What do you do when the hedgerows are burgeoning with ripening blackberries, and the early apples are starting to drop? You make sure you use them in as many ways as possible! Blackberries have been a focus across the Nursery and in the Den we opted to make some hedgerow tea!
Enjoying a cuppa is a firm British institution and sitting down to lovely hot drink with friends on a miserable day can lift the spirits of even the most melancholy, which was useful as the first half of the week was pretty soggy! So armed with collecting pots and keen eyes, the children in the den trudged out in the wonderfully drizzly weather to track down the sweet black hedgerow gems. Before we left, we discussed where we thought we might find them, which colour ones we need to look out for as well as the best way to pick them. We came to the conclusion that whilst the bramble thorns are a painful nuisance, as are the stinging nettles that often grow alongside, it's well worth the scratches and stings to get our hands on the blackberries they fiercely guard.
You may have noticed in the Free Rangers car park, as well as around the surrounding countryside, blackberries have ripened early this year. It would a shame to see them go to waste, especially as they are incredibly good for you: high in fibre, high in anti-oxidants, high vitamin C content & low calorie! Most importantly they taste superb. Not bad for a free hedgerow treat!
We didn't need a huge amount of blackberries and following the foragers code, we needed to leave some for others to enjoy too. The Burrow have been making some delicious blackberry crumbles this week so we didn't want to deprive them! Once we had collected a sufficient amount for our needs, we headed back through the paddock to pick a delicious apple from our espaliered apple tree (a tree that has been trained into a fan shape along a wall or framework). Back at the cabin, we looked through our blackberries, ensuring they were washed to remove any bugs and pulled out any that looked a bit too far gone. Whilst this was happening we started the fire in the kelly kettle and talked the children through the various components and methodology of lighting using our fire steel. The Forest Schoolers helped build and feed the fire from the top and bottom of the kelly kettle and we waited patiently for the water to boil. Once boiled, we poured the water over the chopped apple, blackberries and a scant amount of honey, and mixed it well. It had to brew so we left the fruit to infuse for a while, whilst the children went to play.
It was worth the wait because the tea tasted fantastic and as a result there were plenty of interesting discussions around what the children could taste, what they could see happening to the fruit in the jug, why the apple slices changed colour from white to purple and the steam pluming from the hot liquid. I love these activities because the children had to get up close and personal with the plants whilst picking, giving them the opportunity to spot interesting bugs, plants and goings on, that might otherwise have been missed if we had just been going on a walk. The children spotted some lovely flowers in the brambles, insects climbing through the leaves, as well as the differences between the ripe and unripe fruits.
There was so much for the children to benefit from during these sessions. Not only did they get to experience the fire, and discus the dynamics of lighting and the sensory elements, but also got to interact with it as well deepening the learning experience. It goes to show, that even the most simple of activities can have huge developmental benefits when simply taken outside. The tea was a great hit and was enjoyed by everyone, adding a little bit of sweetness and warmth to an otherwise rather drizzly week!
If you're ever in the car park and you need a little pick me up, grab yourself a handful of blackberries! Do you have any wacky or unusual recipes for blackberries? What's your favourite way to eat them?
Enjoy the rest of your week everyone and thanks for reading!