The Smallholder

Blackberries or Brambles


The berries usually ripen on the blackberry bushes in late summer; August and September are the prime months.

Blackberry Jam Ingredients

1 lb. blackberries,

3/4 lb. sugar.


Wash berries and remove any stalks, crush in preserving pan and bring slowly to boiling point, simmer about 20 minutes, add sugar and boil rapidly until jam sets, bottle and seal.

Crab Apple (Malus Sylvestris)

Crab Apples

Crab apples are small, sour apples; the trees that they come from are descendents of wild, rather than cultivated, apple varieties. Gather crab apples in the autumn (usually around October).

Crab Apple Jelly Ingedients

Crab apples, up to 4lbs,

1 lemon, Sugar,

1lb per pint of cooked apple juice,

Cinnamon stick (optional).


To start with, rinse the apples and cut them into quarters. Put the apples together with the halved lemon into a large saucepan, with a couple of pints of water in the bottom to stop them from sticking when you turn on the heat. Bring to the boil and simmer until the crab apples soften and become pulpy (lid on) for about 45 minutes. Strain through a muslin bag overnight. Add the juice to a large heavy bottomed pan and add the sugar. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the juice and sugar has come to the boil remove from the heat and skim well. Return to the heat add the cinnamon stick if using, and bring to a rolling boil until setting point is reached. This took 15 minutes. Skim and pour into warm sterilised jars.



Damsons are a small oval-shaped variety of plum with dark blue or purple skin and yellow flesh. The taste is quite sour, so they are best when cooked. You will find them in hedgerows from the end of August to the end of October.

The fruit is high in pectin therefore they are extremely good for jellies and jams. However, damsons are not just for preserving. They can be stewed to make pie and crumble fillings. (If you find the taste of damsons is too strong, combine them with apples or blackberries.)

Damson Jam

Stone the damsons, weigh them and to every 1lb allow 12oz of sugar. Put the fruit and sugar into a preserving pan. Keep stirring gently until the sugar is dissolved and carefully remove any scum . Boil the jam for about an hour, it must be well stirred all the time or it will be liable to burn and stick to the pan. When the jam looks firm and the juice appears to set, it is done. Then take it off the heat. Pour into into sterilised jars. Let it cool and cover with airtight lids. Store in a dry place.



Altough elderberries can be used for wine making and was once called called the Englishmans Grape it can be used to make jellies and jams (They go well with apples to make a fine jam.) They are rich in Vitamin A and C and are excellant for helping releave the symptoms of flu and common colds.

Elderberry Jam

4 pints of crushed elderberries,

70 ml vinegar,

1 kg sugar.

Combine berries, vinegar, and sugar. Bring slowly to boiling, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly until thick. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking and burning. Pour boiling hot mixture into sterilized jars and cool then store. This recipe yields 6 half-pint jars.



Nettles are a traditional remedy for people who are run down and have a near perfect balance of iron, vitimin C, calcium and magnesium and usually made into a soup.

Nettle Soup Ingredients:

1 lb potatoes,

1/2 lb young nettles,

2 oz butter,

1 1/2 pts chicken or vegetable stock,

salt & black pepper,

4 tablespoons sour cream.


Cook the peeled, chopped potatoes for 10 mins in salted water. Drain. Wash and coarsely chop the nettles (Only pick the new, young tops,using gloves!) Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the nettles and stew gently for a few minutes. Add the potatoes and heated stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until tender. When potatoes cooked, cool slightly and blend, adding seasoning and the sour cream.


Sloes Fruit from the Blackthorn bush (Prunus Spinosa)

Pick sloes from the Blackthorn hedges in October/November after the first frost, prick them all over with a needle and for every pound of sloes you collect, pour over 8 oz of caster sugar and 1 3/4 pints of gin, then seal. You can leave the gin for as little as two months to steep, shaking the container occasionally, but the longer you leave it, the smoother and better the results.

Useful Information

Check out old established hedgerows and remember to wash everything.