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Nature’s Feast Posted On 08 September 2021

September Foraging

 

September is a great month to dip your toe into the delights of foraging. The hedgerows and trees are laden with jewel-like fruits, berries and nuts just begging to be picked!

Beech nuts are a hidden gem that you can find in September. Beech trees produce a bumper crop of nuts every 4-5 years, so you may have to time it right to sample some of this treasure. They are tasty raw but if you’d like to use them in cooking, they come into their own. Scrape off the outer brown skin and you will see the triangular seed inside. Treat them similarly to pine nuts and sprinkle on salads and risottos. A good tip is to roast in the oven then place between two tea towels and rub to remove their shells.

Hawthorn leaves are often known as ‘bread and cheese’ – this is because some people eat the berries sandwiches between two leaves. The leaf is the bread and the berry is the cheese. This, however, is not a delicacy many enjoy. Instead cook the berries and use in jams, jellies, vinegar and ketchup. You can also make hawthorn schnapps.

Blackthorn is famous for its crop of tart, acidic sloes. Pick the berries after the first frost as the skin will then be softened and the juices will release more easily. If you pick earlier than this, freeze the berries at home or prick with a needle before using. Try making sloe gin, whisky, jams or vinegar.

Wild raspberries are a gem if you manage to find some. They have a sharper flavour than store-bought varieties and lend well to making sorbets. The young leaves can be made into tasty herbal teas. Some women swear by raspberry lead tea to induce labour! Look for wild raspberries in open woodland, scrub, heathland and occasionally hedgerows. Wild varieties often produce smaller fruit than cultivated ones.

Wild strawberries are around from July onwards in deciduous woodlands and shady scrub on chalky soil. They have a powerful flavour and the addition of just one or two berries adds a distinct taste to puddings such as panna cotta or crème brulee.

Foraging is great fun and can produce some tasty finds but should only be done if you know what you’re looking for. If you are at all unsure about something you come across, err on the side of caution and leave it alone!

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