Kissing out of fashion?

18th January 2013

The weren’t wrong, at least 15cm deep and it’s still falling. Finding stuff today was always going to be challenging.

These Gorse or Furze Ulex europaeus flowers had avoided being completely covered with snow. Generally Gorse flowers from March but it’s not unusual to find some flowering early, in addition there are two closely related species the Dwarf Gorse U.minor and Western Gorse U.gallii which tend to flower much later in the year. The net result is that whatever month of the year it is possible to find Gorse flowers somewhere which has given rise to the expression “When gorse are out of bloom, Kissing’s out of fashion” i.e. it is never out of fashion.

Gorse Ulex europaeus

Gorse flowers can be used as a flavouring for wine making, making tea, ice cream etc. but in winter they seem to lack the coconut like smell and flavour that they have later on in the year and it is better to wait until then before using them.

A better find was several Crab Apple Malus sylvestris trees in the hedgerow. They all had usable fruit still on the tree and half buried in the snow beneath them there where quite a few, frozen but otherwise intact apples. The crab apple is the ancestor of all cultivated apple varieties, but true crab apples which generally are small and yellowish are incredibly sharp when raw. Cooking considerably improves them and they can be cooked in any recipe where you would use normal apples, you just need to add a touch more sugar.

Wild apples can however be very variable as the pips from Cultivated Apples Malus domestica agg if allowed to grow will revert to a wild form producing smaller, tarter fruit than the apple they came from, but often larger and sweeter than a true Crab Apple. Some can even be eaten straight from the tree. In addition these “escapes” will hybidise with Crab Apples producing a range of fruit differing in both appearance and taste.  True Crab Apple has thorns where Cultivated Apple doesn’t, and the mature leaves on the latter are downy whereas Crab Apples aren’t.  However hybrids could have variable features.


Crab Apples in the snow Malus sylvestris

It is not unusual to find usable Crab Apples right through the winter, they certainly seem to last better than supermarket apples, and once the trees have lost their leaves from November onwards they are easier to spot, even from your car!

Like other hedgerow fruit Crab Apples provide a vital source of food for blackbirds, thrushes, and other song birds as well as small mammals (I saw a bank vole in the snow as I was collecting these) especially in this weather so ensure that plenty are left both on the tree and on the ground

I have a particular use in mind for these apples, which as the snow’s showing no sign of stopping will be tomorrows project and blog.

Kev Palmer

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