Isn’t Autumn a great time of year?!!
I didn’t used to think so! The bite of cold air that September brings always brought with it a sense of dread for the months ahead.
I don’t like the cold, or the dark nights, and used to suffer badly from seasonal adjustment (possibly still do to a degree!). I would get irritated by all the comments of “are you ready for Christmas” and the unnecessary ‘busyness’ that it brings.
….but over recent years I’ve found a great way of ‘getting through’ the season – to the point where I possibly even look forward to it…maybe just a bit!
And that’s thanks to foraging!!
First of all come the blackberries… Who hasn’t collected blackberries as a child and taken them home to make into jam or fruit crumble? If not you’re missing a treat! We also make blackberry vinegar which is delicious and can be used either as a salad dressing or to drizzle over pancakes…yum!
Plenty more berries soon follow and fill up my freezer. Elderberries are my favourite but don’t eat them raw – they can be made into a syrup and are high in vitamin C which is great for the immune system over the winter months. Sloes of course if you like Gin… or I prefer to infuse them in Brandy for a seasonal tipple!
Hawthorn berries are also edible. There’s not much substance to them raw as they have a pip almost the size of the berry, and they’re also a bit powdery, but there are plenty of recipes on-line if you want to give them a try. Last week we made a tea by boiling them up with spices and honey which was quite pleasant. Hawthorn berries are good for the heart, lower your blood pressure and are a powerful antioxidant.
This year I’ve also collected a batch of Rowan berries for the first time and thought I might try making a jelly…. I’ll let you know how I get on!
In addition to berries, Autumn is notably the best time of year for foraging mushrooms. We have been studying mushrooms for many years between us and are now familiar with a number of edible varieties but we ONLY EVER EAT THEM IF WE ARE 100% CERTAIN WHAT THEY ARE!!!! Notice the big disclaimer there!
Learning about mushrooms is fascinating and there are some really tasty treats to be found, the likes of which you will never find in a supermarket, but if you are new to mushrooms it’s worth going out with an expert a few times before trying anything yourself. There are some species which are deadly if eaten and many more that will make you rather ill – so please take care.
Other treasures to ‘harvest’ at this time of year include Hazlenuts (if you can beat the squirrels!); Sweet Chestnuts (not to be confused with conkers which are NOT edible!); Crab Apples; Nettle seeds (a topic for another post as nettles are truly AMAZING!!!) and Rose-hips…. which can be found in hedgerows long into winter, after everything else seems to have died off.
…and so it goes that the ‘foraging season’ sees me safely into the New Year!
It wouldn’t be ethical, however, to write about foraging without some notes of guidance. Number one rule has to be don’t eat anything if you’re not sure what it is! All the fruits mentioned above are easily identifiable from guide books or a ‘google search’ but if in doubt leave it behind… or sign up for a local foraging course for some hands-on advice.
Number two… though equally important… don’t over forage. Wild food is all about living in harmony with nature and, wonderful though these treats are, we are not the only species relying on them for sustenance. Please be sure to leave plenty behind for the small animals, birds and insects who’s existence helps to create them in the first place.
Otherwise, have fun! Learn about nature and enjoy some new flavours. There are endless recipes on-line so I’m not going to add to that here but if you have any questions feel free to give me a shout or share your experiences in the comments below.
Until next time! Jac.x