The Harvest Moon shone bright and beautiful in the sky at the beginning of the week and it seems there is no denying it any longer, autumn is here.
Autumn signifies many things to many people but for me, aside from its obvious beauty, it represents a time of community and friendship. I normally like to go out harvesting alone and wander in silence amongst the plants and the trees but in autumn there is something so special about gathering together with a friend and filling your baskets with the glorious bounty of the land. Now is the final celebration of the abundance and generosity of Mother Nature before we start to withdraw against the harsh onslaught of the winter months and what better way to celebrate than with each other.
I have been blessed to go out berry harvesting with two lovely friends and wonderful herbalists, Therri and Mindy this month and have spend a great afternoon up the step ladder with my lovely husband collecting Hawthorn berries and sloes.
When up in my favourite elder picking spot we noticed both flower and fruit on the same tree. This is something I have never seen before, have you? Excuse the poor quality photo, the light wasn’t great that day.
The result of these outings was lovely fresh tinctures, dried berries and lots of delicious syrups!
My first syrup making session was with elderberry, unbeatable for tastiness and immune supporting goodness for the colder months. I have already posted my method for elderberry syrup making here, so I won’t repeat myself but this year I added a vanilla bean to the ginger, cardamom, clove and orange peel and it turned out really well, so tasty I keep sneaking to the fridge for an extra spoonful.
Next up was the hawthorn berry syrup. The Hawthorns round here have been so fat and large this year and the trees literally dripping in them. I wonder if that means we are in for another hard winter.
I made a simple hawthorn and ginger syrup by simmering them together in a pan with enough water to cover, straining the liquid and adding about 2/3 the amount of raw honey once the liquid had cooled sufficiently. I use a fair amount of ginger because I love the resulting taste of the two combined but you can adjust according to preference.
You can tell when it is almost ready because the berries start to loose their colour. I simmered mine on a low heat for about half an hour.
It’s basically the same technique as the elderberry syrup but it’s good to store your hawthorn syrup in jars rather than bottles because the berries are high in pectin which means it can set like a jelly and you’ll need to be able to spoon it out. The more of the thicker, mushy liquid you strain into the end product the more likely it will set. There is lots of goodness in this bit too however, so I say go for it. Do be warned though as I can’t imagine many things more dissapointing than being unable to get at all my delicious syrup because it had set in the bottle.
Look how firm the resulting syrup/ jelly is here on our morning porridge.
Finally, the pièce de résistance was the five berry syrup I made which included elderberries, blackberries, hawthorn berries, rose hips and sloes. I used the same technique again but this time added no spices or other flavourings and just let the natural flavour of the berries shine through. It’s so yummy I am wishing I had made litres of it!
This syrup feels so vital and nourishing and is packed with antioxidants and other immune supportive constituents.
Another advantage is that it gives you a wonderful opportunity to polish up your Lady Macbeth impression.
“Out, damn’d spot! out, I say!—One; two: why, then
’tis time to do’t.—Hell is murky.—Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, and
afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our
pow’r to accompt?—Yet who would have thought the old man to
have had so much blood in him?”
Watch out amateur dramatics… here I come.
I hope your autumn has also been full of harvests and community or anything else that nourishes your soul.