Day 18 – Foraging the land!

One thing that we have done a lot of since we have moved to Broom House is hedge planting. We have managed to get various grants over the years enabling us to plant high diversity hedgerows across the farm, we have over 40km of hedgerows on the farm, each with over 7 varieties of shrub in them!  (In case you are wondering: hawthorn, blackthorn (sloe), guelder rose, dog rose, hazel, holly, crab apple, wild plum). These provide useful protection from the elements for our livestock, great food and nesting for birds and small mammals and a perfect opportunity for foraging for wild plums, sloes, blackberries and even hazel nuts. In the Autumn we also find delicious field mushrooms, although I am never brave enough to pick the fungi in the forest, however edible it looks. 

We also restored the farm’s orchard in 2001, not long after moving to Broom House, planting heritage varieties which give us a great harvest of apples, crab apples, pears and  plums most years (we never seem to get to the cherries before the birds, but the blossom is beautiful!).   During quiet days the Coffee Shop team get on with making batches of our Broom House chutney, using delicious Bramley apples from the garden! Our apples are also used in Granny’s Apple cake (see earlier blog post) and saved for using in our Christmas mincemeat and stuffings.

Emma has been making elderflower cordial and sloe gin and bottling this for sale in the Farm Shop, in small bottles with beautiful labels; these make wonderful presents.  We have even tried making nettle soup – it tasted nice but the colour was a bit dubious. This year is the first year that we’ve managed to find and harvest wild garlic on the farm, and now that we know where it is we will be using more of this in the future.

My vegetable garden is usually chaotic, but I love being able to fill the Farm Shop with any excess courgettes, rhubarb and tomatoes! We encourage the coffee shop team to use produce from the garden & hedgerows, and from the Little Farmer’s raised beds, with rhubarb, gooseberries, pears, apples and blackberries used in their granola compote during the season. 

Herbs are another thing that we grow on site, with the rosemary in the stone wall outside the farm shop and a small herb patch by the duck pond that is growing mint, curry leaves, fennel, angelica, lemon balm, thyme, chives and sorrel alongside the giant bay trees (and far too many buttercups grrr). You’ll often find a customer picking a few sprigs of rosemary from the wall to go with the lamb they’ve just purchased, or a bay leaf to pop into a beef bolognese.

Growing flowers in the garden and planting lots of bulbs makes the farm surroundings look nice and provides fresh colour for the tables in the Coffee Shop, where any picked weed is preferred to a bought flower. Driving down the driveway in Spring with the daffodils flowering is a jolly welcome to those that have ventured up the hill. And have you seen the wildflowers in the car park in full bloom?