Surprise Dessert

Rain has finally remembered us, but it’ll take a long time to refill the ditches out on the grazing marshes. My local river is still running, or ambling, whatever a Norfolk river does. I caught a rare glimpse of a water shrew scurrying between lake and river the other afternoon, but on the whole wildlife seems to be taking the weather as it finds it.

The shock is in the hedgerow. This summer of fierce heat and little rain has grown a fruit garden of banquet proportions.

Haws Aug 22

These are haws, the fruit of the hawthorn. The blackthorn, its notoriously prickly companion, produces sloes that dangling from the gnarled twigs like so many plums.

Sloe Aug 22

Blackthorn was once thought to be ancestral to the domestic plum, but genetic analysis has pointed elsewhere. In fairness, sloes warrant the inverse of whatever kindly adjectives might be given to plums. Dry, dry, dry, sharp and sour. But they are traditionally picked after the first frost to flavour various drinks.

Then there is elder, also having a bumper year.

Elderberries Aug 22

And snowberry, which may catch the eye with its ghostly fruit, but unlike the others, is far from a welcome sight; in the UK, it’s an invasive species, threading its way across native scrubby habitats. I don’t really understand why known problem plants like snowberry and cherry laurel are still available for people to plant in their gardens – they do not stay there.

Snowberry Aug 22

But most of my attention has been on crab apples. To be precise, the hundreds that have rained on my garden from a single crab apple tree, turning the parched lawn into a mosaic of yellow and pink.

Crab apple Aug 22

I gathered a few and mixed them with some local blackberries. That’s my jam supplies sorted for a while.

Jam jars Aug 22

It’ll be interesting to see how wildlife exploits the bounty that’s still outside.

12 thoughts on “Surprise Dessert

    1. I was concerned that fruit would be lacking and the species that depend on it – like dormice – would suffer, but it’s certainly here in abundance, if slightly earlier than usual.

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    1. Yes, with some left over I should think! Winter berries are normally popular with the thrush species that migrate here from the north, but I wonder what it’s like in Scotland and Sweden – they may leave later if it’s similar up there.

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  1. When we were in Haida Gwaii, there was only one day of rain out of almost two weeks and now they are facing drought level 3 (0 – 5, 5 being the worst). But what we noticed is that thimbleberries, salmonberries, black and red huckleberries and especially salal berries were all over the place in abundance. However, I hope they will get some more normal weather soon, this year is supposed to have a good pink salmon run and if creeks and rivers are low it might affect future runs.
    I remember many of the berries from your photographs while I was living in Serbia but didn’t know if they are edible or not.

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    1. That is interesting – the effect on berries seems global then. When I was in Tahsis, they told me of occasional dry summers (I certainly did not experience one) but this year truly has been exceptional, everywhere.

      Most of these berries need cooking / freezing / de-seeding before eating. We have some highly toxic ones too, like bryony and deadly nightshade.

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  2. The summer here in Penticton was also very dry and the peaches did not do at all well, so it’s interesting to see all the fruit you have. Glad that there is, as so many creatures are going to need that source of food after the drought.

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    1. Have you noticed any trends in the native berries? I’m not sure what kind of a summer it’s been for British fruit farmers. Probably quite unnerving, sadly, but hopefully they’ve got a crop of some sort now.

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