UK Foraging in September - “The berries are back & there are nuts to enjoy!”

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

Foraging and eating wild food is a fantastic way to build your appreciation for nature, not to mention a learning experience that comes with rewards right now and in the future.

Eat something wild everyday! In the UK, September is a great time to enjoy public footpaths leading through the British countryside where you can find hedgerows and fields decorated with edible wild food. Read on to learn typical finds during September.

I'd like to share with you what can be easily discovered and what useful things you can do with what you find. A point worth noting is that there are many wild fruits recommended for picking only after the first frost however, you can mimic this by placing your foraged goodies into the freezer for 24 hours, defrost and then use in your recipes.

Sloes (Prunus spinosa)

A blackthorn best known for its wintry drink, sloe gin.

What can I do with these?

Again, it is recommended to pick sloes just after the first frost as it allows the skin to soften but you can also pick early and freeze. My partner & I enjoy harvesting and bottling these blue beauties in an ordinary bottle of gin, placing the date on the bottle & storing them away. You can also try sloes in whiskey, jams and vinegar!

Key observations: the best picking is between September and December for sloes. Also note sloes have a more of a dull matte blue appearance, not a shiny surface.

Wild Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)

Wild and delightful self seeded raspberry hedgerows are a fantastic find and surprisingly widespread in the UK.

What can I do with these?

Better and sometimes smaller than shop bought varieties. Packed with antioxidants you can eat raspberries on their own, add them to a salad, your home made yoghurt pot sprinkled with broken up flapjacks, freeze to make smoothies, or include in tarts and jam.

Key observations: raspberries are a rich red colour and can be found in open woodland, heathland, scrub or hedgerows. They can also be found growing on drier ledges of basic crags and ravines. You only need to squeeze and pull down gently but be certain to check for any insects and of course blow and wash them off before eating. Watch out for earwigs! They love eating overripe raspberries.

Beech nuts (Fagus sylvatica)

These tasty nutrient dense nuts with their brightly coloured spiky velcro pods can be easily sighted among leaf fall near to the distinctive grey beech trunk. They contain 50% fat and 20% protein and once they are ripe the husk will open exposing a triangular shell and a small nut. You can crack open the shell covering by quickly biting it or simply peeling it with your nail. If you have quite a few, rub them together between towels and remove the white nuts, leaving them to dry out for 2-3 weeks before cooking.

What can I do with these?

Whilst eating a few beech nuts raw is OK it is better to wait until they have been roasted. This is because they contain a toxin called saponin glycoside that can cause gastric issues for some people. Roasting not only destroys the toxin but helps improve the flavour. Check out this beechnut muffin recipe by Practical Self Reliance.

Key observations: Beech trees have ovate leaves with points along the sides, about 2 to 6 inches long. These leaves are shiny green in summer, and turn copper-colored in the fall.They have distinct pairs of veins coming off a central vein, each ending in a tiny point at the leaf edge. The husks have spikes, but unlike chestnuts, the spikes are not particularly sharp but more of a velcro husk. When harvesting you will sometimes find empty shells which is a result of furry or feathery friends eating them first or due to the common beech tree disease.

Rosehip (Rosa canina a.k.a the Dog Rose)

A famous vitamin C packed flu fighter as well as an important oil ingredient for youthful glowing skin.

What can I do with these?

All rose hips are edible and serve a variety of edible purposes including jelly, jam, wine, tea, rosehip syrup for cordial or pouring onto pancakes or even cosmetics. Vitamin C is water soluble therefore be sure not to discard the juices after cooking rosehip. Remove the rosehip hair inside the hip to avoid irritating your throat

Key observations: Found growing on thorny branches in hedgerows and fields in the countryside. Be sure to grab the rose hip at its base and gently pull or snip. Whilst some species of Rosaceae contain small amounts of cyanide there are no scientific journals to suggest the rosehip seeds are poisonous.

Wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca)

Very nutritious and rich in Vitamin C and plant compounds that can help heart health and blood sugar control. They’re an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese and also contain decent amounts of folate (vitamin B9) and potassium.

What can I do with these?

Pick, wash and eat as is, blend in smoothies fresh or from frozen. They make the perfect compliment to most dessert dishes especially with cream. Strawberries also contain a tooth-whitening enzyme called malic acid. Its a win, win!

Key observations: September is a fantastic time to find these sweet small little red treats have seeds on the outer surface. They are found mostly close to the ground and like shady scrub in woodlands. They can also self seed quite well, which is good news. We have quite a few scattered across our garden here in the Cotswolds.

All you need to do now is enjoy your foraged treats by a natural wood burning fireplace. Use eco-friendly firestarter rolls, for a faster chemical free light.

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