With the fantastic hot weather we have been having this year in the UK all the signs suggest that it’s going to be a bumper year for many of the wild fruits. Freezing foraged fruits is the easiest, most convenient and least time-consuming way to store them. Properly frozen fruits will retain much of their fresh flavour and nutritional value.
Like many people, the kids and I love to forage. Foraging is simply searching for, and collecting wild food. There are many good reasons to forage. Wild foods are far more nutrient-dense than commercially produced crops, and the meals in our hedgerows are what our ancestors evolved to eat, making them essential for our health. Foraging also allows us to learn, and pass on our knowledge, as well as giving us a closer connection with the natural world around us.
A quick summary of the legality of foraging in the UK…
- It is illegal to uproot ANY wild plant without permission
- Iit is unlawful to disturb or collect plant material from any PROTECTED wild plant
- It is illegal to trespass, so you must gain approval before foraging on private land
Common sense also says that if you entirely strip an area of wild food, you will damage that habitat, so only collect where food is bountiful, and just take reasonable amounts.
Only collect and eat a wild food that you are 100% sure you have identified correctly. Be aware of what goes on in the area that you are harvesting from. Plants near busy roads may be absorbing emissions from vehicles. If nearby fields are sprayed with pesticides, chances are some will make their way onto wild plants too. And if watercourses are polluted, your native plants will be drinking that water.
We are very fortunate, as the farmer who owns the fields near our house is always happy for us to forage on his land. I’d recommend still popping round with a jar or bottle of whatever you make, – its a great way to build up a good relationship!
So why should you try freezing foraged fruit? In the Autumn we collect Crab-Apples, Blackberries, Damsons, Sloes, Hawthorn Berries, Elderberries, and Rose-hips. I have learned over the years that if I wait until I have a clear couple of days to collect the fruit and process it all, I end up missing the crop altogether. So now I merely pick the fruit when the mood takes me, and then stick it in the freezer whole until I am ready to use it.
Freezing foraged fruits is one of the easiest, most convenient and least time-consuming ways to store them. Properly frozen fruits will retain much of their fresh flavour and nutritive value. Their texture, however, may be somewhat softer than that of fresh fruit, this is because of the process of freezing damages the structure of the cell wall.
This may seem like a negative factor until you consider what you are likely to be using your foraged fruit for. If you look at recipes for winemaking, sloe gin or rose-hip liqueur, many of them will tell you to pick your fruit after the first frost. They will tell you that you will get a sweeter, more flavoursome result. In other words, the colour and flavours will infuse into the preserve more readily due to the damage to the cell wall. This means you are getting more out of your fruit.
Freezing foraged fruits stores them ready to be used for baking, making juices, jellies, jams, fruit spirits and wines. With Sloes, it means you don’t have to faff about sticking pins into them, and with rose hips, you won’t need to mince them up before making jelly or cordial. Freezing the fruit affords you the luxury of being able to make your preserves when you are ready to make them. If blackberries are available, but you’re not… freeze them!
Another advantage of freezing foraged fruits is that you often won’t have enough fruit to create an entire batch of whatever you are planning to make. Not all fruits come into season evenly. Freezing the fruit allows you to hoard until you do have enough to make a full batch.