A Sticky End

(And the Chilli Children Trust and some Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness)

Blackberries at Sustainable Living ProjectIf you’ve read this blog from the beginning you’ll know that I have a somewhat strained relationship with the brambles in the garden.  It will come as no surprise to you that I’ve been plotting their sticky end all along.  Originally it was going to be in the form of jam, but I ended up doing something slightly different.  And for that reason this post is as much about linking to another site as it is to do with Autumn berries.  

I collected about 6kilos of the free goodies and made about two and half litres of blackberry sauce (or coulis if you’re feeling posh.)  This meant that a hundred people could have a spoonful of the sticky stuff on their ice cream on Saturday night.  (I also made coleslaw for a hundred people but that is another story!)  So what could possibly induce me to do battle with thorns, nettles and wasps to collect this many blackberries?

The answer is my friend Sue. She is one of life’s good eggs.  Sue was brought up in Kenya and Uganda.  It was always her wish to take her own children there one day.  Last Summer she, her husband and children visited Uganda for one of those holidays where you basically do aid work.  Sue was really inspired by the work of the Chilli Children Trust.  This trust pays for surgery, medical care and education but also enables subsistence farmers (and these are often children) to earn extra income from growing chillis.  Chillis do not form part of the traditional Ugandan diet but they do grow very well as an intercrop with bananas.  For this reason they make a good cash crop which doesn’t require extra land.  Sue returned to the UK determined to get involved and is now a trustee and eager fund raiser.  The trust has no paid staff or offices, everything is done by volunteers sitting around someone’s kitchen table.  When she asked me to help  make a chilli meal for a few people (or so!) I felt I couldn’t refuse.  To find out more about the trust’s work visit Chilli Children.

It wasn’t that tortuous collecting the blackberries really.  I was accompanied by numerous speckled wood butterflies and dragonflies and lovely Autumn sunshine.  The canal, as you can see below, looks beautiful as the morning sun burns the mist of the water.  The hedgerow is showing off all its splendid berried finery no end.

Early morning mist

 This is the canal in the morning, you should see all the spiderwebs gleaming too.  Berries of all sorts are everywhere and looking very tempting.  I feel slightly ashamed that I don’t make better use of them.  I’ll have to put  ’do better with berries’ on the things to do list.

rosehip

The roses had a really fantastic year and now their hips have returned for an encore.  The sloes below will be collected by our friend Alan for his gin so I don’t feel so bad that they’re going to waste!

sloes

I’ve never seen berries looking so badly like they want to be eaten as the woody nightshade below, sadly they are just as poisonous as their more notorious deadly cousins.

woody nightshade

Some elderflowers never made it to the berry stage (see Sweet Talk) but I’m glad I left plenty on the bushes, they are a real Autumn treat and of course can be used for wines also.

elderberries

The guelder rose (viburnum) is very popular with the finches.  I can never get photos of those because Willow’s presence tends to scare them off but I’d feel like a traitor going on a walk without her.  Here are the berries at least.

viburnum opulus

There are of course haws everywhere, crab apples and hazel nuts are also ripening.  The rowans look splendid, but these days I can never look at them without thinking of supermarket carparks.  It seems that rather than improving the carparking experience, the carparking experience has degraded my perception of the plant.  Big shame!

rowan

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