It happens every year, I set out to my local woods to find some wild food and end up competing with the local wildlife. I try to get out very early in the morning and have always worked using my notes I have taken down through the years its taken me a long time to jot down the notes as sometimes I miss it one year and make a stab guess judging on how old the berries or leaves look.
I will only be writing about late summer early autumn as its upon us as I write this blog, it has came apparent that the seasons are not set in stone as they once were the dates in the month seem to be way off and nature seems to have lost its balance with the earth. Every plant, tree, nut, berry and flower have opened or blossomed way before they should, I have had to venture out earlier and earlier every year just to find I was not earlier enough and the local wildlife has beat me to it.
Our ancestors were masters of this type of gathering due to actually living the seasons something that we as a race have lost due to living in buildings with central heating and running water.
I ventured out yesterday to see if I could find some Hazel nuts I know virtually every Hazel tree in my woods as I coppice them regularly every year, it didn’t take me long to find some but these were different this year, they were small and an odd shape they had not been given time to fully form. The pesky American grey squirrel strikes again! I look for sign of them and find it everywhere squirrel have a knack to get in these tough ol’ shells and when they crack them open it leaves a rough split look to the shell, as I take some notes a bunch of hazel nuts fall at my side, I take a look up to see a grey squirrel perched in the crook of the tree nibbling away at the branches.
I take a step back to watch what sort of wildlife these trees are attracting at this time of the year, its still warming up and nearly midday and with the chilly start the wildlife is starting to emerge rapidly with the warming of the sun. The lonely looking wood mouse appears and picks up the snipped nuts off of the floor and takes them to the entrance of his hole close by there is an Elder tree in its full glory covered with elder berries and with this bloom comes the wood pigeons, they seem to hoover the berries up hanging upside down and at all funny angles for such a clumsy looking bird. This is also a good chance to find out the local feeding habits of game birds such as wood pigeons etc.
My list for this time of year consists of nuts, berries, plants and seeds although they can grow very far apart in woodlands it is a god idea to scout your local hedge row as more than likely you will find enough food to sustain you for months, this is not a chance to take every thing you find though it is a chance to take what you need and make a note of what is growing there and at what time of year it is. You note book should almost become your guild book through the coming years and should consist of everything you will need to remember about shelter, fire, water and food collection, it can all be found at some point or another and most of the time it will turn up in the most unlikely places and at strange times of the year.
Another thing I advise people to do is to forget the dates that are given in a guild book for finding wild food, they should be taken with a pinch of salt. What is helpful however is the month of year that is given this can help you jot down on a calendar what should be out in the month and what you can keep your eye out for. The major difference that I have found is the type of soil you can find food growing in, much different to the books I find that only the damp or dry soil helps in finding certain species.
So I had my forage in the local hedge row, the woodlands edge and in the woodlands and for the amount of time I spent looking (1 hour) I certainly had a good hoard, I managed to find in list order;
This was quite the jackpot for any sort of forager that knows what he is looking for, I only took a small amount of each but made some big notes about each position of the individual plant or tree. It seemed I beat some of the wild life to the edibles but actually lost out to the weather on some of the berries. There is still lots to find out there and what is different in my woods to others is the fact it starts early as it has lots of exposure to the sun where other surrounding woodlands are more shaded I think a trip to the surrounding woodlands is in order!!