As a nation, we spend an incredible amount on food, much of which is wasted. It’s kind of crazy when you consider the amount of free food we can find all around us. To get you foraging for freebies, we’ve created this brief guide to autumn’s wildest food.
We thought we’d ease you into foraging with a berry that’s not edible on its own, but that will really liven up your gin. The sloe berry is a member of the plum family and can be found in hedgerows across the UK. It’s the second most important ingredient in Sloe Gin (after gin, of course) and all you need to do is prick or slit the berries and place them into a container until they half fill it. Add the gin and a little sugar, then wait for three months. If you can.
Sweet chestnuts are a fantastic treat that can be roasted, baked in cakes, or made into stuffing for your Sunday roast. The best time to forage for sweet chestnuts is usually around October, when the autumn winds begin to rise and the ripe chestnuts are blown from the tree. Just don't confuse them for Horse Chestnuts (conkers) – they're pretty inedible.
Towards the end of summer, as autumn arrives, the blackberries ripen and are ready for picking. The great thing about blackberries is that they spring up almost everywhere. While they’re most commonly found in hedgerows out in the country, it's not unusual to find them in densely inhabited areas either. Just remember not to eat the ones growing closer to the floor, unless they're thoroughly washed…
The Rowan tree, sometimes called the Mountain Ash, is a lesser-known foraging treat. Though the fruit look like they're growing on a bush, it's actually a tree that starts sprouting almost immediately at the base. Rowan fruit is pretty tart but can be used to make jam, jelly, to flavour game, as an accompaniment to cheeses, and to make wine. Thanks Rowan.
Nettles, Thistles, and Dandelions
Two of these sound particularly painful to eat, while the other sounds... flowery. However, they're all perfectly edible, quite nutritious, and available for free everywhere. Nettles can be used to make soups, pies, and risottos, while thistles can be pickled, added to salads, or made into tasty soups, as well. Finally, dandelions can be brewed into a great tea, a healthy wine, or made into a sweet jelly that's often compared in taste to honey.