Late summer is drawing near and what a great time to get outdoors foraging. With so many plants ripe with juicy fruits, it’s the perfect time to practice your foraging skills and learn about gathering and eating exactly as Mother Nature intended. Let’s take a look at some of the best natural gifts on offer amongst the colourful, brimming hedgerows, along with some tips on foraging etiquette.
Blackberries are already ripening and almost ready for picking from amongst the brambles. You’ll find them in abundance throughout woodland, in hedgerows and around parks right up until around mid-September.
Blackberries are perfect for baking and jam making, that’s if you can steal yourself from munching them as you pick! Here’s a lovely blackberry cake recipe from The Happy Foodie. Enjoy!
Once the flowers of the elder tree have faded, the small, purple-black berries start appearing in clusters between August and October. Take a look around your local woodland or park hedgerows and you should spot them now, ripe for the picking.
Elderberries are perfect for making into delicious crumbles, pies, syrups, sauces, chutneys and jams and even liqueurs. You’ll need to remove the berries from the stalks – a fork does the trick – but take care as the juice is like ink and prone to staining.
The Woodland Trust has listed a few elderberry recipes which look rather tempting; why not give them a try?
The fruit of the hawthorn tree, haw berries are small, red and hard. Whilst you’re not going to be able to indulge in these berries straight from the tree as they are just too bitter, you will enjoy their wonderfully fruity flavour in everything from jams and jellies to ketchups, dipping or stir-fry sauces and even wine. Check out this hawthorn berry ketchup recipe from Monica Shaw. Yum!
If you are wary of foraging for fear of picking something inedible or even poisonous, why not take a little course? There are plenty up and down the country that can help you get a proper taste of the great outdoors.
It’s good to do your research. Get to know where certain berry-bearing plants grow and watch them throughout the year so you learn when they flower and fruit. You could also harvest and germinate seeds to grow your own wild food sources at home.
Late summer is an excellent time of year to harvest berries. They’re also an easy way to start your foraging journey, as they’re often easily accessible and easy to identify. Don’t forget that late summer and early autumn is a great time of year for the likes of apples, crab apples, figs, pears and mulberries, too; you don’t have to go for the usuals!
There are a few rules to follow if you’re going to go out foraging. Firstly, always ask permission unless you’re on public land. The likes of nature reserves will usually allow you to fruit pick, but will expect a donation which they’ll plough into the upkeep of the land.
Secondly, always be sure to leave plenty for wildlife. Birds, squirrels, dormice, butterflies and deer all rely on nature’s fruity goodness at this time of year.
Lastly, forage with care. Don’t trample over plants, and pick gently so as not to damage the bush or tree.
All in all, don’t be afraid to forage! Yes exercise some caution, but some research and a good foraging course can help with that. Foraging could take your outdoor experiences to a very tasty new level!
Blackberries, elderberries and haw berries photographs copyright Sarah McInerney. Please ask permission should you wish to use them.