When I was a little girl we used to pick and eat young hawthorn buds in the spring on our way to school. My mother told us they were called 'bread and cheese'. This is the sort of thing my mother is generally right about, and indeed, this proves to be no exception. I have in front of me Dorothy Hartley's Food in England. It has this to say: 'Hawthorn buds. The leaf buds are called by children "bread and cheese"--in Welsh, "Barra cause". Pick and use as "salading", between bread and butter.'
So I have done just that, gathering my buds along the lane to Stowe Pool. I wanted you to see the hawthorn leaves, so mine are open sandwiches. My only other deviation from Dorothy Hartley is that I washed the leaves. This was something we never bothered with when we were children, and possibly we should have done, given that we grew up under the shadow of Pitstone Tunnel Cement Works, and were probably ingesting concrete with our leaf buds.
Owing to the constraints of the Dukan diet, I am currently not eating bread. (Bread is now in sight again, but more on Dukan later.) So I invited my older son to be my taster. His verdict: (shrug) 'Tastes like bread and butter with a bit of grass on.' When he learnt that I was intending to quote him for the purposes of this blog, he revised his opinion: 'An exquisite taste sensation that blew my mind. And what's good about it is that it's a green source of food. I am going to leave now.' He watches a lot of cookery programmes.
I suspect that I should have tried this last week, when the buds were smaller and more tender. I really need to consult my younger son to get a second opinion, though perhaps his palate has been dulled by the other things he eats (pencils, Biros, paper, card, wood, TV remotes). Both my sons used to eat hawthorn buds on the way to school too, which alarmed other parents who had not, like me, grown up in the country (albeit a part of the country encased in concrete).
Having tried hawthorn bud sandwiches, I'm rather excited by the idea of foraged food sources. Here in Lichfield members of the cathedral congregation think that shopping in Lidl instead of Waitrose counts as a bold foraging endeavour. But I see from Food in England that there are whole hedgerows bursting with possibility. Hawthorn flower liqueur, rowan jelly, candied cowslips, cooked ashen keys and buttered hop tops, to name but a few.