Spring is wonderful and, as I’ve said before, my favourite time of year! All the obvious things like baby birds, lambs and flowers bursting into life are lovely… but one of the most gorgeous things to me is the emergence of beech leaves. I know, a bit weird, but there we are!
One day, the hedge seems dull and uninteresting, speckled with narrow brown pointed buds – the next, it is smothered in delicate lime green tissue paper fluttering in the breeze. Beech leaves are so delicate and so fine and tissue-thin when they emerge, they are just breathtaking.
Goodness knows what my neighbours think as the arrival of beech leaves is yet another reason for me to be spotted rummaging around in the hedgerow, but rummage I must!
Fresh from the tree, beech leaves are a fine salad vegetable, as sweet as a mild cabbage, though much softer in texture.
My friend, Julia Horton-Powdrill – she of the food foraging in Pembrokeshire, uses beech leaves to make a potent liqueur called Beech Leaf Noyau.
Julia says: “Pack a glass jar about nine tenths full of the very young, delicate, clean leaves. Pour gin into the jar, pressing the leaves down all the time, until they are just covered. Leave it to steep for about two weeks.
Strain off the gin which should now be green in colour (although mine is quite often more brown!). To every 500ml of gin add 300g sugar dissolved in 250ml of boiling water. You can add an optional splash of brandy if you fancy it! Mix the warm syrup with the gin and bottle when cold.”
Sounds great to me – cheers!