03
Oct

Foraging in Autumn: Nuts and Berries

forest school, touch of the wild, sweet chestnut, foraging

 

Autumn has arrived, and as the leaves turn beautiful shades of Orange and Brown, the hedgerows are full of ripening nuts and berries. Here are some of the delicious natural treats to look out for in October:

 

Hazelnut (Corylus avellana)

A common tree in woods, hedgerows and gardens, it bears its crop of nuts (also called cobnuts and filberts) from late August. (Photo: K. Jahne/Alamy)

 

forest school, touch of the wild, hazelnut, foraging

 

How to use it: if you’re picking hazelnuts early in the season, when they’re still green, the shelled nuts make a tasty nibble to munch on while you’re out walking. If you collect enough, the shelled nuts can be roasted in the oven or used to make hazelnut butter.

What to look for: it might be advisable to collect hazelnuts when they’re still young and green in late August to mid-September. Most ripe nuts are found in September and October, depending on the weather.

 

Rosehip (Rosa canina)

Rosehips are the red and orange seed pods of rose plants commonly found in hedgerows. (Photo: Pixel Shack 2/Alamy)

 

forest school, touch of the wild, reships, foraging

 

How to use it: the hips have a fleshy covering that contains the hairy seeds (the irritant hairs were traditionally used by children to make itching powder). The outer layer is packed with vitamin C and they are renowned for helping stave off winter colds. They are good in wines, jellies, jams and and can be used to make a delicately flavoured rosehip syrup for cordial or pouring onto ice cream or pancakes.

What to look for: look for bright red rosehips from September to November along hedgerows and woodland fringes. Snip or carefully pull the hips close to the base of each pod (to avoid being attacked by prickly thorns).

 

Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa)

A favourite at this time of year, and a Christmas classic. Sweet chestnut trees are not native – they were introduced to the UK by the Romans. (Photo: Alamy)

 

forest school, touch of the wild, sweet chestnut, foraging

 

How to use it: the nuts can be baked, roasted, boiled or microwaved. Remember to score a cross in them to stop them from exploding when they are cooked. Once cooked and peeled they can be eaten as they are or used in desserts and stuffings. You can also candy them, puree them or store them in syrup.

What to look for: you’ll find the best crop at the foot of large established trees. Trees start dropping nuts from October and into late autumn and early winter.

 

Walnut (Juglans regia)

Walnut trees were first introduced to the UK by the Romans for their walnuts. (Photo: S. Norwood/Alamy)

 

forest school, touch of the wild, walnut, foraging

 

How to use it: crack open the shells to get to the nut. They can be eaten raw (when they’re ‘wet’), dried or pickled. Dried nuts can apparently be stored for around a year. They can be added to both sweet and savoury dishes.

What to look for: trees can be found throughout the UK often in large gardens and parks. The nuts are covered  with a green, fleshy husk that starts to split as it ripens. Pick them in late autumn.

 

Sloes (Prunus spinosa)

The blackthorn is best known for its crop of tart, acidic fruits used to make the deep-red, wintery drink, sloe gin. (Photo: T. Graham/Alamy)

 

forest school, touch of the wild, sloe, foraging

 

How to use it: the general rule is to pick after the first frost as it softens the skins and helps to release the juices. You can get round this by picking early and freezing at home instead. Make sloe gin or try using sloes for whisky, jams and vinegar.

What to look for: the blue-black berries are ready for picking from the end of September to December. In some years, blackthorn trees along hedgerows and fields are heavy with fruit.

 

Find more top foraging finds in October and information on Responsible Foraging, visit the Woodland Trust website.