Nature's Secret Larder - Beech (Fagus sylvatica)


Bushcraft Blog

Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
11th April 2009

Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

If large amounts of the nuts are eaten, they may have a toxic effect on the body

 Beech tree Fagus sylvatica

Beech Fagus sylvatica 

April is the time to see the fresh young leaves of the Beech tree Fagus sylvatica burst open to the awaiting sun. They are a pale green, almost transparent with a latex-like texture. The bark is smooth and grey. In the winter the Beech has pointy buds, which are quite sharp to the touch. The Beech resembles the hornbeam Carpinus betulus, but as a general rule, hornbeam is smaller, often coppiced and looks as if the bark twists as it grows.
LEAVES – the leaves of beech make an ideal sandwich filler or addition to salads within the first couple of weeks of opening. After this time they become quite tough and leathery.
SEEDS – these are edible, but they are also quite fiddly to prepare. Edible oil can be obtained by pressing large quantities, which is rather nice, but again, it requires a lot of work to make anything substantial. It is quite pleasing to use last season’s oil on this year’s salad leaves though! The nuts can be ground into flour or roasted and used as a coffee substitute. It is said that the nuts are poisonous if eaten in large quantities, although the squirrels usually stop the possibility of that happening anyway.

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