Your at-a-glance guide to UK foraging in November.
Nine wild plants to get to know when out foraging in the late autumn months.
Good foraging in November often rests on hope and fortune. If your area has an early frost, pretty much all the exciting fungi will be gone. With this the case, we are really looking for the last of any fruits and nuts that we can find.
It has been said that after the frost, any remaining blackberries will taste as if the devil has spit on them. These days we know it isn’t Lucifer, but certainly they are never worth eating when even a light frost has touched them.
Sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa)
The last of these fantastic nuts may still be available. I’m no secret squirrel, but I know that they aren’t the only ones interested in these oh so versatile autumn edibles.
If the winds have been strong and the weather cold, there are not likely to be too many of them left.
If there are some left, have fun with them after reading my article on foraging for sweet chestnuts in the UK.
Late-season apples (Malus sylvestris / Malus domestica)
Both crab apples and the late season cider and eating apples can be found, dependent on where you live in Britain.
Some of the best apples I have ever tasted were from a feral-domestic apple tree happily naturalised on the edge of Wolvercote Green, near Oxford. I picked them from the tree in late December. Numerous ‘ornamental crabs’ will have their pectin-rich fruits available well into the new year.
Medlar (Mespilus germanica)
A widely forgotten yet fantastic tasting fruit. Closely related to the apple, the medlar is an unusual-looking fruit. It needs to fully ripen or ‘blett’ before you can eat it.
Bletting is basically the fruit beginning to decompose, turning acids and starches into sugars. Without it, fruits like this one are indigestible.
When ripe, they are a brown colour and really soft inside. Just pop the smaller ones whole in your mouth, and enjoy sumptuous bites from the larger ones. The taste is reminiscent of baked apples. Glorious!
Three-cornered leek leaves (Allium triquetrum)
This plant is one of my favourite all-time foraged foods. Abundant, quick growing, all parts edible, and versatile in the kitchen.
Ok, it’s highly invasive and now a criminal offence to release this organism in the wild under schedule 9 of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, but…for a forager with it growing in their area, it really ticks all the boxes.
You can read my article on this brilliant herb in the permaculture magazine here.
Wild parsnip root (Pastinaca sativa)
According to a number of authors, it took only a few years of breeding and cultivation to turn our wild parsnip into the garden parsnips we know today.
Parsnips are typically a biennial plant and will flower in their second season. With good eyes and an easy to work soil, you can collect the best one-year-old specimens from early autumn
The parsnip is only really found in numbers in the southern half of the UK, although will be found in some firths and coastal settings in Scotland.
It particularly loves life in calcareous grassland soils. It is absent in North Devon and Cornwall, and large parts of Wales, apart from the South coast.
The largest populations I have come across were on the South Wales Dunes, where it loves the free draining alkaline conditions.
Sea beet leaves (Beta vulgaris)
What a superb vegetable! Sea beet leaves are available for a large part of the year from different-aged specimens.
In November down by the coast, and along estuaries, you can still find plenty of leaves to enjoy, steamed with a knob of butter and cracked black pepper. Absolutely gorgeous! Stand by for a foraging article on this fantastic plant.
Horseradish root (Armoracia rusticana)
This plant has been covered in a previous blog post.
Watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquatica)
Watercress is a herb you will find happily overwintering, and therefore can be picked through the darker months. A far milder version can be bought in shops, but nothing is like the taste of wild watercress.
A full article on the dangers of eating raw watercress and the potential harm from liver fluke is coming soon. Until then, continue to enjoy wild watercress by picking above the waterline, and cooking it, as this will destroy any liver fluke cysts present on the leaves.
A host of other wild plant and mushroom species can be devoured over on the December foraging article. More monthly guides are on their way!
To help you fast-track your foraging adventures, this article on identifying plants through their family patterns will show you an easy-to-remember system of plant i/d.