’ got to.
The appearance of ripe elderberries and sloes, or the first tinting of oak trees is traditionally used to mark the start of Autumn. I found these sloes ripe and ready for my sloe spelt cake recipe two weeks ago and as for the elderberries, well I was too late, they had already past their best.
London’s microclimate can do some funny things but it has been found that, on average, native trees are producing ripe fruit 18 days earlier than a decade ago. Whilst this might be great news for the forager, for animals it may mean that their food reserves could become depleted earlier in the winter. One thing’s for sure, you won’t notice anything until you actually get out there and look.
For my Dad, it’s not so much the start of Autumn but the end of Summer. He knows Summer’s on its way out when Rosebay Willowherb goes to seed.
For me Blackberrying marks the transition from Summer to Autumn and this year I was determined not to miss out on a bumper crop. I escaped the hustle and bustle of London and went out to the peaceful countryside of the Chilterns on a little foraging expedition and I was not disappointed.
Sometimes nature is just telling what to eat. Blackberry and apple pie anyone?
Those couple of degrees change in temperature really can make all the difference, as out in the countryside I found elderberries to be perfectly ripe. With an outbreak of colds at the moment brought on by the change of season, I knew exactly what I had in mind for those elusive elderberries that had evaded me only weeks before. Elderberry syrup.
It’s said that a small amount of elderberry syrup taken daily can immunise you against the flu. It’s quick and easy to make and you can freeze it in ice cube trays so they’re ready and waiting for whenever the flu strikes.
Elderberry Flu Remedy
Slice of lemon
Thumb size piece of ginger
- Pick the elderberries on a dry, sunny day as that’s when they’ll be at their sweetest.
- Remove the stalks and wash them.
- Put them in a saucepan and just cover them with water. Bring them to the boil and simmer for around half an hour or until soft.
- Strain them through a sieve, to remove the seeds and the skins.
- Place back on the heat and simmer gently to reduce the liquid down.
- Leave to cool and place in ice cube trays, freeze until flu season is upon us.
- Place one elderberry ice cube in a cup with a slice of lemon. Grate the ginger and squeeze out the juice between your fingers into the cup.
- Pour in freshly boiled water and stir.
- Drink this delicious warming drink when flu is going round to keep it at bay.