Foraging down by the River Derwent

Went for a drive yesterday along the Derwent River and up to the township of Bushy Park.  Our plan was to go to the market that is open from 10 till 2 daily and from where you can purchase plants, seasonal vegetables and all sorts of bric-a- brac, learn the history of hop growing in the area; a fascinating place.

I’d actually wanted to buy some mature hops for ages and have been anxiously awaiting harvesting time.  Turned out it was still a bit early, and I would need to wait a week or two more. However, one of the kind ladies who was serving at the market told me that the local shop had a plant in full bloom outside, and sure enough, there was!  I was able to pick as many as I needed, the equally kind ladies at the shop didn’t mind at all.  I am so desperate to get some as I want to try to emulate the yeast of colonial times that often included hops, and to this end have hunted down a recipe to do so.

On the way home we stopped by the river in the cool shade of huge gum trees.  Here within the space of little more than a metre and free for the picking were hawthorn berries, rose hips and blackberries.  It was an idyllic spot and soon we had picked a goodly number with which I could experiment, to make hawthorn berry (haw) jelly – maybe even some sauce…. In my head I could see a cordial recipe coming together – it should taste delicious made from these untamed and untainted fruits of the river bank.

There is nothing I like better than to experiment with the results of what is fashionably called these days, “foraging” (we’ve been doing this for decades, with our children when they were young, and now we’re old(er) it’s hard to break the habit).  There is no better price than free, and there is so much here in Tasmania that can be picked and plucked from the roadsides, fields and forests.

Here are photos of that picturesque spot – they were taken within half a metre of each other, which shows just how prolific and productive the countryside is here if you have the time and inclination to look a little closer.  What a place for a picnic this would be under the shade of the trees and with the cooling river peacefully babbling  past.

Today the spoils of our foraging were used in the Colonial cooking class, making the most of the hedgerow fruits, just as they would have been in colonial times.  We made jelly and cordial, a sauce to go with a colonial lamb roast, a fruit shortcake with the blackberries mixed with rhubarb from our garden, jam and relish and more besides.

In actuality very little has changed since the 1800s with recipes and methods for preserving the fruits of the season.  Just as they did back then, we undertake an orgy of preserving each summer and autumn, ensuring a good store in the pantry to remind us of the wonderful summer past or prompting us to anticipate the flavours of one to come.

4 thoughts on “Foraging down by the River Derwent

  1. Simone says:

    Hi Sally, are you able to share any recipes for rosehips please? I went for a walk and I found lots of them but have never cooked with them before. Am a bit worried about the hairy insides though!

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    • Sally Wise says:

      Hi Simone – yes, the hairy bits are a touch scary. Use the rose hips to make jelly (usual method) or cordial syrup – I find that’s best when combined with other berries like raspberry and blackberry. Some people find the plain rose hip syrup a bit bland. Just look up my blackcurrant cordial recipe and follow that. Regards, Sally

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