Autumn heralds the time of year when the fruits and nuts take prominence in the hedge and woods around the country, most are good sources of food for small mammals, birds and invertebrates.
Hazel nuts (Corylus avellana) are found in groups on the stem/branch of the tree, if you are lucky enough to beat the squirrels to them. Found in most woodlands and hedges around the county these nuts are a great food sources for small mammals, birds and humans alike.
Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) fruits or more commonly known as sloes are abundant at this time of year, also provide a food source, but these are very sour in taste, best known for making sloe gin with, they need to be bletted (allowed to have a frost hit them) which allows the fruit to sweeten a little, before being used.
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) fruits can be used as a fruit leather (a means of storing fruit over winter, the fruits are crush and made into a patty, which is sun dried) these are then used as and when required and add vital vitamins to diets. Mostly birds will get to these but this year there is an abundance, with many trees loaded.
Spindle (Euonymus europaeus) is a small tree found in hedges and woodland edges, it isn’t edible like hawthorn, blackthorn etc. but it does have uses. Its name makes one of these obvious, the timber was used to make spindles for the wool trade, knitting needles, skewers and pegs. The berries can be ground into a powder and used to treat head lice and cattle lice, indicating the poisonous nature of the seeds.
Dog rose (Rosa canina) of rose hips as they are commonly known are full of vitamin C, even more than oranges, it can be as much as 40% more. These are fully edible once processed (the hairs must be removed) and can be made into a syrup. Again wildlife will utilize these throughout the winter.
Acorns from the oak tree (Quercus sp.) are common and widespread, often seen as extremely bitter this is due to the tannin found within the nuts. This can be removed with leaching and the nuts can then be made into a acorn flour which can be added to bread or made into a basic bread in its own right. In world war two, the nut roosted made a good coffee alternative.
And finally the humble blackberry (Rubus fruticosus agg.), needs no introduction and probably the most well known berry that is foraged throughout UK.
Keep an eye open for them throughout the autumn months.
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