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Woodland Wonderland

Woodland foraging

Woodland Wonderland

Forests and woodlands

Woodlands can vary quite considerably, from dark, dank conifer woodlands to lighter deciduous glades and everything in between. Dense woods can be quite disappointing as the lack of light can prevent a wide variety of plants to grow but you can find some fungi in autumn if you are lucky. I prefer a mixed woodland with plenty of clearings. So what can you find? In the autumn, you can search for blackberries, bilberries, hazelnuts, conifer needles, fungi such as boletes, honey fungus (not so good for the trees!), chicken of the woods and if you are really lucky, the occasional chanterelle.

So what will you find and where? Plantations are planted with many fast growing timber species, for example Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and other conifers. Douglas fir needles have a fantastic flavour, like pine and grapefruit, perfect for making an infused syrup, gin, flavoured sugar or ice cream.
Some fungi like conifers such as pine-loving cauliflower fungus (Sparassis crispa) which if you're lucky you'll find nestling at the base of a tree, or chanterelles growing in acid soil, typical of coniferous woodland where bilberries can often be found.
Pine pollen is a lovely treat, where clouds of pollen drift from the trees in the spring, and can be used in baking, or the needles themselves from pine, spruce or fir to make a tasty tea that is rich in vitamin C.

Regarding deciduous woodlands, then you could come across edible species such as sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), cherry species (Prunus sp.) and oaks (Quercus sp.). Regarding oaks, there are two native types of oak tree in the UK - the pedunculate or English oak (Quercus robur) and the sessile oak (Quercus petraea). To tell them apart, the pedunculate oak has short leaf stalks and long acorn stems (known as peduncles hence the name), whereas the sessile oak has longer leaf stalks and the acorns are attached directly onto the branch. You can harvest the acorns of both varieties, and once peeled they need boiling repeatedly to remove the bitter tannins before making into coffee, acorn flour, etc.

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