“I’m a rubbish gardener”, is something I have said many times, but actually, I need to clarify: I am rubbish at growing annuals. I could be better. I just haven’t prioritized the time. I like foraging more, and if we are going to talk about minimum effort for maximum effect (One of David’s Holmgren’s Permaculture Principles – click here if you have no idea what I’m talking about) then foraging is by far the better permaculture route. No planting, no seed saving, no watering, no need to have a big garden, no slug hunting……just pure simple harvesting.
I don’t even know that much about foraging. I guess I know what a blackberry is, and I know how to pick and eat raw nettles without getting stung…..I know more than the average person, but I’m by no means an expert. What I have found over the last few years is that the more I forage, the more I become aware of things that I can forage for. Everyone has experienced meeting someone for the first time, and then bumping into them all the time. You were probably crossing paths before, but you weren’t aware of it. Once you start carrying bags with you just incase you find something to forage, and once you start looking around at what is growing along the path that you walk every day, you realise that there is natural wild food everywhere. You just need to look out for it.
My love of making jam came from having gluts of something or other. Originally it was blackberries, then it was apples. When you have a glut, you have to be creative. It makes sense to preserve it so that you can have it all year. I didn’t have a freezer back then, and I can’t imagine how devastating it would be, if the power cut out half way through the winter. It makes much more sense to preserve food in a way that doesn’t require energy. You need energy to get it preserved, obviously, but not to maintain it in that state.
Then someone gave me some demijohns, and then someone else gave me a recipe book for homemade wine, which is good because I really like wine…. It took me a while to actually commit to making some, which is a shame, because it is so easy. I’m not sure what I was worried about. It turns out that you can make wine out of most things. And even better for the person who doesn’t like waste, it’s good to make wine with food that is past it’s best, and verging on running to the compost bin by itself. Black bananas? Yeah! Mouldy carrots? Just peel ’em. A few days ago I started a batch of well-past-their-best broad bean wine. Apparently, it is a very traditional country wine. Of course, I should point out, they were not my own home grown broad beans, but beans being thrown out by a local shop, because people tend not to buy the limp black ones. Lucky me!! I didn’t have enough for the batch, so I threw in some old apples too. Why not?!
Home made wine tastes fantastic, and is worth every ounce of love you put into making it. In permaculture systems thinking, I am taking an output waste (old broad beans that would have gone in the bin) and turning them into an input for my wine. I scavenge through my neighbours recycling bins to collect wine bottles, which is another output that I have turned into an input for my wine. I only buy British sugar, which means that I am financially supporting British farmers to produce and supply their own country, thereby increasing our countries ability to move towards self-reliance. I even heated my broad beans on my wood stove, because it is absolutely miserable outside, and winter is rolling in fast. So my wood stove had the multiple functions of heating my house and cooking my beans.
It’ll be 6 months until my Broad Bean Wine is ready to drink. I’ll let it ferment for about 6 weeks, and then I’ll transfer it into another bottle to get rid of most of the dead yeast. Then when it has cleared and looks like wine, I’ll syphon it into my neighbours old wine bottles, which I will sterilise first. In the mean time, I have a batch of Stinging Nettle Wine which is almost ready. Happy winter evenings by the fire with home-made wine, here we come!