Foraging with Gayhurst School
On Tuesday 4th July I led a group of 25 children from Gayhurst School on a foraging expedition in Haggerston Park. London Class are in reception (age 4 and 5) and were very excited to find out about the edible possibilities on their doorstep!
We were joined by an expert team including the school’s fantastic chefs Nicole Pisani and Oli Pagani, project assistant Leighanne Rodriguez, Ka Yui Kum – an expert in herbal medicine from UCL, school gardener Lidka, and chef Poppy Jenkins, as well as the reception class teaching team.
When we arrived in the park we split into 3 groups and set to work on 3 tasks: collecting plums, gathering mahonia berries, and hunting for wild salad.
The plum crew used picking sticks to harvest the park’s small cherry plums, working with Nicole and Oli and taking turns having a go with the sticks.
The Mahonia team went with Leighanne to look at the places where these shrubs (often considered decorative only) grow. Although these berries are a bit sharp to eat raw (and have a big pip in them too) they can be cooked to make a delicious jelly.
The wild salad group came with me on a hunt around the pond where we spotted dandelion, fennel, hawthorn, chickweed, clover, wild mallow, yarrow, dead nettle, stinging nettle and plantain! (pictures coming soon).
After washing our leaves and flowers everyone had a taste, and the groups rotated until all of the children had had a try at each activity. By the time we were ready to return to school we had 3 large bags full of plums, and 3 large bags of mahonia berries too!
Back at school we prepared the fruit and berries – washing and stoning the plums and washing and picking over the berries before weighing them ready to cook.
Our prepared fruit weighed in at 2.5 kilos of plums, and 1 kilo of mahonia!
We set the berries to boil, covered with 2 litres of water, and then mushed them with a potato masher when they were soft. We strained the juice through a sieve and a muslin, and measured the resulting liquid: 1 litre. We added a kilo of sugar to this, along with a splash of pectin made from apples, and boiled it up again until it was starting to set and was ready to go into jars.
Our prepared plums went into another pan, matched by weight with sugar (2.5 kilos!) and a splash of water. We let the sugar dissolve slowly, then turned up the heat to boil the jam. This one took a bit longer to set – plums usually have a good pectin level of their own, and we thought that because we’d put a few under ripe ones in we’d get it to jam no problem! and eventually we did.
Here is Ka Yui checking the jars and making sure that there’s one for every child to take home.London class enjoyed their own school-made jam for breakfast the next day. The extra jam will be taken to the Harvest Stomp festival in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park this September for the ‘Jamboree’ a public feast of urban jam – please save the date (24th September 2017) to come and try some of their jam.
Following the walk we got some great feedback from kids and their parents:
“This flower is clover, we can eat it” Iris told her mum.
Blake showed his family where the plum trees grow in Haggerston Park – and how they had taken turns using the picking stick to gather them.
Luca asked if they can make more jam at home.
Teachers said “fantastic! we all learned so much”.
fantastic! we all absolutely loved it and learned so much