Autumn is a great time to head outdoors for some foraging.
Go for a walk in September and you’ll find an abundance of edible wild food.
It's when hedgerows and trees are heavy with the jewel-like colours of ripening fruits and nuts.
It's a fantastic way to get the whole family interested in the great outdoors, reduces food-waste and, of course, is a great opportunity to spend some quality time together.
If foraging sounds like something you might be interested in, autumn is the ideal time to get out there and give it a try. Food tastes so much better when you've foraged your own supplies and cooked them up over a fire you've built yourself under the stars.
If you're going out and about, please do make sure you are confident that you have correctly identified your findings. The old saying 'When in doubt, leave it out!' is certainly one to keep in mind.
And remember to only pick what you need, be sure to leave some food for wildlife to eat too!
The blackthorn is best known for its abundance of tart, acidic fruits made to make the autumn essential sloe gin. The blue-black berries are best when picked from late September onwards.
Blackberrying’ is a traditional foraging activity that is still widely enjoyed by Brits today. These unmistakable fruits are grown on a prickly shrub which is known to grow in woods, hedges and heathland. Make sure to pick the berries when they are a deep purple, almost black in colour.
While elderflowers are great to make a summery cordial, their berries should not be forgotten. Like rosehips, elderberries have a high vitamin C content. The berries are very versatile, and can be used to make fruit vinegar and syrup, and added to hedgerow jam
Hazel bears its crop from late August and is commonly found in woods, hedgerows, and gardens. If still green when found, the shelled nuts are a perfectly safe snack to nibble on whilst out walking or can be saved for later to be used in a recipe. To avoid all of these nuts being taken by squirrels, it is advised to collect hazelnuts in late August to mid-September when they are young and green.
Each beech tree produces a bumper crop of nuts every 4-5 years. These nuts make a tasty raw nibble, just scrape off the brown skin to reveal the triangular seed. These can be used in a similar way to pine nuts, however, can be slightly toxic if consumed in large amounts so be sure to eat a small amount at a time.
Not to be confused with the horse-chestnut which produces conkers! The chestnut tree has quite slender, serrated leaves. The green husks that hang from the branches are pretty spiny – so do be careful! When these husks burst open you will see the familiar brown nuts inside, usually two or three per pod.
Traditionally chestnuts are roasted over a fire (ideal for glampers with firepits). The shell will crack open and the skin will come away easily when they're cooked. You'll be left with the delicious golden, mild-tasting nut inside. These are great chopped into dishes of greens or simply enjoyed as they are.
Packed with vitamin C, rosehips are great ones to use in cooking as we approach the winter months – they are notoriously good for fighting off colds!
These small reddish-orange, oval-shaped seed pods belong to the rose plant and can be found in hedgerows. Typically used in jams, jellies and even herbal teas, the rosehip has an almost tangy taste. Be careful of thorns when picking and remember to remove the seeds and tiny hairs inside (these hairs were traditionally used to make itching powder).
Though it's not too common to find a walnut tree growing in the wild, if you do you're in for a real treat! The ones you buy in the supermarket have been dried for keeping but if you come across growing or recently dropped walnuts ('wet walnuts'), they're delicious. Long summers are the ideal for walnuts and the trees will have shiny oval leaves that are slightly pointed with smooth edges.
Come autumn, green pods hang from the trees and contain the familiar wrinkly brown shell. This will be softer than the store-bought ones and easier to get into; the flesh of the walnut inside will be much damper too. Try to peel off the skin as it can add a slightly bitter taste and the white nut you're left with is smooth and creamy and crunchy.
This is a great one for nibbling as you walk or for chucking into salads, eating with cheeses or using for garnishes and sauces. The wet walnut is full of omega 3 and healthy fats. It's great.
You won't have tasted a strawberry like this before. Though much smaller than store-bought strawberries, these wild cousins have much more flavour. The plants grow close to the ground and spread pretty quickly. The fruit grows from the small white flowers that flourish in spring and summer and the leaves grow in clusters of three. They can usually be found along trails and hillsides or at the edges of woodland.
Wild strawberries are lovely eaten just as they are. That way you can really taste them!
And don’t forget essential oils make a great addition to any foraging recipes. If you would like to find out more there are some super tasty recipes in this blog. If you are interested in joining us for some guided foraging fun, book your spot for our September event with Krysia Chrzanowska-Hunt who will help you discover the wonder of the world on your doorstep.
Death cap mushrooms
The Amanita phalloides ‘Death Cap mushrooms’ serve as a reminder to all foragers to not eat mushrooms unless you are sure you can identify them and know that they are edible. These poisonous fungi can be found in woodland, often in widely spaced groups and under oak.
Traditionally named White Baneberry, this plant produces poisonous berries from May through to the end of September. Recognisable for their neon pink stems and eye-like appearance, these white berries should be avoided at all costs.
Safe for animals but poisonous to humans, this persistent plant grows year-round and in some pretty unlikely places, including pavement cracks, beach towns and rural areas. In autumn, poison ivy changes in colour to a bright orange, yellow or red, making it far more noticeable than in the spring or summer months.