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The APRIL Hedge

A month in the life of a Hedge!

April - Aibrean

This month was sacred to Venus among the Romans. The name may mean ’omnia aperit’ which means that everything opens.

Wood Sorrel comes into bloom especially on hedge banks near woodland. The Wild Strawberry is also in bloom. Also Marsh Marigold or Ranunculous comes out. The Wild Cherry and Wild Pear are ready to blossom. Spring vetch, the Dog Violet, the Cuckoo Flowers (Ladie’s Smock) and Cow-slips. Blackthorn is all in bloom.


The sky lark in full spate. Water-hens in ponds often under thickets of hedge will be sitting on their nests which can be nearly a metre above the level of the water. The swallows have returned and begin to build nests.


Sycamore trees and Hawthorn will be in full leaf, the Sycamore with its attractive seed tassels cascading downwards. The Crab-apple still has its pink buds. The Ash is always the last to lose its leaves, in about November, and the last to get them as well but at the moment it is in flower. In the Furze bushes you may find a hedge-sparrow’s nest with up to 4 eggs, it is often made of moss.

April Recipes

Nettle Quiche

Stuffed Dock Leaves

Chickweed and Cheese Soup

Spring Salad

Birch-shoot and Marmite Sandwiches Dandelion Wine

Nettle Quiche

Serves 4

Pick the young shoots, the four top leaves, of stinging nettles, wearing rubber gloves to do so!
Wash them and cook them in their own water, just as you would for spinach.
Add some salt, and simmer for about ten minutes until the leaves are soft.
They lose their sting when boiled.
Drain them and they are ready for use.

Cook the shallots in the butter for a minute or so.
Add the cooked nettles and stir over a moderate heat to evaporate any liquid.
Season to taste.
Beat the eggs and cream in a bowl until fluffy, season, and stir in the nettles.
Pour into the pastry case, sprinkle with the cheese and a little nutmeg, dot with more butter and bake for twenty-five to thirty minutes at 375·F, 190·C or gas mark 5.

Stuffed Dock Leaves

Choose young, small dock leaves and wash them, then dry them on a towel.
Make a stuffing with a mixture of cooked rice, grated cheese, chopped creamed spinach or comfrey, and seasonings.
Stir over a gentle heat in a little butter until well-mixed, then put a teaspoon of the stuffing on the dock leaf and roll it up.
Secure with wooden toothpicks and brush with olive oil, pack in an ovenproof dish arid bake at 350·F, 180·C or gas mark 4 for twenty to twenty- five minutes.
Serve warm or cold, as an appetiser.

Chickweed and Cheese Soup

Serves 4

Wash and trim the chickweed and cut off all the straggly roots.
Chop it finely and simmer it in the melted butter for ten minutes.
Stir in the flour, then gradually add the stock, stirring all the time.
Liquidise it and add a little top of the milk.
Stir in the grated cheese and serve when it has melted.

Spring Salad

Wash and tear the dandelion leaves, wash the hazel shoots and slice the tomato thinly .
Wash and shred the hedge garlic leaves and toss all together in an oily vinaigrette.

Birch-shoot and Marmite Sandwiches

Butter some very thin slices of fresh bread, half of them white and half of them brown.
Spread thinly with Marmite and sandwich with little birch shoots, washed and dried.
Cut off the crusts and cut into triangles.

Dandelion Wine

Pick the flowers on a sunny day in late April or early May when the blooms are fully out.
Cut off the stalk and green calyx, leaving only the yellow head.
Place these in a suitable, sterilised vessel, and pour the hot water over them.
Rub the flowers against the side of the vessel with the back of a sterilised wooden spoon to extract the flavour.
Cover and leave to cool.

Wash and chop the sultanas, thinly pare the lemon rind and squeeze the juice, discarding an the pith. Add these to the cool flower water together with the yeast. Replace the cover and fer- ment on the pulp for four days, pressing down the floating flowers and sultanas twice each day.

Strain out, press and discard the solids, stir in the sugar and pour the must into a sterilised fermentation jar: Fit an airlock, and leave in a warm room for about three weeks until the fermentation is finished. .

Move the jar to a cold place for a few days to encourage the wine to clear, then siphon it into another sterilised jar and discard the sediment. Top up with cold boiled water, add 1 Campden tablet ~ to prevent infection, bung tightly, and store in a cold place until

the wine is crystal clear. Bottle it and keep the wine until Christmas.
Serve it chilled as a social wine, it will be slightly sweet.

You can make elderflower and May blossom wine in the same way.
Use no more than 1pint / 570 ml elderflowers or 3 pints/1litre ~ 700 ml May blossom.

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