Foraging in October: berries and nuts to find this autumn

As the leaves begin to turn, the nuts and berries on hedgerows and in woods are ripening.

Here are our top foraging finds for October, from vitamin C packed rosehips to tasty nuts.

Always follow our responsible foraging guidelines.

From September and into October, look for ripe beech nuts. (Photo:  R. Clarkson/Alamy)
From September and into October, look for ripe beech nuts. (Photo: R. Clarkson/Alamy)

Beech nuts (Fagus sylvatica)

The edible nuts, or masts, were once used to feed pigs. (Photo: R. Clarkson/Alamy)
The edible nuts, or masts, were once used to feed pigs. (Photo: R. Clarkson/Alamy)

Beech nuts are still ripening into October. They're a bit small to collect in numbers but make a tasty nibble on an autumn walk.

How to use it: scrape off the outer brown skin to reveal the triangular seed. If you do collect more than a few, they can be used in a similar way to pine nuts, sprinkled on salads and risottos. Roast in the oven then place between two tea towels and rub to remove shells. Beech nuts can be slightly toxic if consumed in large quantities due to the tannins and alkaloids.

What to look for: look out for pairs of three-sided nuts in bristly cases from mid-September and throughout October. 

Find out how to identify beech.

Bullace (Prunus domestica)

Bullace is a wild variety of plum. (Photo: cnmb15/Alamy)
Bullace is a wild variety of plum. (Photo: cnmb15/Alamy)

On a good year, bullace fruits can literally weigh down the hedgerow.

How to use it: the fruits are similar to damsons and can be used to make crumbles, jams and preserves, fruit wine and to make fruit liqueurs (like sloe gin).

What to look for: small, oval fruits can vary in colour but are usually blue, purple or black. They tend to taste acidic until they're ripe. This is a great late season fruit as it ripens up to six weeks later than many others from October to November.

Find out more about wild plum.

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Hazelnut (Corylus avellana)

Hazelnuts being to ripen when the leaves on the trees change colour. (Photo: K. Jahne/Alamy)
Hazelnuts being to ripen when the leaves on the trees change colour. (Photo: K. Jahne/Alamy)

A common tree in woods, hedgerows and gardens, it bears its crop of nuts (also called cobnuts and filberts) from late August.

How to use it: if you’re picking hazelnuts early in the season, when they’re still green, the shelled nuts make a tasty nibble to munch on while you’re out walking. If you collect enough, the shelled nuts can be roasted in the oven or used to make hazelnut butter.

What to look for: it might be advisable to collect hazelnuts when they’re still young and green in late August to mid-September. Most ripe nuts are found in September and October, depending on the weather.

Find out more about the hazel tree.

Rosehip (Rosa canina)

Make rosehip syrup to help ward off winter colds. (Photo: Pixel Shack 2/Alamy)
Make rosehip syrup to help ward off winter colds. (Photo: Pixel Shack 2/Alamy)

Rosehips are the red and orange seed pods of rose plants commonly found in hedgerows.

How to use it: the hips have a fleshy covering that contains the hairy seeds (the irritant hairs were traditionally used by children to make itching powder). The outer layer is packed with vitamin C and they are renowned for helping stave off winter colds. They are good in wines, jellies, jams and and can be used to make a delicately flavoured rosehip syrup for cordial or pouring onto ice cream or pancakes.

What to look for: look for bright red rosehips from September to November along hedgerows and woodland fringes. Snip or carefully pull the hips close to the base of each pod (to avoid being attacked by prickly thorns). 

Sloes (Prunus spinosa)

Some people say the best time to pick sloes is after the first frost. (Photo: T. Graham/Alamy)
Some people say the best time to pick sloes is after the first frost. (Photo: T. Graham/Alamy)

The blackthorn is best known for its crop of tart, acidic fruits used to make the deep-red, wintry drink, sloe gin.

How to use it: the general rule is to pick after the first frost as it softens the skins and helps to release the juices. You can get round this by picking early and freezing at home instead. Make sloe gin or try using sloes for whisky, jams and vinegar. 

What to look for: the blue-black berries are ready for picking from the end of September to December. In some years, blackthorn trees along hedgerows and fields are heavy with fruit.

Make delicious sloe gin with our easy recipe.

Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa)

Look for sweet chestnut trees in woods, parkland and along roads. (Photo: Alamy)
Look for sweet chestnut trees in woods, parkland and along roads. (Photo: Alamy)

A favourite at this time of year, and a Christmas classic. Sweet chestnut trees are not native - they were introduced to the UK by the Romans.

How to use it: the nuts can be baked, roasted, boiled or microwaved. Remember to score a cross in them to stop them from exploding when they are cooked. Once cooked and peeled they can be eaten as they are or used in desserts and stuffings. You can also candy them, puree them or store them in syrup.

What to look for: you’ll find the best crop at the foot of large established trees. Trees start dropping nuts from October and into late autumn and early winter.

Walnut (Juglans regia)

You may  find the odd walnut tree on parkland, in urban areas and housing estates. (Photo: S. Norwood/Alamy)
You may find the odd walnut tree on parkland, in urban areas and housing estates. (Photo: S. Norwood/Alamy)

Walnut trees were first introduced to the UK by the Romans for their walnuts. 

How to use it: crack open the shells to get to the nut. They can be eaten raw (when they're 'wet'), dried or pickled. Dried nuts can apparently be stored for around a year. They can be added to both sweet and savoury dishes.

What to look for: trees can be found throughout the UK often in large gardens and parks. The nuts are covered  with a green, fleshy husk that starts to split as it ripens. Pick them in late autumn.

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