We are fortunate in having well-developed hedgerows here at Blackdown Yurts, which this year are bursting with berries and hazelnuts. I recently met a woman who worked on the farm fifty years ago and she said that one of the buildings in the farm complex used to have a nut store - presumably to store the abundant hazelnuts and perhaps there were other nut trees in the orchards back then too. I have just pledged to plant a tree on 30th November for the Woodland Trust's Big Climate Fightback and I'm going to plant a walnut (more about that next time).
For now I want to share with you two toppings for your toast (or crumpets - it's definitely crumpet season now isn't it?!): a hedgerow jelly and a chocolate nut spread (basically home-made Nutella). The former is smooth and seed-free, the latter a bit more grainy than the shop-bought variety. While it is good on toast, I think it would also work nicely as a base instead of frangipane for a pear tart for example. So here goes read on for the recipes...
The hedgerows are bursting with blackberries at the moment so I'm searching for inventive ways to use them. I like my children to have healthy snacks for tuck or lunch at school so I decided to experiment with a sort of fruit/granola bar. These are vegan and sugar-free, the fat coming from coconut oil and the sweetness from ripe bananas, the riper the better so they are a great way to use up bananas that have been hanging around a little too long.
The 24th of June, Midsummer’s Day, is the perfect time to celebrate the elder tree. According to folklore you may encounter the fairy King and Queen and their retinue if you loiter by an elder on Midsummer’s Eve. The smell of its leaves is reputed to be mildly narcotic so I wonder if it was the inspiration for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which the young lovers and a travelling theatre troupe have a fairly trippy night in a forest along with Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of the fairies.
If you don't have access to your own elderflowers to make cordial you can always use shop-bought cordial in the mocktail and cake recipes below. You will need the real blossoms for the elderflower fritters however so keep an eye out on footpaths and in hedgerows near you for the lacey, flat capped heads of tiny starry flowers.
One of my favourite things about going on holiday is buying local produce, especially food. There are a myriad different things to try at farmer's markets, farmshops and food festivals throughout the region, but for now I want to focus on some fantastic local produce available right now within walking distance of Blackdown Yurts.
Mia and I took the dog on a little walk to Henland, which is on the way to Orway, to buy some asparagus and duck eggs from farmers Marcus and Liz. Henland is really only two farms, Upper and Lower (where Liz and Marcus farm), and it is an out of the way little place, tucked under the main escarpment of Blackborough, with beautiful views out across the gently undulating green countryside.
Henland is a bit of an enigma - local lore has it that a thousand years ago Alfred the Great gave the tithes of Henland over to the monks of Cullompton in payment for their prayers for the souls of men lost in battle against the Danes. Henland continued to be the responsibility of the Vicars of Cullompton after the reformation so any Henland occupants wishing to marry had to travel an additional three miles to Cullompton, rather than their nearest church at Kentisbeare, to have their banns read. Not much of a big deal now in the age of motor transport as we can whizz to Cullompton in under 15 minutes, but back when people walked or rode horses everywhere it would have been! (source: Under the Blackdowns by L C E Chalk).