I love to forage – growing up berry picking was a big traditional activity for us women-folk. From the raspberries in my grandmother’s suburban Ontario garden to the lowbush cranberries (lingonberries to Europeans) my mother and I picked after the first frost in early October up in Yellowknife (my sub-Arctic hometown), berrypicking was part of spring, summer and fall.
When I was younger and we lived even farther North we picked blueberries – I remember taking boats out onto the Arctic Ocean in the spring to outlying islands. The Inuit men harvested soapstone for traditional carvings while I stayed with the women and girls picking blueberries and dying our fingers a delicious brown.
I picked these sloes almost 2 months ago, in Sussex. As usual this act brought home the disconnect between my childhood on the Arctic (and sub-Arctic) Canadian tundra to my current urban existence. Just the fact that I picked these from dividing hedges in a farmer’s field was surreal: there were no farms where I grew up – not enough top soil and a growing season of about 9 weeks.
We don’t have sloes in Canada, but I am embracing the customs of my adopted homeland with vigour, and the above berries are now infusing 5 whole litres of gin in my back garden. Some will be sold at the upcoming Christmas version of the underground farmer’s and craft market, but if you’re interested in purchasing, or hear more stories about my Arctic childhood, drop me a line.