Over the past two weeks, I’ve just started to notice that faint nip of autumn in the air, and like clockwork, it signifies the time to start the seasonal hunt for the hazelnut Corylus avellana. Although the hazel is a common tree, it’s not quite so common to find any that offer a good crop, and this year has thrown up mixed results from my findings.
The usual stomping ground where I and my friend Andrew go was quite frankly useless this year, not because we were beaten to the bounty, but because for whatever reason, the crop was incredibly poor – maybe environmental conditions.
Anyway, we always have a back-up plan, so tried our other favourite site which only has a few trees, but they seem to offer some nuts each year. It’s often said that a good ‘nut year’ comes around once in every three years, and this was to be true here, because it’s almost three years to the day since we gathered our last good-sized haul from this location.
There were several folks walking their dogs before the sun had gone down completely, and I think we probably looked like a couple of dodgy chaps who were up to no good, hanging around under a hazel tree, although the nut basket was a good giveaway I suppose, but we still felt like a pair of naughty school boys nevertheless.
We gathered two baskets full from just a couple of trees, although Andrew spent more time eating them than picking them, but he was to play football afterwards, so I suppose he needed the intake of carbs! I was more interested in getting them in to the basket, whilst still leaving plenty for the wildlife that lives in the area.
Andrew's hand going in for the grab!
We soon filled the basket, but being rather pessimistic, we didn’t bring anything else with us to the put the nuts in, and so to save us from the shame of such an error, we filled my camera bag full of these little jewels, along with the odd ladybird, earwig and harvestman!
A good haul!
For the overflow
I intend on saving some of my share for my autumnal cooking, and even keeping some the festive holidays!
As well as nuts, we’ve been collecting lots of apples from the local area, many (varieties unknown) have a very sweet flavour, and we even have some crab apples hybridized with eaters, so they have that happy, bitter-sweet flavour.
My latest column in the Great British Food magazine focuses on the hazelnut (out now, in all good shops!).
Well, that’s it for this entry into the wild food blog. I guess the next one will be the annual forage through the woodlands for the glut of sweet chestnuts!
Until then, happy foraging!
Catch you on the trail