Suffolk: Jam-makers in a pickle at bad hedgerow harvest

THE ART of fruit preservation is one of the joys of rural life.

But jam-makers, chutney champions and slurpers of sloe gins in Suffolk and Essex now face a lean autumn and winter after wet weather caused one of the poorest hedgerow harvests in living memory.

Crops of blackberries, haws, crab apples, elderberries and sloe berries are all said to be scarce after deluges throughout June and July knocked off flowers and prevented pollination.

In some villages, supply of fruit is so low that Facebook discussions have been set up to locate sloes, plums and crab apples.

Jane Sago, a member of East Suffolk WI, said the amount of fruit she had seen in the hedgerow had dropped dramatically.


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“The number of things like blackberries has definitely dropped. Even on my allotment and cultivated blackberries they have gone down. I’ve also found that things like elderberries and crab apples, which were abundant last year, aren’t so prolific”, she said.

Mrs Sago, 62, of St Mary’s Close, Bramford, near Ipswich, said that although she had some fruit remaining from last year, she was concerned she would be unable to hand out jams and preserves as gifts.

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She added: “Quite often I give my jams as presents or make up food hampers for the elderly.”

Justine Paul, who organises farmers’ markets in Lavenham, Assington and Sudbury, said some of her suppliers had noticed a decline in fruit.

Ms Paul, who was part of a Lavenham-based Facebook discussion to track sloe berries - used to flavour gin, vodka, jams and pies - added: “It’s definitely been a very bad year for sloes, there’s been a lot of discussion about it locally.”

Although some home cooks and small producers are turning to last year’s frozen rich pickings, others face having to buy in more expensive fruit.

Jenny Gibbons, who runs jam and preserve company Fruits of Suffolk, in Crowfield, near Ipswich, said apples had been particularly badly hit by the weather, with both orchard trees and hedgerow trees producing little.

“On my tree I haven’t got any apples at all. It was a bumper crop last year but I don’t know how it’s going to affect me this year.”

She added that she expected the price of apples to rise due to low supply.

Andrew Bullard, commercial manager of regional food group Tastes of Anglia said: “The adverse weather conditions this summer have, without a doubt, had an effect on the availability of soft fruits used in production of local jams, preservaments, chutneys and jellies. Local producers will find it more difficult this year to source local top quality seasonal fruits.”

A spokesman for Suffolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group said it was “one of the worst” hedgerow crops in memory, affecting everything from crab apples to sloes.”

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