October marks the end of summer. The days start getting shorter and the mornings are chilly, but this doesn’t mean that October can’t be enjoyed! It has always been the best month for foraging; it’s the beginning of mushroom season, and some berries and seeds are still in full swing.
So, what can this wonderful autumn month bring? Well, let’s start with the berries!
Sloes (Prunus Spinosa)
Starting from the end of September, Sloes, also known as Blackthorn, although not technically a berry but a plum, are ripe and ready for picking. The general rule of thumb is to wait for the first frost before picking, as it softens the skin and helps release the juices, but you can get around this by picking and freezing them at home before use.
RECIPE TIP! The first use that comes to mind is Sloe Gin, the garnet-red winter drink par excellence, but they are equally delicious in jams and making Sloe Whisky (a personal favourite to enjoy with a good book next to the hearth on a chilly winter afternoon).
The Wild Raspberry (Rubus Idaeus)
If you ever spot a hedgerow with thousands of tiny bright red spots you’ve hit gold. The Wild Raspberry is surprisingly widespread throughout the Great Britain, though it can be difficult telling the wild variety from an “escapee” commercial cultivar. But since both are delicious, pick away friend! The wild raspberry is quite a bit sharper than its tamer commercial cousins, so expect an acidic punch bursting with flavour!
RECIPE TIP! Use them as you would normal raspberries. They are especially good in a sorbet if you manage to pick enough, and their young leaves are great as herbal tea, renowned in traditional medicine for its health benefits.
Rose Hips (Rosa Canina)
Rose hips are the red and orange fruits of the common hedgerow rose plant. They are filled to the brim with natural Vitamin C (9 times more than oranges). They make the most wonderful and fragrant jam! And you’ll soon find it in our BEAUTY blend!
Mushrooms are so delicious and great to find, but PLEASE take an expert with you as not all versions are edible and some are very dangerous and even toxic. Here is our general guide to those around in October but always refer to an expert’s advice before picking and eating.
Parasol Mushroom (Macrolepiota procera)
These mushrooms are quite common and relatively easy to identify. They have thin stalks and a large cap, and can grow as tall as 30cms. The stem is white and smooth, often decorated with brown scales and the cap is white with brownish scales. The gills are white or pale cream and free, and the spore print is white or very pale cream. When fully grown they could almost be used as a parasol, hence the name.
RECIPE TIP! One of the best tasting mushrooms out there, enjoy in slices, sautéed with olive oil and garlic.
Giant Puffball (Calvatia gigantea)
These can grow up to 70-80cms in circumference and weigh several kilos. Some specimens have been recorded at 150cms and over 20kgs in weight! They look like a big white ball and grow in meadows and pastures. They are quite rare, but if you are lucky enough to find one, take note of the spot because chances are that the fungi will grow again next season. A single large fruitbody can contain upwards of a trillion spores in it! Only eat it if the inside of the body is pure white, as due to the nature of this fungi, it tends to start rotting as the spores mature and it becomes inedible. Historically, thin strips of this mushroom were used as wound dressings, and dried shavings were used as kindling.
RECIPE TIP! Cut into strips and cook in batter. They have a mild but delicious taste.
Again, we’d like to remind you to never eat anything you picked unless you are 100% sure. As delicious as wild plants can be, they can also be extremely dangerous, especially when talking of mushrooms, as some can even be deadly! If you are not 100% sure of your ID, please take the plant to a botanist or an experienced forager. Never “try” what you forage for an ID, as even the tiniest bit can be extremely dangerous.
Great places to start foraging in London
- The Hackney Marshes
- The Wandle Trail (and its many parks)
- Burgess Park
- Wanstead Flats
As always, be careful, forage responsibly (leave more than you take), and stay wild.