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Beltane Blossom Picnic
Here in Edinburgh, we’re a little behind in the growing season - I remember when I was wee my Grandparents’ garden would be a good few weeks ahead of us, even just a couple of hours away! - so the cherry blossom is only fading now. Just a week after taking some of these pictures, blossom litters the pavements like Spring confetti, and only the palest petals are clinging onto the trees. However, there’s more than cherry blossom to come in this most beautiful of floral seasons, the apple blossom looking resplendent and wisteria and clematis climbing walls, fences and doors in the city.
The first al fresco meal of the year is always a long-awaited treat for me, and usually the weather for this to be something to savour coincides with blossom season. I think lockdowns have made us all want to be outside more - and while I do love a picnic all year round, the first warm days certainly make it infinitely more enjoyable.
The first step is to find a quiet green space nearby, which in a city can be easier said than done! We are lucky here in Edinburgh to live in reach of many parks, nature reserves and woodlands but, particularly post-lockdown and on sunny days, they can be unbearably busy. Not that it isn’t nice to share these spaces - but if your day job is incredibly busy like mine, an introverted soul needs its quiet. I find heading to the less obvious locations a little further out, or planning an early picnic (maybe a picnic brunch) helps to reduce the number of passersby so you can enjoy the quiet.
I tend to pick a picnic spot using nature’s furniture - a fallen tree or stump, a shady bower, a blossom partition. Both my picnic blanket and basket were charity shop finds; I love their vintage look and feel and the idea of giving them a new life, as well as carrying the spirit of picnics past. Look out for them at times of year you wouldn’t expect to use them. A wet February day means less people will be looking and you might get a bargain. I still regret leaving behind the vintage deckchairs I spotted in the Morningside Cancer Research because it was pouring with rain outside…
Then for the fun bit: Spring picnic food. The perfect picnic hamper includes eats that are easy, portable and minimise mess. Focaccia cut into generous slabs and parcelled individually in beeswax wraps is ideal - Via Aemilia here in Edinburgh does the best bread in town. A simple pasta salad is a lovely addition: I tend to make extra portions of my go-to Anna Jones one-pan pasta with generous lemon zest, asparagus and chard the night before, which is just as tasty cold from a Tupperware box at a picnic the next day. Quick homemade hummus (Elly Pear’s recipe on Instagram for extra smooth hummus is delicious) and something to dip in it always vanishes remarkably fast.
Puddings have to be portable and suitably Springlike. Fresh fruit - like the first local strawberries - is always a winner, and I tend to bring a traybake or pudding in jars. I’ve made Mary Berry’s lemon drizzle traybake hundreds of times and its never failed me yet, delicious and easy to package and share. Jam jar Eton Mess is easy to make with shop bought meringues, whipped cream and fresh fruit, but incredibly tasty.
To wash it down, I’m finishing the rest of last year’s elderflower cordial before I start on this year’s batches, hopefully soon - and a flask of tea is obligatory. It just seems to taste better outside. Take a moment to savour it, watching the green leaves unfurling, the bluebells waving or the blossom falling, wherever you enjoy your picnic.
And hey - if it rains, you can always enjoy it indoors.