The Wild Food and Drink Podcast May 2017

This is the first Wild Food and Drink Podcast, a new venture that will start appearing here every month. I’ve been wanting to start some kind of audio project for a few years now and have been out with my sound recorder recording wildlife, observing changes and generally messing around.  It was when I  when I found myself out with my fellow Bristol based forager and very good friend Martin Bailey of that this podcast arose.

For each Wild Food and Drink podcast we intend to go out on foraging walk together, this happens at least once every month anyway and so recording it is a natural step. Foraging is obviously a subject that you never stop learning especially considering that it covers so many different subjects, including botany, mixology, cooking and food which means that going out with someone is an invaluable way of enhancing and furthering your foraging knowledge. This is what we hope to get across with each podcast. This month we chat about uses for sumac, hawthorn and jack by the hedge and include brief descriptions of each plant. Below are a few more ideas to help whet your appetite.

This being our first wild food and drink podcast any feedback good, bad (but please be a bit tactful and kind) or indifferent will be very gratefully received.

staghorn sumac
Sumac berry cluster

A flavour Wild Food and Drink Podcast May 2017

Sumac  Rhus typhina

Although out of season we discuss how to utilise including a Sumac Tom Collins recipe.

3oz Gin

2 oz sumac syrup

Soda water.

To make the sumac syrup pick two ripe clusters of sumac berries and simmer gently in just over 1 cup or 300ml of water with 1 cup/250g white granulated sugar. Stirring continuously until the sugar has dissolved.

Hawthorn – Crataegus monogyna

haw blossom
Haw blossom

Without being too much exaggeration I can safely say that the Hawthorn has been crucial in helping to shape the world to its present state. This shrub-like tree not only fuelled the Iron age but it helped define the landscape of the UK and beyond.

Hawthorn grows slowly so unlike faster-growing trees, such as pine or ash it is dense. Indeed it is this density that helps it burn so hot, hotter than other common dense woods such as oak, apple and beech. All were used in to help smelt and forge iron ore into weapons. Some bright spark also found out that when you add a little carbon into iron whilst smelting it you can alter its structure and make it stronger than bronze. Thus the bronze age gave way to the iron age all thanks to trees.

From its early smelting days, hawthorn continued to be a plant that influenced the balance of power. In the years between 1604-1914 Britain was shaped by the Enclosures acts. These acts meant that landlords could enclose land that was once in common use and either kick out or start charging rent to those who were farming “their” land. Hawthorn and other plants such as blackthorn were the favoured choice for the hedging. If you have ever tried to climb through a hawthorn hedge you’ll understand why. The thick matt of thorns render areas impenetrable.

Hawthorn grows to 5-15m and can be about 6m wide. The bark is smooth and grey on young trees and on older trees longitudinal (top to bottom) grooves start to appear.  Thorns grow from the branches at right angles and can be from 1-3cm long. The leaves, which appear in very early spring, budding sometimes in late winter are indented into 3-7 lobes reaching halfway or more to the central vein. The leaves can be of variable shape but often they are toothed towards the tip.

Hawthorn is one of the first trees to blossom in early spring and as the snow melts, days lengthen and plants start to grow and is one of the best signals to the forager that there is more food around.

It is a little more fiddly picking the blossom than the haws so do be aware, or you might get pricked! It is also advisable to collect in a paper bag as this makes it easier to dry the blossom. Once picked the bag can be hung in a warm dark place, such as a stationary cupboard, for a couple of months. They can then be used to make delicious teas.

The bitter may queen

The bitter may queen acts very much like the start of spring at first it is intensely bitter. Almost too bitter for words, then this wears off leaving a flood of chocolate Turkish delight coating across the whole of the mouth. Those with an addictive nature so steer clear!

1 part Haw blossom brandy
1 part Campari
1 part Creme de cacao
Orange or chocolate bitters

Build in a glass over ice add the bitters to taste depending on which flavour you wish to enhance – orange for Campari and Chocolate bitters for the Creme de cacao.

Blackthorn Prunus spinosa– leaves

At this time of year (spring) we use blackthorn mainly for the leaves and the drink Epine. You may also know blackthorn as sloe or wild plum.


Epine derives from the French meaning “thorn”, but it is the leaves of the blackthorn (or sloe), that are needed to make this luxurious drink. Brandy can be swapped for rum or even whisky for those who are up for a touch of experimentation. Rich and fruity full bodied wines work well, elderberry, blackberry or a Shiraz or a Malbec.

Makes:                  1 litre

Takes:                   30 mins plus infusing time

Keeps:                  1 year

Ingredients:       1 cup/a 250ml container loosely filled with blackthorn leaves

1 x 75cl bottle of Red wine

150ml brandy

150g brown sugar


  1. Add the blackthorn leaves to a sterilised 1-litre jar.
  2. Pour the wine into a jug a vigorously stir in the sugar until fully dissolved.
  3. Pour the sugared wine and brandy into the jar.
  4. Seal and leave for two weeks in a cupboard or a cool dark place.
  5. Filter into a one-litre bottle and seal, ensuring that the bottles stay as airtight as possible.
jack by the hedge
jack by the hedge aka garlic mustard

Brewer’s hint – If you are not sure about how well sealed your bottles are then you can use electrical tape as many mixologists do when bottle ageing cocktails.

Jack by the hedge

In the wild food and drink podcast we discuss some of our favourite culinary uses.

Thank your for downloading the wild food and drink podcast, we hope to be coming in your ears again very soon.