Blame nature if I hit the bottle

NOT since Wham! The Early Years have I been so attracted to a book.

Booze for Free, from Autumnwatch’s chief forager, Andy Hamilton, is surely set to be the most sought-after volume since Fifty Shades of Grey writes Georgina Wroe.

Had there been more to report from the allotment, I might not be driven to scouring the hedgerows for alcoholic comfort.

But, recently, even Dave the giant marrow has given up the ghost.

Dave was my big green hope to score highly at this year’s local giant veg competition. But Dave – named after Dave Cole, the legume-growing legend who gave us the seedling – has succumbed to some sort of unspeakable blight.

While he measures a good three feet, his nether regions have developed a yellowish hue and appear to have been eaten by slugs (or maybe a feral animal?) leaving bald, white patches.

Dave was the final glimmer of hope of this year’s plot. Now he is laid low, why not revert to alcohol?

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Enter Andy Hamilton (not the one who wrote Outnumbered or anything about Satan on Radio 4). This one writes and broadcasts about nature, plants, homebrew and foraging.

He also hosts walks close to his Brighton home, identifying what is edible and forage-able from our hedgerows. He then assesses them for both brew-ability and medicinal use.

Unlike many books which seem hell-bent on detailing how much kit the home-brew enthusiast might need, Andy is a minimalist.

“A fermentation tank, siphoning tube, a couple of demijohns (with air lock and bungs) and a few bottles, and you’re good to go.”

Elderberry port, rosebay willowherb champagne and a difficult-to-identify pomegranate tincture are among Andy’s more successful brews.

The blurb says: “If you garden or forage, can follow a recipe or make jam, and you enjoy a drink, this is the book for you.”

It continues: “Andy’s no-nonsense, easy-to-follow guide will enable the beginner and inspire the expert with over 100 recipes, including beer from yarrow, mugwort, elder and other foraged plants, great-tasting wines from fruit, vegetables and the hedgerows.”

Needless to say, the order is in.

Proof, if proof were needed, that the demographic profile of the allotmenteer is changing. Parked next to my clapped-out Polo last night was an Audi, a brand new Range Rover Freelander and a rather fancy Rover. It reminded me more of Milsoms’ car park than a municipal vegetable field.