Welcome to Autumn! It feels like this year nature took notice of the change in month and autumn arrived bang on the first of September! Whether you are an autumn fan or prefer the warmer months, do not be fooled by the lack of flowers, there are still plenty of of wild plants and their parts that you can be collecting this time of year! Here is your Autumn foraging guide – all of the roots, berries, leaves and more that you can find and use for the next three months.
Autumn Foraging Guide to Wild Roots & Fruits, and more
The colours of nature are changing, and for plants, animals and humans the emphasis is moving from flowers & pollination to fruit and root, and preparing for winter. Nature is very clever in that the fruits, flowers and roots growing at each time of year all contain the vitamins, minerals & nutrients we need to be eating in that season. Otherwise know as eating seasonally, this way of eating applies to foraging too. Not only is eating this way better for our bodies, it is also better and kinder to nature and the planet too!
If you would like to find out more on Seasonal eating, I written an Eating seasonally post that also includes a handy free download too!
But I digress. Back to foraging:
Autumn Foraging Tips
Autumn foraging is slightly different to Spring and summer and may require some different tools. These are my recommendations to prepare you for foraging in the wild this autumn.
– make sure you wear clothing that covers your arms, legs, and feet as much as possible. Wild berries and hops tend to grow among nettles, and are pretty prickly themselves
– take a trowel or small spade and gardening gloves with you for digging up roots and tubers
– for storing berries you will need a tupperware or solid container to prevent any squashes or mishaps
– Take a basket or 3-4 paper bags with you to easily store & separate what you collect
– A pair of garden scissors is a must
– Find areas away from busy main roads to avoid your plants being covered in pollutants and dust
– Choose plants & berries a little way back from pathways & above knee height to ensure no dog pee (or worse)
– Always pick the ripest looking berries & hips. Don’t pick those where there is yellow or browning or it looks like they are bad. Not only does this affect the strength of a plant or fruit/roots medicinal properties, but also their taste if you are using them for cooking
– Always wash any fruits and roots you are planning to use for cooking & remedies before drying. Its also worth giving plants a little shake as you are picking to dislodge as many bugs as possible before you get them home.
** and as always please forage responsibly. Don’t forget to leave plenty for the wild animals, bees, insects, and birds that really need them. Especially heading into winter months! As well as leaving enough of each plant and root so their is enough to re-grow again next year.
Our planet and all the nature that lives on it are important and live in a delicate balance that we should always respect and appreciate. Please never just take for the sake of, only pick what you really need. A live growing plant is always more beautiful than a picked one which will only die.
Thank you x
Now here is your Autumn Foraging guide; all of the plants, wild fruits and roots you can be collecting and using or eating throughout Autumn.
I have previously mentioned Dandelions and Plantain in previous guides/months, but now is a perfect time for you to collect the leaves of both once they have finished flowering. You can also collect Dandelion root throughout the Autumn months.
Hops are a climbing plant, they grow in hedgerows and up any poles or taller plants within them. By midsummer you will start to be able to see them over the tops of hedgerows. Their stems grow in a mass of angular hooked shoots, and the plant can climb up to 6 meters high!
Hops have pale green, slightly rough leaves that have three lobes. Each with finely toothed edges. The hops flowers – male and female – grow on different plants. It is the female flower that you want, as this has all of the medicinal properties. (the male flower is tiny in comparison). The female flowers are pine-cone shaped, scented, and will leave your fingers gritty and stick after picking.
The hop flowers bloom from August to mid-September. gather the flowers when they are full. You can use the flowers dried to make fragrant tinctures and infusions.
– Make a pillow of hop flowers to place under you pillow at night and help you sleep
– Medicinally Hops can be used for anxiety and stress, insomnia, colic, Gallstones, IBS, and Menopause
– Hops have a hormonal action that can be used to treat low oestrogen
– As well as the scent helping you sleep Hops also have a sedative effect on the nervous system, they work to relax your nerves and muscles to relieve pain, spasms, nervous tension, and improve digestive function
– used externally an infusion of hop flowers can be used as an antiseptic for the treatment of ulcers
Once the petals of the dog roses start to fall you can see the hips begin to grow and take their place. Rose hips start to grow from late summer to the end of autumn.
The wild rose or dog rose can be found along field hedgerows, in thickets, and on country lanes & rocky slopes. The dog rose has horned stems with curved sharp thorns. As the flowers grow in small clusters so too do the rose hips.
Make sure to only pick the ripe hips in these clusters as the rest will bloom in time too, or be eaten by animals. Use small garden scissors to clip the hips just below the head. You should only pick the hips when they at their darkest red/pink, and when they are firm to the touch. Like fruit, once the hips have started to soften and wrinkle they are past their best.
It is said that picking rose hips after they have seen the first frost of autumn makes them sweeter and even more potent, but they can be picked and used before the frost too.
Rose hips contain seeds that are covered in small hairs. The hairs are irritating if digested and must be removed before you can use the hips. Wear gloves to prepare your hips and prevent hairs from irritating your skin. Split each hip and scrape out the hairs before use. This applies whether you are drying the hips for tinctures or using them fresh.
– use rose hips to make teas, syrups, tinctures, and even oils and other products for your skin
– Wild rose hips are packed full of vitamin C meaning they are wonderful not only for keeping colds at bay and booting your immune system, but for your skin health too
– the hips are rich in antioxidants, can help to reduce inflammation and pain, and protect against infection & exhaustion. They also help to relieve constipation & kidney and bladder conditions.
Ok, no medicinal properties here (unless you count the simple joy of eating deliciousness?!), just my love for wild blackberries and how much more delicious they taste than anything you can buy from a shop! If your Autumn foraging doesn’t include blackberries than you are missing out!
This is a wonderful time to start picking blackberries, if you time it right you can get 3-4 rounds of picking before they finish for the season.
Blackberry or bramble bushes can grow rampant if left unchecked, and will grow pretty much anywhere. You can find blackberry bushes growing along railway lines, embankments, country lanes and paths, field edges and hedgerows… They also like to grow up things so can grow up to 6ft tall.
The bramble branches can be thick and woody or thin and light green in colour, but all are covered in short prickly thorns. The leaves of bramble bushes are large and flat with toothed, serrated edges. The blackberries themselves tend to grow in clusters at the ends of these branches. Not all the fruits will be ripe at the same time. You want to pick only the dark purple/black berries that are ripe and firm.
Also be on the look out for spiders, wasps and bees as they all like blackberries too.
Once picked you need to rinse and wash blackberries in cold water to remove any bits (and bugs) that may be mixed in. You also want to remove and discard any berries that have brown patches or hardened parts.
I have already written a full post on Elder berries and elder berry foraging with all the information you need on how to find them and their uses – including a simple elder berry syrup recipe.
Elder berries will begin to ripen at the end of August, and last into September. You want to be collecting these berries when they are ripe and deep purple in colour.
– Elder berries have anti viral properties and are good to use for fighting the flu, as well as being another good source of vitamin C.
A well as berries you can collect the Elder bark and leaves throughout Autumn too.
– use Elder bark to get unwanted toxins out of your body. It helps your body to purge by inducing vomiting, urination, and will make you sweat to eliminate toxins through your skin.
– Taken internally the Elder leaves have the same effects as Elder bark. But you can use them topically to soften soothe and protect the skin. They will also aid your body in healing cuts and wounds. You can make an elder leaf ointment to use on your skin daily for soft supple skin, to soothe sensitive skin, or to have as part of your herbal first aid kit to treat cuts, scrapes, and wounds.
Juniper is a conifer. It can grow to 10m tall and live for up to 200 years! (although tends to only grow to 5m). They have grey-brown bark which peels with age, and twigs that are fragrant and reddish-brown. Juniper leaves are spine like needles, and are green in colour with a silver stripe. The spines are slightly curve shaped with sharp prickly ends, so watch your fingers!
While Juniper trees are native to the UK they are becoming more and more rare, and are now a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
Juniper likes to grow in chalky ground. You can find it on downland, moorlands, in rocky areas, and in old pine woodlands. As with Hops, the male and female Juniper flowers grow on separate trees. It is only the female of the species that produce fruit.
Juniper berries are fleshy, purple, aromatic, and ripen slowly. You can collect the rip, purple berries in the fall, and allow them to try slowly for herbal use. Of course you can also eat the ripe berries fresh too. Do not collect any shrivelled or still green fruits.
– an infusion of juniper is an excellent antiseptic you can use to treat cystitis
– these are another berry that is full of immune boosting vitamin C. They also act as a strong antioxidant to protect your cells from damage & improve blood vessel function.
– they are anti-inflammatory and used topically can reduce pain and inflammation in joints, muscles, and relieve rheumatism & arthritis.
– medicinally you can use juniper to aid digestion and ease flatulence, treat yeast infections of the mouth & cystitis
– juniper berries are full of essential oils which are stimulating to your kidneys and should be avoided if you are pregnant or suffering from kidney disease
Hawthorne berries are one of the oldest known medicinal plants & one of the best tonic remedies for the heart you can find. You can find Hawthorne growing readily in hedgerows, along pathways, roads, country lanes & field margins.
Hawthorne is a thorny shrub that will vary in height depending on its location, but can reach up to 5ft high. its leaves are separated into three ‘lobes’, and while its tiny white flowers are the first sign of Spring, its berries are one of the first signs of Autumn. Hawthorne berries begin to grow and ripen from September.
You can use Hawthorne as a tonic for your heart, both physically and emotionally.
– use these berries for treating most heart conditions -heart failure, angina, blood pressure, to strengthen and restore the blood vessels and heart muscle. As well as loss and heartbreak.
– make berries into a fresh tincture – you can even combine Hawthorne berries & flowers in one tincture to encompass all aspects of the plant. You can dry the berries for making decoctions, and even make tonic wine.
– medicinally Hawthorne berries are antioxidant, can be used to treat Atherosclerosis, chilblains, high cholesterol, & aid digestion of stagnant food in the GI tract.
Milk thistles are easy to spot throughout the summer with their bright purple flowers. Come September all those flower heads have turned to fluffy seeds. It is the seeds of these plants you want to collect throughout Autumn.
You can spot Milk thistle plants by their wavy leaves which have pure white veins, and are tipped with a sharp point. The plants can grow 2-4ft high, and you can find them growing on rough waste ground, along country paths and field edges, they can even be grown in gardens. Flowers and seeds grow on top of a long stem, and are surrounded by a calyx of large, green, scaled spikes. The pale brown seeds are small and oval and hidden at the base of the fluffy ‘clocks’.
– seeds of the milk thistle have long been used for liver problems including treating degenerative liver disease & hepatitis, as well as protect your liver from alcohol. Take a dose both before and after a night out to protect your liver from the effects of alcohol.
– You can take a fresh herb tincture or milk thistle powder to protect your liver from all sorts of toxin (including environmental toxins), as well as to help the liver cells regenerate.
– medicinally you can use milk thistle seed tincture or powder to treat acne, psoriasis, gout, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, allergies, bloating, gallstones, hangover symptoms, indigestion, and PMT.
Fennel is a well known sweet herb that we use for seasoning food, and tastes similar to liquorice or aniseed. But did you know fennel seeds can be used medicinally? You can find fennel growing both wild and in gardens. It is easy to spot by its fine feather like leaves. These plants may look delicate, but if left unchecked can grow 5-6 ft tall!
If left to grow fennel will flower through summer, producing a flat headed, bright yellow, cluster of tiny flowers. Not dis-similar in shape to how cow parsley grows. These flowers will in turn dry out, turn brown, & produce seeds.
You can find fennel growing along roadsides & paths, on waste ground, or along the edge of wild fields and pastures.
You should harvest the seeds just as the flowers are beginning to dry out and turn brown for optimal freshness. Clip the top of the stalks just below the flower head. You then place all the flower heads on a tray. Leave in a dark place for 1-2 weeks for them to dry.
– Fennel seed is an excellent remedy for stomach and digestive issues. It relieves flatulence and symptoms of colic. You can also use fennel to help stimulate the digestion & appetite. You can use the dried seeds to make tinctures or drink slightly crushed as a tea infusion.
– Drink the tea or take a few drops of an infusion about 30 minutes before you eat to relieve flatulence and trapped wind.
– medicinally you can also take fennel seed to calm bronchitis and coughs, and externally it can be used to treat conjunctivitis, inflammation of the eyelids, muscle pain & rheumatic pain.
Valerian is a wonderful sedative and a powerful natural relaxant. To the untrained eye Valerian can look a lot like cow parsley. But if you look closely its flowers and leaves are very different. It like to grow in areas similar to cow parsley too – you can find it growing on damp shady ground, beside canals and rivers, and in ditches.
The leaves of Valerian are green with serrated edges, and stems are rigid and hollow, with smaller leaves towards the bottom. These stems can grow up to 4ft tall.
The tiny pink-white Valerian flowers grow in clusters, and have a highly perfumed, pungent smell which attracts many bees and other pollinating insects. Valerian will flower from July, but it is the Valerian root you want to harvest for its properties. The best time for this is autumn (or early Spring).
– you cam make a fresh root tincture, or use dried Valerian root for infusions
– taking Valerian will help you relax and release tension throughout the whole body. It acts as a relaxant on your nervous system and therefore can be used for pain and spasms in the muscles and organs
– use Valerian for an overactive mind. If you suffer from anxiety or nervousness and is most often used to promote a restful nights sleep. Without the addictive qualities or groggy feeling that often comes with prescribed sleep medication – with Valerian you will wake up feeling bright and refreshed!
– medicinally you can use Valerian root to treat backache, cramp, restless leg syndrome, high blood pressure, anxiety and stress, headache, insomnia, migraine. As well as colic, IBS, & painful periods.
Echinacea is now well known as a way to boost & support your immune system. But it is much more than that. Its name comes from the Greek ‘echinos’ meaning hedgehog because of the spiky, prickly nature of this plants conical seed head.
Echinacea has been used for 100’s of years to treat infections, wounds, & headaches. It is a natural painkiller! With its tall stems, pink purple flowers, and large cone-shaped seed head (essentially an oversized daisy) it is also pretty special to look at too.
It likes to grow in full sun and well-drained soil, and you will find Echinacea blooming from mid July to late August. While they are Native to the US, they have long been grown in country gardens and herb gardens alike.
Both the flower and roots of this plant have medicinal properties. Harvest the flowers in Summer, and Autumn is the best time for you to harvest the roots.
– use Echinacea to help your body rid itself of microbial infections – it is such a good remedy because it will work for both bacterial and viral infection. You can use Echinacea to fight infection anywhere in the body!
– you can take Echinacea root as a decoction or in tincture form. But it is also available to purchase in tablet form if you prefer
– medicinally you can use Echinacea to treat boils, septicaemia, cystitis, respiratory infections such as laryngitis & tonsillitis, sinus infections, & topically to treat septic sores and cuts.
This giant wild sunflower is a warming remedy. The root of Elecampane is highly aromatic, antiseptic, & warming.
It is a large plant that can grow to 5ft high and 2ft wide, with large thick roots and large leaves which are oval, usually over a foot long, and pointed at the end. The leaves are mid-green on top while underneath they are pale and covered with a fine felty down. Their giant yellow, daisy like flowers, form on the top of tall branching stems and are about 8cm in diameter.
You can find Elecampane growing in damp, shady ground alongside canals and rivers, on overgrown waste ground, and damp shady areas along county paths. Although widespread it is not a common wild plant. So keep your eyes peeled.
Elecampane begins to grow in April, flowers in July, and roots are best harvested in Autumn. It is the root you want for medicinal use. harvest roots when the leaves have mostly died back.
– use elecampane root fresh for tinctures, chopped and dried for decoctions, preserve in syrup or herbal honey. The root can even be candied and you can eat it as a sweet after meals to improve digestion.
– the warming properties of Elecampane can be used to treat damp, cold, chesty coughs. It is also drying and antiseptic making it useful for relieving phlegm, mucus and upper respiratory tract congestion.
– the bitter properties of Elecampane make it good for you to use to stimulate appetite, stimulate the liver, & stimulate your digestion after meals. As well as reduce bacterial infection.
– medicinally you can use Elecampane to treat Asthma, Bronchitis, Catarrh, Coughs, Sinusitis, Sore throat, and Indigestion.
The Complete Autumn Foraging Guide
Lets face it this Autumn foraging guide could be twice as long! As with every month or season so far I have struggled to narrow it down to just a dozen of plants. So I have decided to create a full & extensive Autumn Foraging Guide, and in time a full almanac of Wild plants & Foraging information. Each guide will include an extensive bonus section on their medicinal uses. Including recipes & tips for drying, storing, and use. As well as illustrated drawing to help with your identification.
I was hoping to have the Autumn Guide ready to release for you to coincide with this post. But alas building works & being homeless for the last two weeks have put a little spanner in the works!
Want to get your hands on this download?
I would love for you to add your email to the box below. That way you will also be the first to know when it is published & get your paws on it before anyone else!!
Until then happy foraging