Earlier this year I found a couple of mature Walnut trees in a hedgerow fairly close to my workplace. I thought I should check out how they were doing, so I jogged on down in my lunch hour and was very surprised to see that some of the nuts were already falling.
I stuffed my pockets to bursting before setting off back to the grindstone. This little trip led me to think about Hazelnuts and the following day I was merrily filling a bag with these delicious, nutritious little gems. On the weekend I took the children with me and we made like squirrels, gathering them by the hundreds. When combined we had actually collected about 3.75 Kgs of nuts.
If the Walnuts that I found seemed early, I think that Hazelnuts are later than normal this year. Seasonal shifts, as well as individual tree differences, make the ripening of fruit and nuts a naturally inexact science. The ordinary variability of ripening times is one reason why my system of walking around the local area every lunch hour has proved so effective. Not only do I get some respite from the repressive office environment and get some regular exercise, but because my routine is necessarily repetitive, I get to notice the subtle changes in the natural world over time.
Keen observation is the most important weapon in the foragers arsenal. Initially you have to be able to recognise the species of trees that are going to be of interest to you. You should be able to do this whatever the season, so Winter becomes just as important as Autumn. Then, as your targets come into flower or fruit you can check them on a regular basis to see how nature's bounty is maturing.
Generally, this year is shaping up to a great one for the various fruit and nuts that we collect. Apples are abundant, Hazelnuts are prolific and I'm pleased to report that we are collecting, cooking, preserving and storing prodigious quantities. Our Apple store is already crammed with my favourite local Apple varieties. I had to make space for a couple of gorgeous new kids on the block but I'm never going to complain about having too many Apples and nuts. There is an endless supply of tasty recipes to work from and, after all, many of them will keep until Spring or even longer.
This ever popular event will be held at 2:00pm on Sunday October 11th. If you have any spare apples, bring them along for crushing into juice. Octavia Road Open Space is basically a field and wilderness area, so wear suitably robust clothing, wellies etc. This is a free community event, run by volunteers and all are welcome but everyone one is responsible for their own (and their children's) health & safety.