Autumn and Winter Foraging: Brave the Chill for Festive Cocktails
The cold crisp change in the weather may deter you from heading outdoors, but new seasons bring a new selection of wildly grown wonders for foraging. All it takes is a coat and scarf to combat those chills and a little spirit of adventure to get you going! Your cocktails can benefit from the fruits of foraging through syrups, garnishes, shrubs and teas that can create beautiful and subtle flavours. However, with great foraging comes great responsibility and to keep safe and sustainable, remember these tips:
- Always ensure you can positively identify what you are picking by undertaking plenty of research
- Seek permission from the landowner before foraging
- Only forage from areas plentiful in supply to allow regrowth and enough for the wildlife
- Be sure not to damage habitats
- Never pick a protected species or cause permanent damage
With festive serves in mind, here are a few delights to keep your eyes peeled for:
Although commonly associated with childhood itching powder, the rosehip is a fruit of the rose plant and is known for its high vitamin C content, boasting a wide range of uses. Subtly sweet and floral, rosehips make a great syrup, shrub or jam, all perfect for cocktails. It’s commonly believed that they shouldn’t be picked before the first frost, as the harsh conditions soften the flesh. However as the colder seasons have become milder the berries could rot before this even happens, so grab a few before they’re gone! We quite enjoy the Rosehip Gimlet which is made using a simple rosehip syrup.
What to look for:
- Wild rose plants with thorny stems and oval-shaped leaves around 7cm long. The hips themselves are also oval from the Dog Rose plant, and a more rounded ‘blob’ shape from the Hedgehog rose.
- Berries are ready to pick when they turn completely orange or red. No green to be seen!
- Remember to remove the seeds carefully, as their hairs can act as an irritant when swallowed.
Gin and sloes are a pairing that goes back as far as the 17th century due to the blackthorn bush being a popular hedgerow plant when the land was required to be divided under a new parliamentary act. The gin of those days wasn’t of great taste or quality so the addition of steeped sloes made a much more palatable tipple, and out in the countryside, these were now available in abundance. The sloe is best consumed when preserved, as the raw berry is tart and astringent, but surprisingly will offer plum, raisin and almond flavours when used in a jam, jelly or gin. If you fancy crafting your own sloe gin for this Christmas, then you best get harvesting soon as the longer you steep your sloes, the better the result!
What to look for:
- Sloes grow on the blackthorn bush, which is spiny with twigs that are a dark purple-black colour with narrow leaves. Be careful of long thorns.
- The fruits themselves are a blue-black colour which are plump and round and about 1cm in diameter.
- Most commonly found in copses and woodland but also quite often used as a hedgerow plant.
Although its fresh aroma is often associated with the festive season, pine needles have many health benefits as it boasts high levels of vitamin A and C as well as a good handful of antioxidants, providing a boost to the immune system, cold and flu relief and supports the regeneration of skin and hair cells. A simple tea is all that’s needed to reap its goodness, but we quite enjoy making a syrup for our Pine and Cranberry Buck, perfect for enjoying around the fireplace this Christmas.
What to look for:
- Pine needles are long and soft and grow in clusters of 2, 3 or 5 depending on the type.
- Dropped pine cones are a good giveaway that you’re close to a pine tree.
- Although it’s tempting to take a few needles from this years Christmas tree, which is usually spruce or fir tree’s and also edible, it’s best to avoid as some are chemically sprayed to prevent dropping.
- Be cautious of the few toxic conifers, such as the yew tree.
Photo by Jasmin Schreiber on Unsplash
May your efforts be fruitful and be sure to share your foraged wonders with us on Instagram using #mermaidsightings, as there’s much more in natures bounty to be found and we’d love to see where your search takes you!