Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Foraging for free food!

This year we have decided that we would try foraging. This involves us picking whatever fruit, nut or edible delight that is in season at that time. I think the decision was largely due to our move to the countryside which just inspires you to get out and get down and dirty with nature. This is less about trying to eat for free, you never would to be honest, and more about fun filled (and free) family days out that bring us all a little closer to nature. OK, the 8am Sunday morning walk me and Miss Frugal took in late September to pick blackberries to go with our donated apples (from our neighbours tree) didn't end well. Neither did the crumble I made actually. Mr Frugal declared he only likes blackberries in squash as they taste different (they would as they are blackcurrants I suppose!) and Miss Frugal refused to even give it a try. So, not always successful.

The nut picking in early September was all set to be a success. We had a fun filled Saturday searching the forest for hazelnuts and came home with a huge carrier bag of them. Obviously we are aware that these nuts feed many of the forests animals so only took a couple from each tree rather than stripping it. I spread the nuts out on newspaper and put them in the cupboard under the stairs inside a large old drawer. Excellent, we are foraging baby! Except that when I checked them last week I could see most of the nuts had holes in them and there were some very large maggots in the bottom of the drawer. Eeeewww. Just eeewww. A quick debugging and google later and I found that if you pop the nuts in a bowl of lukewarm water the ones that sink are good and the ones that float are rotten/not edible. I am unsure what we are going to do with the 20 or so hazelnuts that we managed to save. I don't think the Christmas nut roast with hand picked hazelnuts is going to be quite as large (or indeed hand picked!) as planned. The photo below shows all that is left of our 'stash' 

So, I think we can safely say we have not got off to the most successful start! However, Autumn is upon us. This brings new goodies to forage- CHESTNUTS! And so last weekend we went in search of new loot. I had once again asked Google who reliably told me that if the spiky, green shell has fallen to the floor the chestnuts are ready to be picked. Not so it turns out. They were still very small and very white. Oh well, give it a few weeks and I am sure we will have some success!
If you would like to have a go at foraging chestnuts I found this page really helpful: http://www.self-sufficient.co.uk/Sweet-Chestnuts.htm
If you have any tips I would be more than grateful for them- please post below! 

This link takes you to a guide about about more unusual foods to forage: http://www.theecologist.org/green_green_living/food_and_drink/815671/top_10_foods_to_forage.html

And whilst this is a guide to foraging in September I think Nature will forgive us being out by a day or two. But if you want to make use of it you need to start soon! http://www.countryfile.com/countryside/top-10-foods-forage-september

Despite our lack of success this year it has been fun, it has been free and it has definitely been an education for all three of us. We have spent many free days out that have been enjoyed by all. It really does bring out the hunter-gatherer in you! Next year we will approach this with a little more organisation and common sense (we will also check we like the food we forage shall we Mr Frugal?) 

The surviving nuts:

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