Currantly in Season
Muahahaha! The terrible puns are back! Now that I have proved yet again that my sense of humour is clearly as bad as my mother’s….I shall move on to more tasty matters….currants!
Most people seem to think that currants only grow in gardens and allotments where people have purposefully planted them. But this is far from the truth. A lot of them are obviously garden escapees and you’ll find these growing near houses or allotments. But they are surprisingly common in the wild. We shall be picking redcurrants at the walk this Saturday and (probably) using them to make pretty little drop scones which we will eat with some of my home made elderflower curd – a new invention this year in the battle to deal with my every-growing mountain of eggs. Since we killed Attila the egg eater, we’ve been having 9 eggs a day from our hens!!
Where to find currants….well they like damp, woodland habitats and you will often find them near streams or drainage ditches. The wild varieties tend to have smaller fruit than the cultivated varieties but are still wonderful for making summer puddings or putting in/on cheesecakes. My currants are foraged in two main locations. The red currants grow by a wall by the side of the road and were spotted as I was cycling home one day. And the black and white currants are part of a (sort of) community garden in a (slightly) dodgy part of Leeds. A couple of years ago, when I was picking the blackcurrants, a young boy shouted up to me on the slope “What are you doing?”. “Picking Ribena Berries”, I replied. To which he responded “Is it because you’re poor?” at which point I just laughed.
It raises a very interesting point though about foraging and how it’s viewed by different people. While it used to be an integral part of the lives of human beings, with the advent of more wide-spread farming and the ease of just popping to the market or a greengrocers, the vast majority of people have not only forgotten the knowledge we used to possess about the plants around us, but the whole practice has somehow become one that is practiced by the fringes of society who are viewed as being a little bit ‘odd’. In the UK, this has changed somewhat as our celebrity chefs have extolled the virtues of ‘Food for Free’ and exotic wild plants and mushrooms. But in other parts of the world, this is less the case.
While I was in Kericho in Kenya doing my fieldwork, I was told about some of the training that the workers of the tea and flower plantations I visited were given. And it was about so-called “traditional” vegetables; the plants that the workers used to eat but are now somehow seen as things that only the poor people on the reserves eat. Free, nutritious, delicious food has become “low class”. So now they are being taught to appreciate these ‘traditional’ vegetables in an attempt to get them to diversify their diet from the usual thick maize porridge, kale and beans that has become their almost exclusive diet. (the photo on the right is one I took while in Kericho of the worker’s houses with their little vegetable plots out front. )
So I say hurrah for the Wild Food Revolution! And urge you all to go out there and enjoy the many amazing and delicious things you can pick on your very doorstep.
I do not offer you a recipe of my own this time. But instead point you towards my guru Nigella Lawson’s London Cheesecake recipe. Every time I have a glut of eggs, I turn to one of her books. This recipe uses 6 eggs but was chosen over her berry tart recipe that was the runner up and used a whopping 14 eggs! And how do we wild foodify this amazing cheesecake? By adding blackcurrants of course! I put in about 2 large handfuls of berries that I scattered over the mixture before baking. It is an absolutely divine recipe even without the blackcurrants. But with them? It becomes the stuff of dreams. I was going to take a better picture of it, but then I started eating it and totally forgot about everything other than how yummy it was. Oops!