My Granny was quiet a mischievous women. In fact from childhood to senior lady status, she was always up to something. Not content with being scampish herself she would often lead others astray, and when I say ‘other’s I actually mean me! From my childhood summers I have hysterical memories of my Gran and her cheeky behaviour like scrumping, and taking ‘cuttings’ from plants.
Now I would like to point out (in case any of the landowners are reading this!) that this was more frisky country dweller manners than unlawful behaviour. You see my Granny was born and brought up in the ‘Heart of England’, of rural Herefordshire and Worcestershire. A childhood of beating moorland for grouse, and helping with the harvest, all for pocket money, gave my Gran a bit of rural entrepreneurial awareness. So collecting fallen fruits, or picking from trees where the fruit was not being collected by the land owner, a polite way of saying ‘scrumping’, I guess was a bit second nature.
Whilst I’m the first to admit I was brought up a city dweller rather than country girl, the country is in my blood thanks to my Gran. I can’t walk past hedgerows or trees burgeoning with fruit without thinking ‘is someone going to pick those’?
The arrival of warm sunshine is like a signal to me for the commencement of ‘scrumping season’. June & July is Cherry picking, August; blackberries, raspberries, damsons, plums and some early apples like Discoveries. September will be when my apple and pear scrumping really gets into full swing and if I am lucky, quinces too. Late autumn, preferably after the first frost, I collect Rosehips for preserving as syrup. This will keep me going through the winter months, a good dose of vitamin C when all the summer fruits have gone.
Now scrumping for me is not just about getting fruit for free, it is a bit of nostalgia, connecting back to my childhood countryside summers. It is about connecting with the season, about eating what fruit is tasty now. It’s also about ‘waste not want not’.
In a time of recession picking, collecting, eating and storing fruits that would otherwise rot on the ground makes sense. For my Gran it was obvious not to waste food, but for us it’s something we are learning. Not only can you save money you can enjoy British fruits. Why air freight something when you can enjoy delicious and juicy fruits ripe for the picking in the county.
Across the country great community projects are happening to get people collecting local fruits from community spaces and unwanted fruits from people’s gardens. From the Abundance project in Sheffield to Scrumping in the Lea Valley, communities are clubbing together to bring in the fruit harvest. Community orchards are another way for local people to provide fruit for themselves. It is also a way of keeping English traditional fruits in our cuisine. Perry pears and Cherry trees grown in community orchards protect fruits that are disappearing in more commercial settings.
This article is homage to my Granny, the woman who taught me so much, some of it a bit mischievous! It is also a celebration of fruit from the English summer. Whether it’s picking blackberries from common land hedgerows, or collecting and sharing apples from a neighbour’s tree who just can’t eat them all, have fun! and waste not want not!