© Godric Godricson
The idea of visiting burial grounds is sometimes disturbing to modern people in the west. However, there is more to do  than simply look at the monuments. There is more to do than simply visit the parish Church. We can also gather food without food miles and without damaging the landscape. This gathering of free, 'ethical' food is at the heart of foraging and I want to say some limited things about foraging.

In the UK there is nothing illegal in gathering fruit from the hedgerow  and it used to be a common sight to see the whole family with baskets picking fruit at the weekend. My own family used to do this when I was a child and it is something I remember very well. I started to forage for food a few years ago when I realised how rich Norfolk was in fruit and berries. The sheer weight of food is stunning and the only problem is identifying the items and making use of them. One of the main items to collect in the country is elderberry which is a common plant and found over the whole of England and into Scotland. The plant is well reported on the net so you have some ways of identifying it easily.

Having said that gathering fruit is legal in the hedgerow, I would suspect that the law is slightly different with regard to burial grounds which are often ruled by ancient Church law/custom/practice. I have had conversations with Rectors and Vicars who have rights over the cemetery, such as the right to graze sheep and they guard these rights jealously even if they never exercise those rights. I have to confess that I have regularly gathered elderberry and blackberry from the cemetery and used these in foods.  I see nothing morally or ethically wrong in the gathering of food in this manner. I also keep to the 'Country Code' and do nothing that causes damage or harm to the environment. I later turn the freshly gathered fruits into jam, wine and pickle for the cold winter months.

The only time I have ever been challenged when gathering food from the wild hedgerow in the cemetery was a few years ago in the rural Isle of Wight. A French family asked what the fruit I was gathering was called in English. I very happy to be able to say in broken French that  "Mure" were in fact Blackberry. They seemed fascinated at the idea of gathering food in the cemetery but they probably put it down to the eccentricities of the English. I can only imagine what they said to their friends when they went home to France?

In the coming weeks I want to ad something about food from the cemetery although I acknowledge that I'm not an expert and sometimes I stop gathering if there are people around. I never gather fungi and that seems to be a short cut to the hospital. I hope to share my enthusiasm about the fruit that can be gathered for free from the cemetery.

Photo : Courtesy of Biberta
Dandelion is my favourite country wine to make and dandelion can be easily gathered from the cemetery and country lanes. I'm sorry for moving between metric and Imperial measures.

This should make 1 gallon. I recommend staying away from busy roads where traffic fumes may contaminate the flowers and away from dog walking areas for obvious reasons.

    •  2 qts dandelion flowers (see below)
    • 1 litre of white grape fruit juice 
    • 6-3/4 pts water
    • 2-1/2 lbs granulated sugar
    • 2 lemons
    • 1 orange
    • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
    • Champagne wine yeast
One quart of loosely packed dandelion petals weighs 80 grams, while one quart of tightly packed petals weighs 100 grams. Whole blossoms weigh 110-120 grams per quart.

  1. Pick and remove petals from the flowers ahead of time and freeze petals until you have enough.
  2. Put the petals in a nylon straining bag, tie closed, and bring the water to a boil in a large pan. I use a cheap stock pot from an economy shop. 
  3. When water boils, place nylon bag in water, reduce to a simmer, and cover pot with lid.
  4. Simmer for 20 minutes and remove from heat.
  5. When cool, drain petals (squeeze lightly) and return water to a low boil.
  6. Add the sugar and the peels (peel thinly and avoid any of the white pith) of the lemons and orange.
  7. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour, then pour into a crock or plastic pail.
  8. Add the juice and pulp of the lemons and orange and the white grape concentrate.
  9. Allow to stand until cool (70-75 degrees F.)
  10. Add yeast and yeast nutrient, cover, and put in a warm place for three days.
  11. Strain and pour into a secondary fermentation vessel (bottle or jug) and fit airlock.
  12. When wine clears, rack into clean secondary, top up and refit airlock. Rack, top up and refit airlock every 60 days as long as even a fine dusting of lees form.
  13. When wine stops throwing sediment for 60 days, rack into bottles and age six months before tasting.
  14. It will improve remarkably if allowed to age a full year although it 'drinks well' very early on.