Wild food - tips for foraging with kids

Boy eating an apple
Tuck into a wild food feast - yum! (Photo: iStock.com/ChristinLola)

It's autumn and our woods and hedgerows are laden with all kinds of fruits, berries, nuts and seeds. They provide rich pickings for animals and birds fattening themselves up for winter, or preparing for the long flight to warmer climes. But you can share in nature’s bounty too, so why not go foraging?

Just remember to leave enough for wildlife, always forage with an adult, and NEVER pick anything you're unsure of.

Here are a few things to look out for.

Blackberries
Juicy blackberries (Photo: WTML/ Casandra Kociak)

Blackberries 

It’s blackberry season so take a container or sturdy plastic bag on your walk. Pick only the ripest berries – these will be purple-black and come off the bramble easily – as they’ll be the sweetest and juiciest.

The juice stains so it’s best to wear old clothes, and watch out for thorns!

Love blackberries? Try our scrummy blackberry recipes.

Apples
Rosy apples (Photo: WTML/Nature Photographers Ltd)

Apples 

Keep your eyes peeled for apples while you’re out and about. They’re ripe, crunchy and ready for picking!

Whip up an apple sauce, have a go at baking a tasty apple pie, or mix your apples with some blackberries and create a crumble.

Check out our forthcoming events calendar to find more attractions.

Elderberries
Glossy elderberries (Photo: WTML/Paul Foster)

Elderberries

Look for clusters of little, purplish-black berries hanging from red stems in woods and hedgerows. Many birds, badgers, dormice and rabbits like to eat elderberries.

They’re yummy when mixed with other fruit in pies and crumbles, and they’re packed with Vitamin C too.

Give our elderberry and apple crumble recipe a try.

Hazelnuts
Hazelnuts (Photo: WTML/Pete Holmes)

Hazelnuts

Hazel trees are common in our woods and hedgerows – check our leaf ID sheet to help you identify them.

You’ll find the nuts encased in ‘cups’ of leaves. You need to be quick and pick them while they’re still green, otherwise the squirrels will scoff them all!

You can shell them and eat them straight away, or let them dry out in an airing cupboard for a few weeks so they’re extra-crunchy. 

Sweet chestnuts
Sweet chestnuts (WTML/Bruce Beattie)

Sweet chestnuts

Roasted chestnuts are a traditional winter treat. But don’t get them mixed up with conkers, which are the seeds of the horse chestnut and are inedible! The leaves of the sweet chestnut are oval-shaped with a pointed end, and have jagged edges, like the teeth of a saw. The chestnuts come in a shell with lots of fine, sharp spikes – it looks a bit like a green hedgehog – and it usually has two or three nuts inside. Conker shells have fewer, shorter spikes and only one seed inside.

The best time to look for sweet chestnuts is after a stormy or windy night, when you find them underneath the trees. You’ll need to get there early to beat the squirrels to it though!

Here’s how to roast them: 

  • Heat the oven to 200C/gas 6.
  • Remove the green casing and cut a cross in the skin of each chestnut with a sharp knife (get an adult to do this for you). If you don’t split the shell, they might explode in the oven!
  • Spread them out on a roasting tray and put them in the oven for about 30 minutes. The skins will open when they’re ready.
  • When they’re cool enough, peel off the skins and tuck in!

Stay safe - foraging tips

  • Never pick and eat anything if you’re not certain what it is – some berries are poisonous and can make you ill. Join an expert-led walk if you can, or take an ID book with you. Read our foraging guidelines for more advice.
  • Don’t forage by the roadside. Your pickings won’t taste that great and you may be in danger from traffic.
  • Be careful not to trample on surrounding plants.
  • Don’t be greedy! Make sure you leave plenty behind for animals and birds.
  • Wear gloves to protect from spikes and thorns.
  • Always ask for the landowner’s permission before going foraging.

Tell us about your foraging finds by posting on our Facebook page, or on Instagram or Twitter using #NatureDetectives.

Have you tried foraging?

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