At the end of an old, dusty, country road that Chilli often rides along is a beauty of a mulberry tree. Gnarled and heavy with twisted branches that reach down to the grassy meadow below, it’s the kind of tree you only have to stand under for a moment to hear the echo of the many years of laughter that have rung through the ears of this masterpiece of nature. As children have climbed her limbs, reached for her fruits and no doubt shed tears as they fell from her leafy bower trying to reach that plump looking mulberry that was just*over*there, you know you are sharing in the bounty of a harvest and wild foraging legend that spans many, many years.
Our day of foraging started out with mulberries from this little beauty. I must say that mulberries in Tasmania are definitely not as plump, elongated or sweet as the ones I grew up on and stained many a school uniform with, in summer on the mainland. These are more like a mulberry crossed with a blackberry. Even the leaf structure and tree shape is different to mainland mulberries, but mulberries they definitely are.
Following our mulberry picking, we journeyed to one of our favourite local beaches to pick blackberries. We’ve been a bit behind in our blackberrying this season and so we thought we’d better get a start on it, even if only for a small basket full that was nibbled for snacks over the following few days.
As we were leaving our blackberrying, we were delighted to find a whole bank of samphire! We’ve been wanting to try samphire for a while now ever since we saw it on a local blog and then read about it in our wild foods book. We had searched a few times for it, but to no avail. Needless to say we were elated to find such a supply of it and immediately set about harvesting. I think we’ll cook our samphire with lemon and olive oil alongside some smoked fish. Although the way it is done on Hugo & Elsa looks good as well.
Onto another stop and we collected driftwood in tiny, thin lengths so as we can create a fish skeleton on a watercolour painting we recently did. We’ve been reading about the legend of Mousehole in England and immersing in all things seaside, fish and summer at the moment. Chilli and Papa are planning a fishing expedition to catch our dinner one evening when they can figure out where they’d like to put the canoe in. Papa is very particular about these things! Amazingly, Chilli found some fish bones still intact on the beach as we fossicked for driftwood ‘bones’ so she decided to use the bones to match up the sizes of driftwood she’d need.
Our last item on the foraging list for our Field Trip was some ochre rocks. We’ll be doing some Aboriginal style paintings in a few weeks and I thought we’d do a background wash with ochre paint. Chilli and Marlin had fun testing the colours of the rocks on a flat, light coloured boulder where we were gathering and Chilli was interested that the colour of the rock didn’t always reflect so identically in the colour it drew out with.
It was so lovely to visit both these beaches together again. One was right by the house we lived in when Marlin was born and the other by the house we lived in for a short time when Marlin was a baby. In the Winter when we lived by the second beach, I would walk most days with Chilli along the beach, Marlin snuggled up in the sling as he drifted off to sleep and slumbered as we explored that shoreline. Other days I would sit in a camp chair on the sand, rugged up in layers and bundled under the ‘Nanna Blanket’ my Mum had knitted Marlin when he was born. Chilli would spend the hours lost in her own imaginative world playing amongst the treasure filled shoreline of that beautiful beach. I wonder if he’ll always feel a connection to this area where he spent so many of his babyhood days nestled into a cosy nest while the breezes of the bay whispered in his ears and caressed his newborn cheek. I know I’ll always hold this place special in my heart for that very reason, it sounds like such an idyllic way to spend those precious newborn days, and I have to say it honestly was – I always feel extremely blessed for that gorgeous opportunity of immersing so deeply in baby land.
Late Summer is a time that I identify so strongly with foraging. The wild holds so many treasures for us, but particularly at this time of year there seems to be such an abundance. Papa gifted me a book for Christmas by one of my favourite authors – The Thrifty Forager. It’s a very inspiring read indeed. What are your favourite things to forage for?