I have always thought the countryside is best seen from a car or train window. But I like images of the countryside and country pursuits. In July 1945 the Ministry of Food issued this sweetie of a leaflet: Hedgerow Harvest. It was part of their massive campaign to get the country doing more making and mending and thus more saving of essential resources for the war effort.
The Ministry leaflets were very nice things. Illustrations and hints and recipes and patterns and such like. Usually they were aimed at women at home looking after the home – as most were in those days.
The copy gives away the probable urban origins of its intended reader:
‘There is a wealth of wild foods in our hedgerows and fields for those who are within reach of the countryside. None of this harvest should be wasted, but be exceedingly careful how you gather it in. There must be no broken hedges, no gates left open for cattle to stray through, no trampling of growing crops.’
As well as these cautionary words, the illustration of a family out berrying reinforces the cityness of it all. The chap rolls up his crisp sleeves and pulls branches down with his walking stick. The woman’s stylish dress and Vogue-meets-Gainsborough sun hat look just so but wouldn’t have done much to keep scratches at bay. Yet their baskets are full. The puppy has evidently had enough though and has sat down to watch the illustrator.
The leaflet gives instructions for jams and jellies, pickles, chutney and ketchup. Sloe and marrow jam might be an acquired taste but mushroom ketchup sounds intriguing. Unfortunately it seems to have involved days watching salted mushrooms stew in a bowl.
So I go back to admiring the cover instead and thinking how great that title typeface is, curling off like peas on a growing frame.
Charming! Oh Jane but you are missing the satisfaction of ‘food for free’! Lovely memories of those long ago Sunday outings to collect blackberries and nuts when I was a little girl. My sisters and I would crack nuts with our teeth! And our Dad too would use a walking stick to pull down those wickedly thorny brambles for us to pick the juicy blackberries. Happy days! I still pick sloes for sloe gin Christmas gifts – but now my utterly wild garden provides enough blackberries!
I have missed the food for free aspect, you are right. But cracking nuts with teeth sounds like an extreme sport.