Remember when I was visiting you and we went foraging in your village and the nearby forest to harvest various tree bits for yarn dyeing?
To go all schmoopy for a moment, that’s one of my favourite memories of that trip – I always get a kick out of being in European forests (my childhood as a high fantasy fan, of course), and it was so much fun to tromp around with you on the loamy ground amidst the furry trees, plucking moss off the low-reaching branches. (And of course discovering all the bugs that emerged from the moss when we opened those lunch boxes later. Hah!)
And of course, getting up from the epic knitting sessions whenever I needed a break and adding more water to the yarn-and-walnut-shells stew.
So anyway. One day I’ll get around to my own yarn dyeing – it’s in my genes, apparently; I have mustard coloured yarn hanging around somewhere that my grandmother spun and dyed with onion skins. In the meantime, though, I’ve been getting out there and doing some harvesting of my own, only living in the city means it’s more urban foraging than foresty rambling.
In aid of urban foraging, there’s a Feral Fruit Trees of Australia gmap that anyone can update (and someone around our neighbourhood has updated it a lot, yay!), but our recent foraging occurred because Alex went to a community meeting and asked if anyone had any lemons.
Someone gave her directions to a vacant lot in an affluent suburb about twenty minutes’ drive away, and we went off on an adventure. The lot seemed to previously have a big house on it – it was house-less, but enormous with a whole bunch of established fruit trees of increasingly wildness leading down to a creek front. The lemon tree was enormous and covered in lemons, though clearly other foragers had been there before us and most of the fruit within reach were gone.
But, we scrambled down the hill anyway and Alex grabbed the branches she could reach and shook them while I ran around picking up all the lemons that fell on the ground.
Alex has plans to make preserved lemons, and I have plans to put lemon in basically everything – already I have a Moroccan chickpea & chicken soup that has lemon juice and zest, and a dal saag recipe with lemon juice, and of course: gin & tonics.
But a fairly typical Aussie classic is the lemon slice. I just used my first two foraged lemons to make a batch – they smelled amazingly good just as I was doing the zesting, here’s hoping they taste just as great!
Recipe adapted from taste.com.au:
- Grated/zested rind of 2 medium, ripe lemons
- 200g Arnott’s granita biscuits (or alternative!)
- 100g butter
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup desiccated coconut
- 2 cups icing sugar
- 40g softened butter
- Lemon juice
- Chuck the biscuits in a food processor until they’re fine crumbs. In a large bowl, add the lemon zest and coconut. Mix all together.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the condensed milk and 100g of butter until the butter is all melted.
- Pour the butter/milk mixture into the dry ingredients bowl and mix together.
- Grease a 3cm deep, 15.5cm x 25cm slab pan and add a layer of greaseproof paper to cover all surfaces. Leave overhang so you can lift the whole slice out when it’s set.
- Press the mixture into the pan evenly. Put it into the fridge for about 1.5 hours, or until firm.
- Mix icing sugar, softened butter and 2.5 tablespoons of lemon juice thoroughly in a bowl with a wooden spoon. When smooth, pour over the biscuit base and make sure it’s spread evenly. Put back in the fridge for another 30 mins, or until the icing is set (hard).
Chop into squares or rectangles!
Now, that was the first batch I made. On the second batch I got a bit more creative – put in slivers of coconut instead of a small portion of the desiccated coconut, and used half coconut cream and half sweetened condensed milk. For the icing I used lime juice. I want to do the whole thing with lime (instead of lemon zest), but limes are so expensive here right now! Alex also suggested BLOOD ORANGE SLICE, which sounds AMAZING, but it’s totally the wrong season for oranges right now. So, stay tuned!
In more urban foraging news, we discovered that the big, draping tree in our front yard is a weeping mulberry! And the branches are COVERED with unripe berries. So, here’s hoping we can keep the birds off and have a great harvest there, too. Jam!