Gathering from the garden

For me, as a totally incompetent gardener, foraging starts the minute I step outside of my door.  That may lead me onto a canal towpath.  Not straight away.  I do not live on a canal.  Alas.  Unless we are aboard Wand’ring Bark and then I do not always have to even disembark as I outlined before when describing my Standing on the Roof of your Narrowboat method.  This, it has to be said, is my preferred option for wild food gathering.  But that is because I am inherently lazy.  However, this post is not about towpath foraging.  It is about back garden foraging.

I will grant you that foraging in the back garden does not have the thrill of discovery that foraging in the wild provides.  The buzz of surprise is not there as generally I know what to expect from my garden.  However, there is shock that it has grown.  This is bad of me because as I said before, I am not a gardener.  It is the Captain who gardens in our household.  So it should not surprise me when things grow, because he is quite good at it.

This year he is having tremendous success with cauliflowers, courgettes, carrots and red cabbage while I hesitantly bought a chilli plant and placed it on my window sill.  There it looked peeky and sad until the Captain whisked it off to the greenhouse and did some jiggery pokery to it.  It is now thriving and happy in its new home.  All this bounty has led to me being a little swamped and consequently, I have been doing ‘things’ with the assorted produce.

I am not a piccalilli fan, but after twenty-three years of marriage (it is our anniversary tomorrow.  What can I say?  I was a child bride … 😉 ) I have just discovered that the Captain is.  In order to use the various garden offerings I have adapted and in part re-written the recipe available in Pam Corbin’s Preserves to create something that I think is a bit new and a bit different.

I am not entirely sure if it has worked as it needs to mature for a few weeks before tasting.  But I am hopeful.  I would be very interested in your thoughts if you try it.  And so, without further ado, may I present:


A version of traditional Piccalilli with a little more va va vhoom!

1kg thoroughly washed vegetables made up from: cauliflower, courgettes, green tomatoes and carrot thinnings

1 hot chilli, de-seeded and chopped finely

50g fine salt

30g cornflour

10g ground turmeric

10g English mustard powder

15g yellow mustard seeds

1 tsp crushed cumin seeds

1 tsp crushed coriander seeds

1 tsp crushed dried chilli flakes

600ml cider vinegar

150g granulated sugar

50g honey

Cut the vegetables into small even bite-sized pieces.  Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt.  Mix well, cover with at tea towel and leave in a cool place for 24 hours, then rinse with cold water and drain thoroughly.

Blend the cornflour, turmeric, mustard powder, mustard seeds, cumin, coriander and chilli flakes to a smooth paste with a little of the vinegar.  Put the rest in a pan with sugar and honey.  Bring to the boil.  Pour a little of the hot vinegar over the blended spice mix, stir well, then return to the pan.  Bring gently to the boil, and simmer for 3-4 minutes to allow the spices to release their flavours into the thickening sauce.

Remove pan from the heat and carefully fold in the well-drained vegetables into the hot, spicy sauce.  Pack the pickle into warm, sterilised jars and seal.  Leave to mature for 4-6 weeks before opening.  Use within 1 year.


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