‘Think Global Act Local’ was the mantra of the Green movement in the 1980’s Jonathon Porritt era before the greens lost their way and deserted science. In the 70’s and 80’s there was cohesive thinking in the Green Party and real concern for environmental issues. There’s a lot of sense in it – thinking globally but acting locally – taking responsibility for one’s local environment including the idea of sourcing local food and reducing the expense of transporting foodstuffs.
With that in mind, and also as a reminder that the Holme Valley gives us a beautiful ‘free’ fruit which other parts of the world can only dream of, this instalment of the Climate Emergency Diary is dedicated to environmentalists’ ‘Think Global Act Local’ mantra and to encourage more people to reap the harvest of bilberries which hang there each year just waiting, mostly in vain, to be picked…
God’s Own County
Whose bleak windswept land secretes the blessed bilberry… [Ang Ryman 2019]
I have heard mutterings of disagreement within the framework of a general agreement of England being God’s Country: geographical accuracy and theological origin or favouritism being disputed. I refer to the oft heard protestations that Dorset is God’s own county. ? . Of course, it may be that Dorset is indeed ‘God’s own county’ for it is in England and whose county could it ultimately otherwise be?
But as everyone knows, Yorkshire is God’s Own County, and as He bears witness at this time of year, the hardy bilberry adorns the moors and bears fruit to the Holme Valley in Yorkshire, fruit which Dorset has not been blessed with – news which of course brings me no comfort.
The Bilberry Pick
2019 has been a fantastic year for bilberries, a greater crop I cannot remember. Less than two hours of manual picking yielded 1500g (3lb 5oz) for a ‘two man’ pick (one chap and one lady as it happens). Beautiful views over The Holme Valley and Yorkshire provide the background scenery, but picking bilberries is not a task to undertake without focus and the eyes need to be trained on the bush and the fruit. Bilberries are small which means that there is a lot of hand movements needed to harvest a decent weight in an hour and a half. There was a breeze on picking day, which the experienced bilberry picker can use to clean the harvest of bilberry leaves and twigs as he goes (leaves and twigs are often found in larger proportions in the yield of an inexperienced picker [child], much to the annoyance of the chef). It is easier to sort the leaves and twigs from the fruit whilst picking, rather than leave it to do as an additional task in the kitchen.
The pick was finished with off with an extended chinwag with a passing Countryside Alliance chap who stopped to chew the fat about trees, housing, foxes, deer, badgers, buzzards, cormorants and grouse – and bilberries of course – “The same bushes produce each year…” he advised with his broad Devon accent. It came to pass he’s a ‘naturalised local’ having moved to God’s Own County from Devon 25 years ago… …I digress.
I am not a cook. Or a baker. Think of a complete novice in the baking and fancy-Dan kitchen stuff department and that’s me. That said – I have a Good Housekeeping Cookbook and I’m a good observer and have watched the ladies in my life bake and cook over the years, so – how hard could it be?
- Cheat pastry from the fridge section in the local Lidl (natch, thinking locally 😉 ).
- 146g of Castor sugar (it’s all I had) + 80g normal white (but don’t tax it) sugar to make 226g, sourced locally from my cupboard, which seemed just about in the right ballpark amount-wise for…
- 254g of Bilberries, rinsed – I like the number.
- Generous squeeze of lemon.
So I unrolled the pastry, cut round a plate (for the bottom), and a bowl (for the top), lined the dish thingy with a bottom layer, banged the fruit and sugar in the middle and put the top bowl sized lid on, with Puffin and Puffling adornments. I put it in the middle shelf of a pre-heated Rayburn at whatever temperature it is (Bake), because there’s no temperature setting on my Rayburn – rotating by 120 degrees (not 121!) after 8 and 15 mins.
I took it out after about 34 minutes, because I got a phone call after the second rotation and ‘forgot about it’ (the oven was cooling). And voila! Bilberry pie. Think Global Act Local! The fruit is like no other – velvety smooth. I’ll start eating it tomorrow.
Here’s a picture of yet another of this year’s bilberry pies that I helped to eat earlier (cooked by a proper cook – thanks [you know who you are]).
Think global, act local.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file