You always know it’s autumn when it suddenly becomes crunchy underfoot, and you find yourself having to dodge falling (or squirrel-dropped) objects hurtling down from the treetops above.
It gets you to thinking, of all these forest goodies that are making their way southwards from the trees at this time of year, are there any that could be put to good use? Instead of crunching them into the ground, isn’t there something useful we could be doing with nature’s autumn gifts? Well yes indeedy there is! Read on for this month’s useful foraging facts!
We discovered in our last blog, forest fruits, that acorns are, perhaps surprisingly, edible for us humans. Not in their raw form though, as we advised, but leached then roasted they can be made into acorn coffee and acorn stew and, to satisfy that sweet tooth, acorn brittle (see the forest fruits post for a delicious, easy-bake recipe). So the next time you’re wading through masses of ripe acorns (not the green ones – they are NOT edible!), swoop some up into a bag, whisk them home and get to work cooking up some natural home delights. For more ideas and recipes, take a look at the Woodland Trust website.
Here we go! Those prickly green balls of delight are finally dropping from the horse chestnut trees. You’ll need to get in quick though before the kids nab them for their annual conker smashing championships, but be sure to grab yourself a few because these shiny gems have much more to offer than you might think. Firstly, conkers are said to ward off spiders. Whilst there’s no scientific evidence to back this up, you’ll find thousands of people have sworn by this practice for many years. Dot them about the house, in corners of rooms is good, and watch as the spiders give them a wide berth. Conkers are also said to be a remedy for bruises and sprains thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties that were once used to treat ailments in horses.
Maple seeds are fascinating to watch as they whirl their way down to the ground. One of nature’s wonders! But did you know the seeds are protein rich and widely used in bushcraft survival? They are similar to acorns and the taste will vary from tree to tree. Boil them up for about a quarter of an hour so they’re soft, then drain them off and add some butter and spices to taste. Roasted maple seeds are also fantastic tossed into a salad or sprinkled over soup. They are also superb stirred into mashed potato. Simply place on a baking sheet and blast for about 10 minutes before you put them to the use of your choice.
OK it might be a little bit too early just yet for pine cones, but hey, a bit of forward planning never hurt anyone. So aside from crafting Christmas decorations from them, what can we use this forest floor favourite for? Here’s something truly useful. Did you know you can use pine cones as natural bird feeders? Simply gather a few larger cones that are nicely opened out, thread a ribbon through ready to hang, then cover them in peanut butter, lard or suet and roll in bird seed. Hang in a tree or on your bird feeding station and voila, there you have a natural way to feed the birds during the winter, which we all know is so important.
So there you have it. But maybe we’ve only just scratched the surface? Perhaps there are other forest floor offerings you’ve found good uses for? If you know something we don’t, please let us know! In the meantime, enjoy the wonders of nature that autumn has to offer.