Guide To Autumn Foraging
Our ancestors foraged nearly all of their food, but hunting and gathering fell by the wayside. Yet in the last decade, foraging has made a comeback. Autumn is one of the core seasons for foraging, so now is an ideal time to get involved.
Foraging isn't merely about finding free food, it also has these benefits. Foraging reconnects us to nature, which in turn improves mental and physical health, it is sustainable, and provides nutritious plant based foods for free.
While the act of foraging seems simple, it is best to not gather anything you cannot identify with absolute certainty. Some plants and mushrooms are poisonous.
THINGS YOU CAN SAFELY FORAGE THIS AUTUMN
Nettles – These are easily identifiable and versatile in the kitchen.
Common sorrels – Go for the small-stemmed, young leaves, which can be used in salads.
Thistle – Every species is edible, and thistles are packed with nutrients.
Dandelions – Every part of the plant is edible, raw or cooked.
Blackberries – When it comes to fruit, blackberries are easy to spot but peak in September. Blackberries can be made into so many delicious recipes, try our Jammy Blackberry & Almond Cake Slices.
Apples and crab apples – Granny Smith apples typically ripen in early November, making them a late autumn foraging favourite.
Rosehips – The red fruits that grow on rose plants, full of antioxidants and vitamin C. Add them to a cup of tea, turn them into jam or marmalade, or eat them raw—so long as you avoid the hairs growing inside the fruit.
Sloes – These berries grow on blackthorn trees, and they're perfect for making gin, try our Sloe Gin Recipe here.
Acorns – These contain bitter tannins, and therefore must be leached (boiled or soaked) before they're cooked or consumed.
Hazelnuts – Squirrels rarely leave nuts alone as they ripen, so chances are, any wild hazelnuts you collect are still green on the inside. Once they're home, leave them to ripen in a dark and dry place.
Sweet chestnuts – The often roasted nuts are incredibly abundant in autumn.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE HEADING OUT
How much should you take?
As with anything you forage, respect the land and take only what you need. Some foragers use a 30% rule, never taking more than a third of available bounty.
Where to forage?
Generally speaking, foraging is legal in the UK as long as it's done for personal consumption and on one's own land or common land. If in doubt, look online to see if the site has prohibitions, and when it comes to private land, always ask the owner's permission. Wherever you go, avoid looking near busy roads or on farmed land since these areas may have been sprayed with pesticides.
What time of day to forage?
In the autumn, you can forage any time of day, but it's best to not go out when it's raining— moisture will cause fruits too quickly mildew.
Don't be disappointed
Finally, don't be discouraged if you return home empty-handed. You will have gotten exercise and enjoyed a dose of solitude or quality time with friends and family. At the end of the day, all of the experts agree that the best thing about foraging is that it reconnects us with nature.
If you are interested in finding out more about foraging there are plenty of courses and walks around the country, search online for something local to you and enjoy the great outdoors.