Eden’s foraging expert Emma Gunn shares an easy foraged crab apple recipe. With their stalks on, these caramelised fruits look just like mini toffee apples and make a very special pudding. If you enjoy it, join Emma in one of our one-day foraging courses.
Caramelised crab apples with cinnamon recipe
- 20 crab apples (with stalks on)
- 3-4 tablespoons caster sugar
- 6 cinnamon sticks
- A splash of water
Crab apples fruit from October to early November. You might come across crab apple trees along hedgerows and lanes or even in forests.
You’ll recognise them by their apple leaves and their clusters of small yellow or reddish hard fruits. Use a good field guide to check you’ve got the right fruit.
- Give the crab apples a good scrub to remove any dirt and the remains of dried blossom, but take care not to break the stalks.
- In a non-stick frying pan, pour in the sugar and add a splash of water. Heat on a gentle heat until the sugar has completely melted.
- Add the cinnamon and crab apples, stirring to coat and preventing the sugar from burning. After five minutes, remove from the heat.
- Serve with vanilla ice cream and cinnamon. If you’re making this for a celebration pudding, such as Christmas or a dinner party, sprinkle on some edible glitter.
Short courses on foraging at Eden Project
Emma Gunn, a member of Eden’s Green Team, is running a series of one-day foraging courses throughout the winter, until March 2013. The foraging courses will introduce you to what’s available in our hedgerows and wild places, as well as to some easy recipes.
The day is centred around a guided walk of Eden’s wilder perimeter (where you’ll get to have a nibble), followed by a food sampling session back in the classroom.
Emma says: ‘Foraging is all about getting to know your environment and what’s around you. It gets you outside for walks and, by eating the seasons, you’re eating healthily; starches from roots in the winter to keep you going through the colder months, and fresh leaves in the spring.
‘It’s also fascinating to learn about all the amazing plants most people don’t know we have in this country. We’ve got the equivalent of lemon in the form of the staghorn sumac. Soak it in water and it creates a zesty flavour; they call it the “lemonade bush”.
‘There’s herb Bennet too, whose root tastes just like cloves – and in fact contains the same chemical that gives cloves their flavour; eugenol.’
A bit about Emma, our foraging expert
Emma’s first foray into foraging was tapping maple syrup from sycamore trees as a toddler in Canada. As a teenager she remembers taking herself off for a day on a Cornish beach with a jam sandwich, a pen knife and Roger Phillips’ Wild Food book. She came back with bundles of sea rocket and a hand carved fork and spoon.
Emma’s golden rules of foraging
- Choose easily recognisable plants
If you’re new to foraging, don’t choose plants that are easily confused with others. Some plants can be poisonous, especially mushrooms, so don’t risk it. As foraging guru Richard Mabey wrote in his brilliant Food for free book, ‘Indigestion brought on by uncertainty about whether you have done yourself in can be just as uncomfortable as real food poisoning!’
- Invest in a good field guide
Take along a guide that includes illustrations or photos, as well as Latin names. These botanical names can give great clues about the plant, such as its habitat. For example, the suffix montana means it grows in the mountains, maritimus denotes that it is found on the coast, halimus in the dunes, while officinalis shows that it is a medicinal plant.
- Keep hygiene in mind
Avoid picking plants which may be dirty or polluted. For example, pick from areas away from the road. Also, don’t gather from low down along a path, where dogs or livestock may have brushed past. Don’t forage straight after a heavy rainfall, when plants in the ground – and shellfish - may be contaminated with run-off from the fields, which can contain chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Always give your leaves, flowers, fruit, nuts and roots a good wash before use.
- Don’t be greedy
Remember, you’re sharing nature’s harvest with wildlife too, so don’t take all of it. Also, be careful not to damage plants. If you only need the leaves, don’t pull them up by the roots; use a pair of secateurs. That way there’ll be lots more to harvest next year too.
- Remember where you found it
Make a note of the lane, field or beach where you found the plant, so that you can come back to that hotspot next year as well.