Future Foraging

From 2013 to early this year I had invested a huge amount of time and finances on bringing to commerciality a conifer syrup that originated from a recipe my husband’s father made from the pine cones and fir tips he collected whilst walking the local mountains. He was a mountain man – both in his attitude and physique – wiry, and weather-browned.

It was painful letting this business go. Family members were not as supportive as they should be, something a lot of families fail to learn and are the weaker for it, and without that fundamental support [afterall our raw material relied on their participation], the dream was over.

Ion Syrup Blog recipes

But I learned a few things. I learnt more about business across European boarders. I learnt about logistics of transporting and the fickleness of distributors and the lack of entrepreneurism of retailers and artisan shopkeepers who should know better, having themselves struggled to build their local businesses.

We still get enquiries about the syrup, it’s only available in the USA and Austria/Germany and the market for foraged products is on the climb.

Now in France Tony and me feel we have healed enough to contemplate foraging again in our area to re-create the syrup for our own use initially. If in a few years, with French premises registered and money put aside, who knows we may be making a pine or fir syrup for the French market.

As it stands we have some stock with us for our use. Unfortunately the other stock is held far away in Romania and I have no means to transport such heavy loads without putting aside over a thousand pounds. It will have to stay in its cellar for now.

But where does that leave us? Looking at our websites it seemed a shame to close them down. They are a tangible record of what we loved and now exploring my second passion – cheese, I thought the food articles and photography could act as a portfolio for me, and example of what I can do with a camera and food, and build from there.

Call it sentimental, it’s my baby and I can’t let it go, so have a look and enjoy Ion Syrup

Our area is bursting with wild plants, pine forests, lakes and meadows. Our aim moving here has always been to be self-sufficient and try and use what we pick in the wild or grow at home to make oils, cordials, herb butters and similar. Today, not autumn setting in fast and the first frosts, the thyme and rosemary must be picked. The aroma is strong and I have 5 huge bottles of olive oil to warm infuse the herbs to keep us through winter.

Judi-Castille-Elderflower-CordialJudi-Castille-Infusion-of-elderflowers

We still have bottles of elderflower cordial made from the two shrubs we have, and we picked mint from the roadside back in July. Now dried it is a heady menthol and will be great for stuffy noses when the colds arrive. The summer camomile was picked for teas and helps make an afternoon snooze even snoozier.

Judi Castille Camomile

Next year the herb garden should produce copious quantities of herbs and neighbours will be able to help themselves as there will be a glut for us. Yesterday I swapped herbs with Madame R. She had bay leaves and I had rosemary. I have tied a few bunches with jute string and hung in our kitchen – the smell is heavenly.

The mushrooms in our lawn, sprung up in just a week, are apparently poisonous. I wore two pairs of disposable gloves to cut them from the lawn before the spores burst, and checked with Madame R. Yes poisonous and no good for my stomach given the hospital visits!! She took them gingerly from my hand, with no gloves. The locals are far less wimpy than me it seems. Wash your hands I say – phwaar – no problem, she replies, as she flips them into the bin.

Judi-Castille-Poisonous-MushroomJudi-Castille-Mushroom

The other mushroom IS supposed to be edible – but I cannot confidently identify this and still worried to pick them anyway. If anyone can identify – please send me a comment. Me and mushrooms are not a match made in culinary heaven. I like my raw. Can’t bare them cooked and slimy, sloppy. Today the round head had burst and turned almost upside down. Its fellow mushroom had fallen over – probably knocked by the local hedgehog looking for a hibernation patch. So for this year they can feed the earth and I will leave well alone.

Now the frost is coming, the garden will be put to bed. The tomatoes are being cut down and composted, and the manure pile was spread yesterday. I am not digging deep – but using the “No-Dig” method. Nature knows well how to break down cow manure, leaves and garden matter and the few cold months ahead will allow the worms to be busy in time for March veggie planting.

The old compost heap has turned into fine, dark brown, rich loam. Instead of humping this by hand to the other beds, we are going to simple close the front and create a long, low lying bed, where I will probably grow cut-flowers for the house. A home should have copious flowers in bowls, jugs and hung from beams. Bringing the outside in.

My favourites are:

Aliums, Lavender, Lupins, Cornflowers, Strawflowers, Verbena, Sweet Williams, Foxgloves, Anaphalis, Hydrangeas, Jasmin, Daisies, Globe Thistles and very seventies -Teasels.

Oh and the ubiquitous marigold – which did sterling work all summer, keeping the bugs off my tomatoes and potatoes – well done!!

Judi-Castille-Dried-herbsJudi-Castille-Rosemary-tied-with-jute

Coming to France enable me to finally concentrate on a few of my favourite things – gardening and composting [yes the latter is an all-consuming love and I could bore you for hours on this subject], photography, writing and illustration [I am writing stories for children and have about nine on the go at the moment] and home-making [sewing, cooking, being self-sufficient]. All these I hope will build into a natural business for me in time, to get an income and tie all the loose ends of all my projects that either never materialized or had to be boxed up and put away on high shelves out of sight.

Dusting off those shelves feels good. The boxes are opening and I am enjoying bringing the contents back out into the sunshine. Life feels good.

The herbs are photographed on paper naturally died with saffron petals. The petals ended up too soggy and had to be composted, but the dye gave these lovely washed colours and a perfect background for the herbs.