HOW TO: Forage in the Autumn in Britain

October 13, 2010 § 2 Comments

Do Not Eat - Amanita Muscaria is poisonous

Smart kids don’t go to the supermarket when they can go old-school (pre-industrial school?) and collect goodies from their nearest friendly forest (parks/patches of grass on laybys/windowboxes accepted also).

Mushrooms:
Now is the perfect time to collect mushrooms, as they flourish during the Autumn. There are some delicious specimens to be found, including cep, giant puffballs, field mushrooms and wood blewitt. Exercise caution and take a guidebook, as some common mushrooms as easily confusable with poisonous varieties. Most are delicious fried, coated in breadcrumbs or dried and used in risotto.

Nettles:
Found growing almost everywhere in Britain all year round, nettles are high in vitamins and minerals and are delicious when made into a classic soup or served like spinach, sprinkled with parmesan.

Wild garlic:
Perfect for first-time foragers. Abundant and strong-smelling, wild garlic grows in woodland, often near bluebells, and is actually milder to cook with than its domestic version. Its leaves are delicious eaten raw in salads or cooked in soups.

Seeds:
Any collected from the mustard family – such as shepherds purse, garlic mustard and horseradish – can be used as home-grown pepper to add a subtle kick to dishes. Fennel and dill seeds are sweet and aromatic, and when dried work well with fish.

Acorns:
Wild food gourmets swear by them. An acquired taste when raw, as they are high in tannin, they can be made into flour that is perfect for adding a nutty taste when making muffins or bread.

Hazelnuts:
Hazelnuts can often be seen on the ground beneath the small trees or bushes they have grown on, and if they are recent windfalls they are likely to be good for eating. They are delicious baked in cakes, used to make nougat or ground and made into hazelnut spread.

Sweet chestnuts:
Not to be mistaken with horse chestnuts, which are not edible. Chestnuts can found plentifully under trees in October, and are good eaten raw, baked, roasted (with a small slit in them to avoid explosions) or made into puree. They have high starch but low protein and fat levels.

Elderberries:
Speaking of alcoholic drinks, an autumn fruit that is excellent for making wine is the Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) and it is easy to gather plenty of the clusters of juicy black berries that are often so plentiful they weigh down the branches causing them to bend. Elderberries can be combined with blackberries in jelly and are excellent in moderation added to apple pie to which they will impart both their flavour and colouring.

Blackberries:
Are definitely ripe in September, and tend to be sweeter than the early ones. Their high sugar content makes them ideal for making homemade wine and cordials as well as pies, crumbles, puddings, jams and jellies.

Roots:
dandelion and chicory can be made into coffee. Horseradish, parsnip, burdock, evening primrose, wild chervil are all around. Autumn roots tend to be a little sweeter than spring ones due to their higher insulin content. These can be used in stews and stir fries.

Rosehips:
are a fantastic source of vitamin C and make a good syrup or, when dried, herbal tea.

Crab Apples:
This small tree is the ancestor of all cultivated varieties of the popular fruit and although it is often very sharp and unpalatable it has many uses, including being used to make jellies and cider.

Sloes:
again too acidic to eat but can be made into jelly and gin.

Hops
Found in hedgerows and clambering up small trees, fences and poles. Hops are ready to pick by mid-September and as well as being a main ingredient for making homemade beer, they can be dried and used to stuff a herbal pillow to help in getting a good night’s sleep.

xx Sian

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