Top nuts, seeds and berries to forage for in September

Autumn is just around the corner, so make the most of the late summer bounty that can be found in Britain's woodlands and hedgerows. Here is our expert guide to the best nuts, seeds and berries to forage for this September. 

30th August 2017
How to forage for nuts and berries

Where to forage in Britain

Woodlands, hedgerows and the shoreline are good places to start your foray into foraging. However, you may discover local parks and even your garden provide foraging hotspots. 

How to forage responsibly and safely

It is vital to avoid damaging wildlife habitats or rare species, so check you are allowed to forage in the area before starting to pick.  When foraging, ensure you leave plenty behind for wildlife and only pick from an area with a plentiful supply. Only take what you plan to eat and take care to avoid damaging the roots of plants as you pick. 

Take a good field guide with you and always be sure you can positively identify any plant before you pick it, and never eat any plant you are unsure of. Taking part in a foraging course with an expert is a good way to learn how to forage safely and responsibly. 

Best berries to forage for in September

Blackberries

Bramble (Rubus fruticosus) cultivar, ripening berries
Bramble (Rubus fruticosus) cultivar, ripening berries/Credit: Getty Images

This prickly shrub grows in woods, hedges, heaths and waste places. It is usually found in a tangled straggly clump, with prickly, toothed leaves that turn reddish green in the autumn. The berries should be a deep purple-black when picked. We've rounded up our favourite blackberry recipes in our handy blackberry guide on where to pick, how to cook, storing ideas and the best blackberry recipes.

Hawthorn berries

Hawthorn berries
Hawthorn berries, also known as haws/Getty Images Stephen Power

This abundant shrub can be found in woodland, hedges, scrubland, on heaths and downs. Its leaves are a glossy green, deeply lobed and found on spiny branches. The round red berries (haws) grow in small bunches and have a gentle, apple-like taste.

They can be used to make wine or a sort of candy called hawthorn leather. This involves simmering the haws in a little water until soft and straining off the pips. You then add sugar as you would to make a jam but keep reducing the liquid until it thickens. When cool, it resembles a strip of candy. You can find a recipe/technique here

Rosehips

Rosehips Steve Austin
Ripe rosehips/Getty Images - Steve Austin

Used as a replacement for citrus fruits during the Second World War, they where widely collected and made into syrup for flavouring foods. They can be found in hedgerows, rough grass and scrub. It grows up to 3m (10ft) high. The leaves grow in pairs of toothed leaflets, the flowers are pink or white, and the fruit is orange-red and oblong shaped. Watch out for thorns and be sure to remove the inner seeds.

Elderberries

Elderberries growing on a tree, UK
Elderberries can be added to crumbles, jams, drinks or pies/Credit: Getty

Widespread and easily found in woodland and hedgerows. The bark is corky and the green slightly toothed leaves grow in groups of five. These small, dark red-black berries grow in clusters and can be added to sweet pies, crumbles or jams.

See our Elderflower guide: where to find it, how to identify and recipe ideas

Raspberries

Raspberries growing outdoors
Easy to pick and less spiky than blackberries - add to jams, pies or crumbles/Credit: Getty

An easily identified plant and less prickly to handle than its bramble cousin. Raspberries are coming to an end in September, but you should be able to get a harvest or two, especially from autumn fruiting garden escapees. It is only very slightly spiny with toothed oval shaped leaves, with a white underside. These rich red berries are formed from drupelets.

Wild strawberries

Wild strawberries held in hand
Keep an eye out for wild strawberries in country lanes and hedgerows/Credit: iStock

Although small and hard to find, these berries are well worth the search. They are bursting with flavour and best eaten straight from the plant. They can be found on grassy banks and in open woodland, low on the ground. The leaves are grouped in threes and are toothed and shiny.

Bilberry 

Bilberry shrub
A slow harvest but worth the wait...add bilberries to cakes or pies/Credit: Getty

This unassuming little fruit goes by a variety of names depending on where you are from in Britain – some know it as a bilberry or blueberry, and others as a whortleberry, wild blueberry or whinberry. By September, the low-lying bilberry shrub, often found on moorlands, heaths, and in birch, oak and conifer woodlands, will be ripe with berries – assuming the sheep haven't got to them first. It's a slow harvest, but once picked there are lots of great options for delicious recipes. Try making a bilberry and almond streusel cake.

Best nuts to forage for in September: nut identification guide

The arrival of September marks the beginning of nut season – learn to recognise six of the most common with expert forager Adele Nozedar 

Hazelnut

Hazelnuts
Hazelnuts are often found in woodlands and hedgerows/Credit: Getty

These nuts are ripe for picking when the leaves are just beginning to turn yellow. Often found in woods, hedgerows and scrubland, try giving a branch a good shake and searching below the tree. The leaves are roundish, downy and toothed while the nuts are encased in a green, leafy cup. Our editor Fergus went hazelnut foraging last year – here's how he got on.  The name is from the Anglo Saxon ‘haesel’, meaning ‘hat’, referring to the frilly case that covers half the nut. There are approximately 18 species.

Sweet chestnut

Sweet chestnut
Nothing says autumn like the sweet chestnut/Credit: Getty

The tree prefers a mild climate, lime-free soil and moisture. Unlike the conker (similar in appearance), the nuts are delicious. Pierce the skins, roast, peel and dip in butter and salt.

Acorn

Acorn kernels
Find the forest floor littered with acorns/Credit: Getty

Also known as the oaknut, acorn species vary in shape and size. Oak trees grow in woods as well as singly or in small groups. All acorns are edible, although tannins make most bitter.

Horse chestnut

Open horse chestnut
Conker season is coming! Fun to play conkers or make your own soap/Credit: Getty

Underneath their spiky, green outer case, conkers are glossy brown, round, up to 4cm in diameter and have a paler patch on the underside. They are not edible, but make a lovely silky soap.

Walnut

Walnut
Technically a walnut is not a true botanical nut but rather the seed of a drupe or drupaceous nut/Credit: Getty

These non-native nuts are something of a Russian Doll; a smooth, pale-green outer layer covers a further, knobbly shell that gradually hardens. The inner nut resembles two halves of a brain. 

Beech nut

Beech nut
Beech trees grow alone but are easily recognisable/Credit: Getty

Beech trees grow alone and in forests. This easily recognisable tree can grow up to 40m (131ft) tall. The tight, prickly shells open in early autumn, dropping their fruits to the ground. The nuts – also known as beech masts – were once fed to pigs.  The leaves are bright green, alternate and oval. The nuts grow with four, three-sided nuts to one brown prickly husk. It tastes similar to a walnut, but gather early, as you will have squirrels to contend with.

Seeds to forage for in September

Poppy

Contrary to popular belief, poppies in England do not contain opium. The seedheads are ready for picking when they are a grey-brown colour and have small holes just underneath the flat top. Put the whole seed heads into a paper bag and shake. Remove the heads; the seeds left in the bag can be used for sprinkling on bread, cakes and rolls.

Main image credit: Getty

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