11th August 2018 workshop
Our walk began on the Greenway at Stratford High Street. Although this is a route that I’ve used for jam walks in the past it was surprising how different it was this year. An apple tree just a little way along the Greenway that was laden with fruit last year was totally bare – perhaps caught by the late frost this spring – or maybe affected by the very hot weather. We got very excited when we spotted a single apple hanging within reach of the picking stick, but sadly it was riddled with holes and covered in ants!
A bank of huge blackberries on the ramp leading down to Abbey Lane Open Space soon cheered us up – blackberries seem to be ripe early this summer – again down to the hot weather. As we walked along we were also surprised by how ripe the elderberries were, and we picked a lot from the sides of the path. The berries were huge, and where they were in full sun were already black and very ripe. Others in the shade had some green berries on them still, but it also feels early for them to be so far along.
We gathered rosehips that were just ripe from a wild/climbing rose, and fatter hips from a cultivated rose that was planted along the path. These seemed smaller than last year’s – and many of the flowers looked as though they had shrivelled and dried without forming proper fruit. As we trained our eyes on the hedgerow we spotted more and more blackberries, some beautiful sloes, and the first few red haws as well. In amongst the bushes we were lucky to find a few apples that hadn’t met the same fate as the first tree, and gathered a small bag. we also found some beautiful black rosehips – they didn’t have much flesh on them, but were shiny and firm.
Leaving the Greenway and going down into Memorial Park I was hoping that we would get some plums. There are two large trees on the edge of the carpark near the rugby club. They are cherry plums/mirabelles, and it’s been a terrible year for them elsewhere – but we were lucky and they both had fruit – small yellow plums and larger reddish purple ones too. They were quite high on the tree and we had to use the sticks to pick them and knock them down (much to the annoyance of a couple of people whose cars were parked below – I’m not sure what damage they thought a ripe plum could do…..).
By the time we reached the kitchen we were laden with around 5 kilos of fruit and berries, ready to make jam!
We decided on the following:
A plum jam, a blackberry jam, a black rosehip jelly, an ‘east end’ jelly of haws, sloes, apple, rosehip and elderberry, and an ‘east end’ chutney of blackberries, plums, elderberry, apple and the wonderful addition of an organic yellow squash from the Gainsborough Road food growing project. We spiced the chutney with ginger, coriander seed, chilli and peppercorns.
Preparing jam in the kitchen at Gainsborough Road, photo Blake Morris
By the end of the day we had created more than 40 jars of preserves! Please come and join us for this year’s Jamboree in the Olympic Park (Sunday 23rd September) to taste them.