As the Christmas-new year holiday season approaches, I’ll not only be looking forward to the celebrations: I’ll be recalling the spring, when, in a way, the festivities began.

Each spring, my husband and i walk a path from our North Devon home, through the neighbouring field and over the river taw where, just by the side of the path, there’s a magnificent beech tree. We give thanks as we pick some of the fresh young leaves: we are making beech leaf noyau, an alcoholic infusion we discovered in Richard Mabey’s book Food for Free. This leaf-picking process has become part of our ...


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