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Love Your Parish

MONTHLY BLOG offering thoughts and observations from around the Parish by our Parish Councillors, current and retired

Published: September 6, 2023

Mellow Fruit on Cocky Down

There was a day at the end of September last year when I knew that summer had finally gone and autumn was on its way. The pasture of wildflowers had been ploughed up and the cereal crops successfully harvested.

To the north, across the plain there were great banks of mist which gave the impression of standing near the coast looking out across the sea.

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness had arrived and it seems like a good time to enjoy some of that mellow fruit.

The Blackberries had been plentiful.  From late August we had been picking enough to add to Bramley apples, for  pies topped with crusty pastry that just melted in the mouth.

There are a number of large Buckthorn bushes around the paths on the Downs. It is disappointing that the fruity black berries have no use except perhaps as  a purge and a good feed for the birds. The fruit of the Blackthorn, however, is a different story. There was an abundance of Sloes in the hedgerows and the opportunity to make  Sloe Gin was just too tempting.  The Sloes should be picked after the first frost while the sun is on them, so my recipe says. Prick the Sloes and add to the Gin with some sugar. Watch the liquor change to a deep ruby colour. Finally, the most difficult thing to do, put it away and don’t go near it for twelve months.

Whilst waiting for the Sloe Gin it was worth making a few bottles of Elderberry wine in time for Christmas. My favourite recipe is for Elderberry Port; with the addition of raisins to the must. The recipe produces  a rich wine equal to a port.

The Hawthorn is the most common hedgerow shrub on Cocky. Its bright red clusters of berries are always a tasty treat for the wildlife. However it has secrets. It is an important herbal medicine.  The flowers are used as a tonic for the heart. The berries can be used for diarrhoea and digestion. Don’t try this at home.

It’s the Wild Rose which wins all the prizes for me. After the delicate little pink and white flowers  are over the rosehips arrive to brighten the Downs. We have always bottled Rosehip Syrup and administered it to guard against all those seasonal chills and tummy upsets. When our children were young, just getting the bottle out of the cupboard, had a miraculous effect in our family.

Cocky Down did us well last year, providing food and drink and a little something medicinal just in case.

Derek Hayes, Parish Councillor (retired)

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