Anyone who has foraged for wild hazelnuts will know that it can be a bit of a hit and miss affair. Sometimes you find a good spot and the nuts are plentiful, and other times they seem scarce and hard to find. Some years the nuts are well formed inside the shells, and other years it hardly seems worth the effort for the meagre results you get. Whether all this is a result of poor timing on our part, or just a 'bad year' is hard to say. Probably a bit of both.
As the weather has been superb lately, we took the opportunity last week to get out foraging locally after work. The idea was to look for more edible mushrooms, but that idea was soon scrapped when we failed to find a single edible specimen in the area we chose. We did however chance upon some hazel trees, and spent about an hour picking and eating the delicious nuts. We were not expecting to find any nuts, so the '2 rocks' approach was taken to opening the shells, revealing the slightly 'green' juicy nuts within. The 'hit rate' for these nuts straight off the trees was really good, with nearly all of them having well formed nuts inside the shells. In the photo above, the rewards from that evenings work are displayed in the plastic bowl top left (what's left of them).
Today was another glorious day, so I headed back to this spot to see if there were any more nuts going free. As you can see from the photo above, there certainly were! Taking my place among the cows and bulls also foraging their way through the woodland, I set about gathering all the nuts I could find. This time I took to collecting the good looking windfalls as well as nuts fresh off the trees. By the time I'd finished I had about 5 lbs of nuts! The quantity of good nuts wasn't as high as only picking them straight off the tree, but this still struck me as quite a good few hours of foraging. Especially as I also picked some great blackberries on my way out of the woods (apple and blackberry crumble Scooby?).
The great thing is that this area offers many more hazel trees that I didn't have the time to explore today. After searching for a good area for hazels in the past and coming up short, I have now found my very own version of hazelnut heaven! This is great timing, as Scooby has just found a recipe for chocolate hazelnut butter! Two of my favourite things in one! (plus a few other ingredients like coconut oil). I just hope our old blender is up to the job. As I was rooting around in the trees with the cows, I also spotted quite a few mushrooms poking their way through the earth, so this spot could also deliver on that front as the autumn progresses.
As I was out in the woods today it struck me just how important an environment woodland is. As contented as the cows seemed in the woods today, a sustainable future won't be secured by animal agriculture and pasture land. We need more land given over to planting trees, and rewilding. If any of you reading this can influence things in that direction, then please do so. Sign petitions to stop logging companies destroying old growth forests. Take an interest in natural processes and spend some 'down time' in nature (you'll probably find yourself calling it 'up time' afterwards, for it's positive effect on mood). Plant some trees if you have space, or take part in some 'guerrilla gardening'. Being vegan is a huge step in the right direction, and 'the future may well be vegan', but lets also look at the bigger picture and try and prioritise the most important steps we can take to ensure we have a world that's worth living in, with space for as much natural diversity as possible. And don't forget to plant more hazelnut trees!