I find a quiet joy in making jams and jellies, fruit leathers and liqueurs. The delicious aromas and slow, “ploc, ploc, ploc” of bubbling fruit and sugar are soothing. Squeezing puree through old tights is surprisingly satisfying, and even cleaning the kitchen brings with it a sense of satisfaction – once it is finally clean.
It also appeals to my frugal side, getting to enjoy luxury without spending a fortune; being able to give gifts that would otherwise be too expensive; and turning a nature walk – and exercise – into food and drink.
Cooking with fruit I have gathered feels like magic: watching sugar and puree melt together and turn glossy and vibrant-coloured; seeing fruit puree become stiff enough to cut into shapes; and making fruit last for months instead of days.
I love science, and jam making is experimenting: how much apple will it take to set a blackberry jam? What is the perfect sugar/pectin combination? Has the elderberry got enough natural yeast to make port (in my experience, always.)? Cooking with kids is a great way to teach them science in a practical and life-enhancing way. And you get jam at a bargain price.
I am also becoming increasingly curious about the healing power of the hedgerows. Ever since I learned that blackberries are loaded with vitamins that are perfectly suited to seasonal maladies, as are elderberries and other purple fruit (which are mostly coming into season now), I’ve been investigating whether eating seasonally (and locally) may have even more health benefits than we already think (along with being environmentally aware). Nature has been around a lot longer than I have so I figure it may have a few things to teach me…
Apparently, apples can effect gut bacteria (currently a hot line of research for many conditions from IBS to anxiety). They are also good for cardiovascular health, lowering cholesterol, diabetes and some cancers. There really is truth in, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’.
I’m going to be investigating hedgerow folklore further, and looking into the science behind it. If you find any great research, please add links in the comments.
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