I mentioned in passing in Fighting for Birds (p103) a conversation with a man in the Nene Valley who told me that when he was a lad he had been able to fill a baker’s tray with Lapwing eggs in an afternoon. I somehow doubt that you could do that in a full day with a fast car and the whole of Northamptonshire at your disposal these days. Such is the loss of wild abundance.
I was reminded of this when reading an old recipe book (Home Made Country Wines, Countrywise Books, compiled by Dorothy Wise, 1964, 5 shillings) where the first of four recipes for Dandelion wine required 1 gallon of Dandelion heads (no stalks!) a gallon of water, an orange, a lemon and loads of sugar. I do know what a gallon is, but I’m slightly struggling to work out how many Dandelion heads are needed for a gallon of them. More than are in my quite dandelioned lawn though I think.
Still, maybe I should give it a go. And then there is May wine (only 2 pints of May blossom needed), Oak leaf wine (a gallon of oak leaves), various elderflower and elderberry concoctions and several Cowslip wines (as well as lots of garden fruit, flower and vegetable wines).
These recipes either say something about the desperation of country people for alcohol, the price of that alcohol or the abundance of the ingredients. Or perhaps how much time people had without TV and mobile phones to get out and pluck.
Hic! Pass the Rioja por favor.