Foraging, missing Leipzig and the LIS school garden effect on me.

I just recently retired from LIS at the end of June 2020. I was teaching math in secondary and I liked helping out in the school garden whenever volunteers were needed. It gave me the chance to reconnect to nature, do something with my hands and give back to the LIS community. I was always dreaming of having my own farming land and growing lots of food for me and my family. Working in the LIS school garden gave me the chance to experience how much work that actually is and how much knowledge it requires. Planting potatoes was the last duty which was given to me by Gitte, our school garden coordinator. And it made me really happy to hear that students from 2.
Grade were able to harvest
quite a lot and enjoyed them in their snack break.
Yes, the school garden and all the inspiration which come with it had a profound effect on me and so this October back in Ireland, I had the time to think of foraging for the first time in years. Let me tell you what I was able to produce and hopefully it will inspire you.

Elderberries – My first target: These are known for their anti-viral properties so I wanted to make some elderberry syrup that I could give to all my family and hopefully give them some protection against the corona virus.
Years ago I noticed an elderberry tree in the grounds of my local church so this was where I started picking. I got some but not enough as one needs a lot to make a few jars of syrup. Beside the church, there is a graveyard so I had a little look in there and there were 2 big elderberry trees absolutely laden down with fruit. I wasn’t sure though if it was disrespectful to go foraging in a graveyard. As I was walking home, I got chatting to two ladies and I asked their opinion. Their judgement: the people in there would be glad of the company. So, I got my bags and little stool and collected enough to make about 10 jars of syrup.

Blackberry jam/jelly – My next project: It was not a great season for blackberries this year as the summer was only a figment of the general imagination but they are so abundant here in Ireland along every hedgerow that I was easily able to gather enough for a few pots of jam.

Rosehips – the vitamin C booster: I have never made it before but the rosehips are collected and frozen in my freezer as we speak just waiting to be turned into a lovely rosehip syrup. I have three different types of rosehip – hopefully the information I found on the internet is correct that all types in Ireland are edible!

Last but not least- Sloe: A few weeks ago I had coffee with two old school friends and one mentioned having
recently tasted sloe gin for the first time and that she really liked it. I immediately thought – that’s your Christmas present sorted! Well it turned out to be easier said than done. I scoured the countryside looking for sloes to no avail and just as I was on my way home I noticed sloes on the bush right beside me. They were hard to spot as they are geyish/black in colour and the bush was small and pushed aside by the hawthorns and blackberries also fighting for space. I managed to gather a handful as it was late and starting to get dark. I reckoned though; it was worth going back there as there may be more in the same area. And there were. I did have to ask some kind people if I could forage in their garden but they were fine about it so I now have a freezer packed with sloes waiting to find a home in some gin that I haven’t bought yet. I made sloe gin about 15 years ago and sat for an evening sticking needles in all the sloes. This allows the juices to escape into the gin apparently. Only recently I heard this trick – if you freeze them this also cracks the skin allowing the juices to come out. Much less work!

Anne Snel, former teacher at LIS

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