Woodland Watch – Week 17 – 10/07/2013

This week, I thought we would have a bit of a change…Its summer, the sun is out, the skies are blue and the woodlands and hedgerows are full of wild foods. It’s so easy in the modern world to walk into any supermarket and pick up fruit and vegetables, but our natural environment is absolutely bursting with a wealth of wild food that the supermarket shelves cannot boast.

Last week, we looked at the elder and the battered fritters that you could make. The summer months are an odd time for foraging. The fresh burst of green salad and herb leaves have turned bitter and mature, but the wealth of autumn fungi and fruits are not yet ready to eat…So what can we eat at this time of year?

Lets go for a walk in the woods and find out.

One of my favourite wild food recipes has to be comfrey fritters. A hairy plant generally found on damp ground beside rivers and ditches and on roadside verges and waste ground, it does not immediately attract the forager. It has become an important plant for organic gardeners, providing a rich fertiliser and used as a composting aid…but what could possibly turn this hairy leaf into an appetizing snack?

Well, when in doubt, in my opinion, most foods can be improved with a bit of batter!!! I know its not exactly healthy, and believe me I’m the first to advocate healthy eating…But comfrey leaf fritters dipped in sweet chilli sauce is a must try wild food!

Battered comfrey leaf fritters

Battered comfrey leaf fritters

Have a look at this website for a recipe:

http://neilcooksgrigson.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/357-comfrey-leaf-fritters.html

Ok, lets try and move towards something a little more healthy! Last week we looked at elderflower fritters, but there’s a huge array of recipes for food and drink that use these wonderful flowers. While they’re still available freely all over the hedgerows, why not try your hand at making some refreshing summer drinks?

Have you been to the supermarket recently and purchased elderflower cordial? It’s such an easy drink to make and can keep the flavour of summer alive in your kitchen all through the winter.

Elderflower cordial

Elderflower cordial

So, take a look at this recipe for elderflower cordial:

http://britishfood.about.com/od/recipeindex/r/efowercordial.htm

And when you’ve mastered this one, why not look into its alcoholic sisters. There’s a wealth of options from elderflower wines and champagnes to elderflower beer. The flowers are coming to the end of their lives this season, but if you’re quick you might still have a chance. If you’re too late, you’ve got plenty of time to plan your recipes ready for next summer.

Another plant still growing strong all over the countryside and still present all over our woodland, providing a wide range of foraging opportunities, is the nettle. Another foragers’ dream plant, nettles provide a huge array of wild food and drink opportunities. So, following on from the elderflower beverages, lets have a look at nettle beer!

Nettle Beer

Nettle Beer

Now making an appearance on supermarket shelves, nettle beer is proving a popular novelty ale, but there’s no need to buy it in the shops. Everyone can identify a nettle, they’re abundant all over our countryside, so why not make use of them?

When you collect the nettles you should only take the tops as there are many insects who benefit from the plant and you will be taking away their habitat if you take the whole nettle.

Have a look at these recipes to start making your own nettle beer:

http://www.selfsufficientish.com/strongernettlebeer.htm

Now, moving on to another less well known plant, lets take a look at sorrel. There are two distinct types of sorrel, they look different, require different growing conditions and are found in different locations. They share a sour, lemony flavour and both were once used much as lemons are today. Sorrel can be found from spring until autumn and the most common varieties are sheep’s sorrel and wood sorrel.

For tips on identifying sorrel, have a look at this link:

http://wildandslow.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/WILD_SORREL_FINAL.pdf

So, what can we do with sorrel? As with the other foraged foods we have looked at, sorrel has many, many uses. It can be used in everything from soups to salads and everything in between. Here we’re going to look at sorrel pesto, but just search around and you’ll come across a wide range of other recipes.

Sorrel Pesto

Sorrel Pesto

Look for wild sorrel among meadow grasses and flowers in spring and summer. Pick only fresh young leaves – older ones can taste bitter. Then take a look at this recipe for sorrel pesto along with a range of other sorrel recipes on this page:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/jun/07/recipe.foodanddrink1

You can’t possibly think about summer wild food recipes without touching on the wild strawberry. Summer is a wonderful month for sweet berries and with recipes ranging from tarts and fruit puddings to ice creams and pancakes a summer foragers recipe collection cannot possibly be complete without the wild strawberry.

Much smaller than its cultivated relatives, the wild strawberry packs a phenomenal amount of flavour into its small package.

Wild strawberries

Wild strawberries

Try eating them fresh in a fruit salad, pureeing them to make a sauce to go with other desserts or have a go at this wonderful wild strawberry ice cream recipe:

http://honestcooking.com/wild-strawberry-ice-cream-recipe/

Wild Strawberry Ice Cream

Wild Strawberry Ice Cream

We could go on and on with so many wild food recipes inspired from our own walks in the woods. We hope that this mini taste of wild foods helps you to get into looking around you when you go for your own walks, whether you’re in the woods, on the river banks or in the meadows. Wherever you are, the British countryside is bursting with a wealth of foods which put the supermarket shelves to shame…You just have to know where to look and what to do with the foods you find.

Happy foraging and don’t forget…If you’re not 100% sure what it is, don’t eat it until you are sure! Let us know how you get on and we’ll keep you posted on our own foraging recipes.

Join us again next week for another walk in the woods.

From the Treecreeper Arborists team.

http://www.tree-creeper.com

Identifying Tree Hazards

Graham Beer of Treecreeper Arborists carrying out an aerial inspection of a Horse Chestnut tree

Trees provide a wide range of benefits to the landscape, to wildlife and to ourselves, but how can you tell when your tree becomes unhealthy? Degeneration over time is natural and in the right environment deadwood provides vital habitat for a huge range of wildlife. In the wrong environment however, unhealthy trees can also be liabilities. Weak, diseased or stressed trees can cause damage to property and personal injury but in many cases preventative measures can significantly reduce risks and prolong the tree’s life.

One of the first measures you can take is spending a bit of time finding a reputable local arborist. Anyone can call themselves a tree surgeon and offer a service but this does not guarantee quality of work or that it will be carried out safely. Take a look at our blog entry: How to Avoid Rogue Trader Tree Surgeons for more information on selecting an arborist. A reputable arborist will be more than happy to visit and offer advice on your trees and they will provide a free, no obligation quotation for any work that needs doing. Arborists are highly trained and experienced and will be invaluable to you as a source of personal advice.

If you have trees on your property, you have a responsibility to keep them healthy and safe. Regular tree care can help to identify hazards and preventative measures can be taken to reduce the likelihood of damage to people or property.

What are the Signs?

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) suggests the following considerations which can help to identify tree hazards:

  • Are there dead branches in the tree?
  • Are there detached branches hanging in the tree?
  • Does the tree have cavities or rotten wood along the trunk or in major branches?
  • Are fungi present at the base of the tree?
  • Are there cracks or splits in the trunk or where branches are attached?
  • Have any branches fallen from the tree?
  • Have adjacent trees fallen over or died?
  • Has the trunk developed a strong lean?
  • Do many of the major branches arise from one point on the trunk?
  • Have the roots been broken off, injured, or damaged by lowering the soil level, installing/repairing pavements, or digging trenches?
  • Has the site recently been changed by construction, raising the soil level, or installing lawns?
  • Have the leaves prematurely developed an unusual color or size?
  • Have trees in adjacent wooded areas been removed?
  • Has the tree been topped or otherwise heavily pruned?
Take the time to check your trees over using this list of considerations. If you answer yes to any of the above questions, contact a professional arborist and ask them to conduct a safety assessment on your trees

Regular routine care should work out cheaper and is much better for your trees than sporadic hard pruning to get trees back under control. An experience arborist will be able to put together an ongoing management plan for your trees, saving you the need to remember what needs doing when.

If you live in Gloucestershire or the surrounding counties, visit our website at http://www.tree-creeper.com to contact us to arrange a free visit and health check for your trees (aerial inspections will be quoted for). If you live outside of our area, please feel free to contact us for advice over the telephone or by email.

Remember: Prevention is better than cure

How to Avoid Rogue Trader Tree Surgeons

Rogue Trader Tree Surgeon - Dangerous working practices such as those shown here can lead to injury to people, damage to property and damage to your trees. Don't take the risk. (Image Source: World of Trees Magazine)

Rogue trader tree surgeons have been operating in and around Gloucestershire for many years, however with the current economic climate more and more of them are establishing themselves.

Last week one of our customers was approached by a rogue trader tree surgeon at his property wanting to remove a dead tree in his garden. When the customer told him he had already received a quotation to have the tree removed and would not need his services, he became physically aggressive, leading to police involvement.

Tree Surgery is a specialist trade and involves far more than someone with a chainsaw. Tree surgeons undergo thorough training in a wide range of fields including chainsaw maintenance, chainsaw use, specialist climbing, aerial rescue, equipment maintenance and arboriculture. The danger to people and property is very high if tree surgeons do not have the appropriate training, experience and equipment.

After hearing about the experience one of our own customers has had and seeing the results of bad tree surgery around our local area, we wanted to send out some information to help you choose the right people to do the right job.

Treecreeper Arborists comply with all of the guidelines in this post , however we are not the only ones. There are many reputable tree surgery companies working in and around Gloucestershire and by following these guidelines, you can be sure to protect yourself from rogue traders.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I not choose a tree surgeon based on price alone?

Good tree surgeons have very high running costs to maintain liability insurance, wages for qualified, experienced staff and good tool maintenance. Rogue traders have none of the above costs and so can quote very cheaply.

If not done properly, bad tree surgery could lead to:

  • Injury to people
  • Damage to property
  • Serious damage to your trees that have taken many years to grow

Who is liable if anything goes wrong?

A good tree surgeon will have public and employers liability insurance (recommended minimum £5 million) which will cover themselves, any employees and any 3rd parties affected by an accident. Rogue traders very often keep their prices down by bypassing overheads such as insurance premiums. In the event of an accident, you may find yourself liable for injury to people and/or property if a 3rd party is involved.

What qualifications should I check for?

The governing body for tree surgery qualifications is the NPTC (National Proficiency Tests Council). As a bare minimum, a good tree surgeon will hold the following certificates:

  • CS30 – Maintenance of the chainsaw, on site preparation and basic cross cutting
  • CS31 – Fell and process small trees
  • CS38 – Climb a tree and perform aerial rescue
  • CS39 – Use of a chainsaw from a rope and harness
  • First Aid at Work

Any additional NPTC qualifications, Royal Forestry Society qualifications or degree level qualifications demonstrate more advanced training. Reputable tree surgeons pay a lot of money for their ongoing training; this is generally why they will be more expensive than their unscrupulous counterparts.

What questions should I ask an Arborist

1.   Are you insured?

If yes, ask them to show evidence of their Employers and Public Liability insurance (recommended minimum £5 million). If they cannot prove their insurance, don’t use this contractor

2.   Do you work to a British Standard?

If yes, which one? They should tell you they work to BS3998:2010 Tree Work – Recommendations

3.   What qualifications do you and your staff hold?

They must have NPTC certificates for chainsaw use both on the ground and aerially. For other NPTC qualifications, see above. Further training and qualifications are recommended. Ask to see copies of certificates.

4.   Will you provide a written quotation?

If no, reject this contractor

5.   Are you a member of a professional organisation?

In the UK there are several voluntary schemes certifying the competence of arborists through examination and regular reassessment including the Arboricultural Association Approved Contractor scheme, Tree Care Approved scheme and the ISA Certified Arborist scheme. Other arborists may be equally competent, but membership of a professional organisation shows a degree of commitment to good working practices and high industry standards.

6.   Can you provide a reference?

Reputable tree surgeons will be happy to show you examples of their work and provide references.

We hope that this information will help you to avoid the high risks involved in employing rogue trader tree surgeons. Treecreeper Arborists are confident in the high levels of service we provide and always encourage customers to get other quotations. We are certainly not the only tree surgeons operating to high standards in Gloucestershire and are more than happy to recommend other companies for customers to contact for comparable quotations.

Remember, with tree surgery, you really do get what you pay for and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

For more information, have a look at the World of Trees articles below:

TArb 26-27 Rogue update

Rogue 26-28 update