Zephyrine talks about foraging through and around Fairfield Community Orchard.

IEL Foragers Incredible Edible’s forage walks  take place fortnightly from early  May until the end of September.  We meet at noon, at the town end  of Fairfield Community Orchard,  just off Sunnyside lane, at the  bench where the FAUNA Nature  Reserve path meets the Orchard  path.

The walks run from 12:00 – 14:00 on fully disabled-accessible paths. The walk goes through Fairfield orchard and aims to learn about the wild plants and the fruit crops planted there – apples, pears, cherries, blackcurrants, gooseberries and nuts (walnuts, sweet chestnuts). We then wander our way back up ‘the Pads’, the ancient pathway on the outer edge of the orchard, for a shared picnic in the clearing at the town end of the community orchard.

Incredible Edible’s forage walks are always held in the Orchard, enabling foragers to become familiar with a small productive patch through the seasons.

In May we learn to identify young leaves that are good for salads – such as wild garlic, cleavers, garlic mustard (“Jack-by-the-hedge”), and nettles which are good for soup. We picnic together off frittata (omelette) cooked on a little bucket-fire in the clearing.forage walk

Gradually, as the season moves on to late spring and early summer, the leaves grow tough – not so pleasant to eat – and flowers begin to appear. As the first creamy elderflower appears, we end up cooking elderflower fritters, with a dash of sugar and lemon juice, washed down with elderflower champagne or cordial.

As the elderflowers fade, and the rowan-berries begin to plump up we turn to making flower teas, collecting the last of the elderflowers, rose-petals, lime-flowers and meadowsweet (“Queen of the meadow”) during July and August. The “top-fruit” – gooseberries and currants – are good to pick now, too.
Damsons In September, we turn our  attention to the  ripening apples  and pears: there are over  twenty  apple varieties in the Orchard,  some  ripening earlier than others.  Now is the  season for stewed  blackberries and apples for  our  picnics. We look out for ripe  elderberries  and rowanberries, and  sloes (which need a  frost to be good for sloe gin). And late  September brings walnuts & hazelnuts if the  squirrels don’t get them first!

Come and join us! The walks are free of  charge and you will get to learn about the seasonal abundance on your doorstep here in Lancaster! Everyone is welcome.

For details of the walks (alternately on Tuesdays and Thursdays), see the Incredible Edible Lancaster Facebook page.


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