I love this time of year, the lovely surprise of still-hot summer days and the depth of the days starting to suggest Autumn – I find myself longing to light the log-burner and to sit beside it with my boys – snuggle-cosy warm.

But before we get to that stage, we have been gathering the fruits of the hedgerow – our hedges are wild and woolly and hold all sorts of hidden gems; cobnuts, beechnuts, rosehips, blackberries and elderberries are hanging waiting to be picked.  We love to go out as a family, dogs included, round the fields – shouts of delight from the boys when treasures are found, blackberry-stained mouth signalling that the berries are sweet and delicious.  We follow the country code and pick randomly, gathering fruits for us but remembering that there are animals who rely on these wild crops to get them through the winter.  I smile to myself as I realise that nobody has told the squirrel about sharing – trees which were nut-laden a few days ago have been stripped bare by very efficient squirrel pickers.  However, I did manage to find a few and will use them to make “Honeyed cobnuts”, a favourite of ours from the River Cottage Preserves book (***insert link).

The blackberries will be transformed into jellies to sweeten yogurt, with some more frozen to combine with our apples in the depths of winter to make a warming crumble.  When I’m cooking crumble, I always cook a batch of crumble on its own in a layer on an oven tin – the crispy, crunchy mixture can be frozen to make a crumble topping later – it avoids the sogginess you sometime get on the underneath of the crumble layer of a fruit crumble.

When we moved here we were delighted to see lots of blackthorn, heralding the promise of a good sloe crop – not ready for picking yet…but being inspected daily – we’ve already made raspberry and blackcurrant vodka – but our favourite is sloe vodka – a lovely winter warmer.