It’s the free food season here in France. The hedgerows are heavy with blackberries, apples and pears are beginning to fall from the trees, and there’s a huge crop of hazelnuts and sweet chestnuts this year, busily ripening away. We’re out at least once a day picking blackberries. With our 75 acres we can’t keep up with all the berries, but we’re having a jolly good try. It’s just not an option not to pick them! We all love blackberry and apple crumble, and there’s a winter’s worth sitting there waiting for us. We’d be mad to ignore them.

However, a lot of people do turn a blind eye to the fruit. It never ceases to amaze us just how much fruit is left to rot on the ground around trees, even in gardens. It seems wicked!

The incredible thing around here is the number of cherry, apple and pear trees that grow in hedgerows. Presumably they were planted there specially at some time in the past, so that they would fulfil the dual role of providing protection to crops in the field and a supply of delicious fruit in summer and autumn. But that was a long time ago. No-one seems to pay them any attention any more. During our first year we picked up some windfalls, not wanting to tread on any toes. However, experience has shown us that no-one else is going to touch it, so we’ve started picking from the trees. What is the point of wasting nature’s bounty?

But there is some free food the French go for with a vengeance – mushrooms and toadstools. It will soon be mushroom season. We have a book showing you which types of fungi you can eat and which you can’t. The scary thing is that there is often a striking similarity between something that is ‘bon comestible’ i.e. edible, and one that is ‘mortelle’ (deadly). Our book also describes in gloating detail the various ghastly ways the different types of poison in some toadstools can kill you. I now get all our mushrooms from the supermarket. That’s one free food I can do without!