When Greener Leith decided to put the Children’s Orchard in last weekend’s Cockburn Society’s Doors Open programme we were hoping to get a few visitors whilst some of us got the orchard ready for Winter – We had no idea that we would receive so many visitors from all over Edinburgh, who, tempted outside by the exceptionally beautiful weather, came in droves.
In the end we had about sixty visitors over the day, and many pitched in to do a bit of work. So unsurprisingly we got a fair bit done. We picked up several bags of litter, pruned the berry hedge, cleared the weeds around the trees and generally make the place look a lot better. Thank you everyone who helped with this and thanks to the Neighbourhood Partnership staff for joining in and providing the equipment.
It was also exciting to see Artists Fraser Gray and Richie Cumming, (core members of the BLAMELESS collective, responsible for the recent Halmyre Street mural, ‘The Leith Aquatic’) begin working on a new mural for the community orchard too.
The new artwork will merge biological drawings of birds with industrial machinery used in harvesting and processing fruit for consumption. And although it’s going to take them a few weeks to get it finished, please do keep an eye out as the pair work on it.
We also got some excellent feedback from our visitors. Understandably, people wanted to know what variety fruit is growing in the orchard. And although we did update the map and provide some paper copies to people, without any labels on the trees it still proved fairly tricky for people to identify trees, especially as all of the fruit from the trees had already been picked by people before the event.
Up until now our policy has been to make the orchard as inconspicuous as possible to avoid the wrong kind of attention and this strategy has worked well. We’ve had very little vandalism so far (touch wood!). The trees are mostly in excellent condition and growing well.
We do however understand that the time has come to organise some interpretation panels – not least to let people know which fruit is ripe when. So wish us luck in our fundraising efforts; Hopefully we’ll have a fully interpreted orchard ready in time for next year’s Doors Open event.
Not everything edible from the Orchard is gone. In fact, there’s a fair bit still left for those of you willing to make use of rosehips and elderberries. So For those of you who were eyeing up the rosehips, haws, rowan and elder berries, but not entirely sure what to do with them, we have put together a couple of recipes found here and there.
For Rosehip syrup I had to go to my ancient HMSO publication ‘Home Preservation of Fruit and Vegetables’ first printed in 1929. These were the days before vitamin tablets and the idea was to take two spoonfuls every day during the winter time to keep colds at bay.
Rose hip syrup (high in vitamin C)
2.5 litres water
1kg rose hips
Bring 1.75 litres to the boil. Mince rose hips coarsely in a food processor and add immediately to water, bring back to the boil, turn off the heat and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Strain the liquid through a clean old pillowcase or jelly bag. Bring the remaining water to the boil and put the rosehip pulp back into it. Bring back to the boil, turn off heat and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Strain as before. Poor all the juice into a clean pan and bring to the boil, uncovered, until it is reduced to about 900ml (about 1 ½ pints). Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves, then bring the syrup to the boil for another 5 minutes. Poor into clean, warm bottles and seal at once.
Next an all-time family favourite, Bramble Jelly. Brambles love and thrive on (disused)south-facing railway cuttings. To find them, just look on the map and work it out, you’ll find the juiciest fruit. The Greedy Gardener website has also good advice on how to get from boiling fruit/water to strained juice by making a home-made jelly bag holder thingemyjig:
“Next, you need to strain out the juice. You can buy special jelly bags, but I use a length of muslin folded double and an old tea towel or pillow case will do just as well. I’ve also heard that a pair of tights (pantyhose to those of you reading in the US) can be used in an emergency, just make sure they’re clean.
Spread your cloth inside a large bowl and spoon in the cooked fruit. Gather up the corners of the cloth and tie together tightly with string so that you have a big bag of soggy, dripping cloth.
Put two chairs back to back a couple of feet apart and rest a long handled broom across them. Hang the dripping bag of fruit from the broom handle with the bowl underneath and leave to drip into the bowl overnight. Do not squeeze the bag or your jelly will be cloudy and you will never win prizes at the church fete!”
Finally a rowan jelly recipe. This is perfectly lovely with roast meat, but for our money, we would choose the bramble jelly every time and leave the rowans to the blackbirds.