Happy New Year and happy foraging from Stems of Holborn

Happy New Year to you all and happy foraging from Stems of Holborn. The news of two vaccines now available has shed a new light on 2021, and as we should be at the start of a new year, we can start to feel hopeful. Foraged by @stemsfloral……

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Just before lockdown last March, I was asked to supply some mossy branches for a photo shoot for Vogue. Still at the shop in London, I had to make it home before dusk to forage the best mossy branches. This hawthorn, growing on a damp, windy corner of a lane, fitted the bill perfectly.

Foraging

One of my favourite pastimes in the whole world is foraging, and there has been plenty of time for it during the pandemic. I love to look at the countryside close up – like through a magnifying glass – and discover buds beside brown, dried seedheads, mossy patches, ivy clinging to tree trunks, blossoms, berries and grasses.

This is actually blackberry and sloe jam!

Sloe berries grow by the river here, on the beautiful blackthorn trees with their long thorns and spectacular, white blossom in spring. You can pick the sloes, then the blackberries along the lane towards home. We made this lovely jam in the summer. The sloes give it a sharp note.

Blackberry and sloe jam recipe

1kg fruit and 1kg jam sugar

Freeze the sloes, as this will soften the skin and allow the juices to run out. Use two-thirds blackerries and one-third sloes. Put the fruit in a stainless steel saucepan on a low heat and pour in the sugar. Melt very slowly till the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to get a slow bubble, stirring all the time. Heat your jars in a 120 degrees c oven to sterilise for a few minutes. Put a plate in the freezer to cool. When you can see creases in the jam, ( after about 30 minutes), smear a teaspoon of jam on the cold plate. If it hardens, it’s ready.

Foraging in winter is also fun. I have found tall dried teasel, berried ivy, trailing ivy, mosses, cones and branches Soon, the tiny snowdrops will be pusing their way up through the earth, followed by crocuses in gold and purple.

Happy 2021 to you all!

Jan is a florist and has a shop in Sicilian Avenue, Bloomsbury, London.

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In Vogue

One of our last projects before the lockdown was to forage moss-covered branches for British Vogue.

As a nature lover, I tend to study the hedgerows, and particularly appreciate the many types of moss, in all shades of green, that grow in the branches in the moist air of early spring.

We closed the shop on 23 March, as directed by the Government. As a non-essential shop, it was the right thing to do. These are worrying times for everyone, and iur health and safety comes first. The situation is unprecedented, and nobody knows how things will pan out.

But there are some positive aspects – a good rest for some of us, and time to reflect and take stock. Also a rest for the environment, without air and water pollution. A time to reevaluate our lives and consider what is important.

We’ve been making short videos during our daily exercise. They are about the local countryside.

Cherry plum blossom

This is an area with many ancient yew trees, and the elm is clawing its way back after the devastating Dutch elm disease in the Seventies. The cherry plum blossom lining the lane has the most amazing fragrance, and we pick the fruit to make jam in July.

We also have elderflowers in May, and will make elderflower cordial and jelly.

elderflowers soaking with oranges a, lemons and sugar

in August, the brambles will be covered in juicy blackberries, and we will pick tansy and dry it as a pot pourri – said to keep flies away.

We hope to be back at Stems in the summer, and to share some of our foraged treasures with you all.

Look out for our videos on instagram @stemsfloral and the Stems of Holborn Facebook page.