Wild Food

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It has long been my opinion that gathering wild food is good for the soul; it’s mentally stimulating, it boosts confidence and it’s intensely satisfying. Above all, it teaches everyone, especially our children, so much. Foraging in the forest, scavenging along hedgerows or digging in the tideline on the coast are all lessons they will certainly never learn in a classroom, and the best part of all, finding wild food is easy.

It’s the children’s autumn school holidays, which means two weeks with no set routine and no early morning school runs.  The Vacances de la Toussaint are centred around the French national holiday of La Toussaint, All saints Day, which occurs on November 1st. It is one of the most respected public days in the country. Many French people like to attend an All Saints mass to remember the Catholic Saints as well as honour their late relatives, and it is a common sight to see French people laying chrysanthemums on the graves of loved ones, and at this time of year the local markets are full of them. Chrysanthemums are indeed so closely linked to La Toussaint that the French never give them as a gift.

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Without exception school holidays mean I am burning the candle at both ends, but I would far rather work late, well into the small hours of the morning if it means I can have my daytimes relatively free to spend with the children. In fact after a lovely bike ride a couple of days ago I commented to Roddy how grateful I am that our teenage children love to spend as much time with us as the younger girls do. Jack, who is 14, happily cycled along with me; there was a constant banter between us, lots of jokes and giggling. Ahead the others raced along and echoes of laughter floated back, carried towards us on the gentle autumn breeze; who wouldn’t give up some precious beauty sleep for that? Surely it’s worth a few dark circles under the eyes, it certainly is to me.

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But back to the hunt for wild food,  for it’s one thing we all love doing together – a little foraging. The iPhones and iPads, the computers and all forms of technology, are forgotten; this is back to basic living in its simplest form, practised by man for centuries and yet still it holds fascination for both young and old alike.

First on the agenda was a visit to a wild lone spanish chestnut tree we spied a while ago whilst taking a supposed short cut;  one of those deviations that always seems to turn into quite the opposite, a ‘long cut’. Typically, this will lead one on a wild goose hunt, but this time we found some treasure in the form of some chestnuts, and I’d made a mental note to return.

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p4890887Ignoring our advice Hetty was keen to get started but quickly she realised why we had told her she needed to wear thick gardening gloves to protect against the prickly outer shells!

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Returning home with a full basket we set about removing the outer spiky husks. Then we cut a cross in the flat side of the dark shell which makes peeling it off much easier after they’re cooked. In the evening we lit the fire in the summer kitchen for the first time since last winter; it’s that wonderful time of year when it’s warm enough to be outside, but chilly enough to be grateful for the warm glow from burning wood. Last year’s vine-cuttings and small logs from the pruned fig tree crackled in the hearth, their earthy aromatic scent filling the ancient building and a couple of spiders descended from the ceiling on silken threads as they wended their way down from the rising heat. We gathered around as the sweet nuts roasted for a good half-hour in an old chestnut roasting-pan specifically designed for this with small holes in the bottom (another find we discovered abandoned by the fire when we bought the house). When they were finally ready we picked off their charred skins and ate our fill.

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Our next outing was to some nearby oak woods.

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Unlike our French friends where the gathering and cooking of wild mushrooms is a common family event at this time of year, we Britons tend to be a little more hesitant to forage for wild fungi. Our reluctance is, of course, understandable. Mushrooms can kill. But separating the delicious from the deadly is where expert mycologists can help, and as there are estimated to be over 14,000 different species of fungi in France it’s certainly good to know you can take anything  you find to your local pharmacy where it will be identified for free and you’ll be informed as to what in your precious haul is edible and what is best left well alone.

We quickly spread out, scanning the forest floor. The search took on the energetic feel of a great big family adventure. We came across some beehives in a small clearing.

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Continuing we clambered over brambles and branches between the trees, calling Roddy excitedly when we spotted something remotely interesting. We had armed ourselves each with a stick, carefully chosen from the hundreds that lay in our path, not daring to touch anything with our hands until he had given his verdict, for although nowhere near an expert he is by far the most knowledgeable amongst us. This autumn has been particularly bad for mushrooms so far. It’s been far too dry, fungi like rain, they like damp conditions and we have had none. Still we continued our search but sadly in vain. However, this time no one was too fussed, it’s such fun to walk in the woods.

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Locals shake their heads when we talk about mushrooms at the moment; apparently we need to wait another couple of weeks,then maybe, if there is rain (and if the conditions are right), our efforts might be rewarded; but they all agree it will be a very poor season even if we do get some wet weather.

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We did find a hazel tree and a handful of nuts, but that was all we had to show for our efforts!

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Whilst I was preparing the chestnuts I flicked through the pages of Roddy’s practical handbook on all things ‘fungi’ open on the table. I found a quote taken from The Grete Herball (The Great Herbal) that caught my attention. “There be two manners of them (fungi), one maner is deedley and slayeth them that eateth them… and the other doeth not.” The Grete Herball was an early Modern encyclopedia that detailed the medicinal virtues of plants. It was the first illustrated herbal produced in English in 1526. If we should find some mushrooms in a few weeks time,  at least I think we know how to stick to those that doeth not!

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145 thoughts on “Wild Food

  • Back to nature, you are so right, there is so much that children rarely get the chance to learn nowadays, yours are lucky, even if they don’t realize it at the moment, one day they will

    • I totally agree Varsha, I think ours do realise it, as much as they can when they are children, it just seems normal to them, but as they have experienced many cultures and lived around the world they are a great deal more aware of life in general. xx

  • this is one of my favourite times of year with all the free food! We have chestnut and hazelnut trees in the garden and know where the walnuts are. It’s hugely satisfying, especially when all nuts are so expensive. A great free fun day out with the children too! xx

    • I totally agree, we have hazelnuts and walnuts in the garden, the walnuts are full, the hazels are a disaster, no idea why, they are mature, but not too mature and we have lots of them but never any nuts and combs too. Even our landscape gardener neighbour is perplexed! We even have ripening figs still at the moment and tomatoes and peppers, such a bizarre autumn, the locals just shake their heads, its all out of sync and no one is quite sure what it means. I certainly hope we don’t pay the price in the coming months xx

      • It’s been the strangest year, at last we have plenty of sun, that’s true and loving it, perfect for the holidays. But the figs and tomatoes are going strong and so are the pepper and aubergines, but the rest, like you, not a great year, too dry, too cold in the spring. I can’t help but wonder what the weather has in store for us, hope we don’t get a hideous November. The locals here are all talking about a very cold January and February, -10C they say, which is almost unheard of here on the coast. Have you heard the same rumours where you are? Last night at supper we were talking about it, we’ve got plenty of wood, we’ll stock up the pantry and see what happens!!! xx

  • Sitting here in the hut, stitching a few holes in the pots, and I can understand all too well the fascination with wild food, naturally! I think anything connected to food – whether it’s the planting and harvesting of it, the preparation and cooking of it, or the understanding of an ecosystem and ecology, should all be taught in schools. If someone turns off all the supermarkets one day there will be an awful lot of hungry people otherwise. Hopefully there will be a horse or two around as well. And a boat with a sail. That’ll do me.

    • I agree completely, I think it is very sad when you hear of children not even knowing where milk comes from and I think schools should at least teach some basic food awareness. Imagine how excited inner city children would be if they could get out and forage for their own bounty. xx

  • A great outing with treasures to bring home and enjoy. Sounds perfect to me.
    I couldn’t help but want to burst into song at the sight of the open fire and roasting chestnuts. Now, if I ever see a pan with small holes in the bottom, I’ll know what it’s for!!

    • Absolutely, I had no idea that it was a chestnut pan either, but Roddy knew as soon as he saw it when we moved here. Obviously our old fire in the summer kitchen has been used for this very purpose many times before. It is just such good clean fun, getting the children out, exercise, finding food, it manages to accomplish so many good things without anyone realising it. That’s probably what makes it such fun for the children, they don’t realise they are doing something healthy and good for them!!! xx

      • Not to mention the wonderful *together* time. I’ve discovered with the boys that it’s not necessarily the big events they remember with great fondness, but small things we did together that weren’t particularly “special”.

      • I totally agree Joanne, I have always said that, we have been on some fabulous holidays and travelled extensively with the children and of course they have loved it, but it’s, just as you say, the little things that they often talk about so much. A freezing cold walk is one such memory, it was two days after New Years Day two years ago and we met friends to walk along the Atlantic beach. It was icy cold and we were bundled up like eskimos. Afterward we had a picnic with them out of the back of the car in the car park with a thermos of hot soup, they still talk about that walk. Or a picnic we had this summer on the beach, we went kayaking first and then stayed and ate on the beach, watching the sunset and returning home near midnight having sat and told stories under the stars. Those are the little moments, they cost nothing, but they mean so much. Isn’t that why they say the best things in life are free! xx

      • Good point!

        My boys call it ‘surfing the past’ when we start reminiscing or going through old photos. It’s ALWAYS the small moments that are brought up!!

      • Great name, that’s just what it is. Happy memories, aren’t they just the best with children, isn’t this all we can ask for, that our children look back and think, wow we had such a great time. I also love listening to them giggling together, children’s laughter, it has to be the best and most uplifting sound to hear. As you can tell I like kids!! Xx

    • I so hope they will, but as yet none of them actually like mushrooms, but I didn’t as a child either so I am sure they will change as they get older! However they love collecting them, well they did last year and they would this year if there were any to collect. But I cannot complain, blue skies and endless sun are very welcome, I just hope we don’t pay the price for this in November, traditionally our wettest month of the year, and find ourselves needing an arc! xx

      • I remember my first Autumn in Cantal …. warm and sunny and bright blue skies and then the ladies in the boulangerie line started muttering about snow in three days. And sure enough – it dumped a truckload. Did the same in 2014 and 2015 so I’m expecting the clucking to start as soon as Toussaint is out of the way next week – even though I won’t be there to hear it!!! xx

      • I’ll see if I can hear the clucking here! But here we so rarely get snow, much to everyone’s annoyance, we all love snow, but love the mild winters too, hmmm, can one really like both? Everyone is certainly clucking about the weather here though, it is really weird, not the warmest of Octobers but for sure, but rather the ongoing lack of any form of rain. I know the south got rain this week, but yet again we have had none, it is really strange. Now of course they are forecasting the winter ahead, everyone’s favourite topic of conversation at this time of year, they predict a very harsh, very cold January and February with temperatures dropping to -10C. We’ll see if they are right! xx

      • Well I’m a frustrated weather girl so I know that my area has four different weather patterns – continental (from the East), Atlantic (from the West or basically from here), Med (self explanatory) and the mysterious Mountain which basically covers all the bits that catch them unawares. I would imagine you are more at the effect of Atlantic weather systems where you are and a bit of Med. Surprisingly, am actually south of you though people tend to think of us as being in some sort of cold extreme and as a result we get very warm summers, long autumns and good springs BUT with the – for me – necessary cold and snow in Winter. If you ARE Atlantic watch out because we are about to get snow on the high ground here and all the crusty old New Englanders are predicting a mother of a winter ….. Osyth, Meteorologist, Blog Weather Boston. Join me next time for more fudged garbage!! Xx

      • Aren’t all English weather girls on the side? It’s our favourite topic of conversation I thought, it certainly is mine!! Now I have always said that we get the weather that New England gets just a few days later. I heard from a very good friend who lives in Connecticut earlier that they have snow, it is actually snowing there now, so early. So actually and truthfully, I am hoping, I would love a really cold snowy winter, we have a barn overflowing with wood, I shall stock up the pantry, we will be warm and we won’t starve and I will be happy. I’m like a young kid when it comes to snow, if there is so much as a flurry out of the window I am there watching it like a ten year old, Roddy laughs, I have been known to wake the children at midnight just so they can see it snowing! Here’s hoping that amateur meteorologist Osyth is right, and if you are right I will listen to all the garbage you can throw at me!!!

      • Snow babies are the best and I hope you get that magical white winter …. the children will love it too I’m very sure! I have a painter here power-washing the bricks – his side-kick jus said to me ‘Am I imagining it or did it just drop by 20 degrees in the last 15 minutes. It did. Unless I’m very much mistaken the snow is headed this way … and my uncle who was an adopted New Englander from the mid-sixties on always told his baby sister (my mummy) exactly what you have just said …. we get the weather, you get it 4 days later! Now that would mean Boston tracks to the UK and therefore Connecticut to France. By my very scientific reckoning!! Xx

      • WEll I just checked the meteo and it looks set to remain pleasant for the next two weeks here! I would love snow, but not yet, not until December, I would like a nice mild Autumn first and lots of sun please!!! Then a cold winter, with lots of snow and lots of sun! You see if we are going to predict the weather I am going to predict exactly what I want!!!

      • This is exactly why I spend half my life watching numerous forecasts and with 6 météo apps on my iPad …. I just pick off the way I want it to be … we are girls, after all 😉 xx

      • Maybe I should try that one! I am certainly slightly obsessed with knowing what the weather will do! Right now though Meteofrance gives us lots of sunshine so I’ll stick with them this week!!!

  • What a perfect childhood your children are having. I can imagine how they must like cooking the chestnuts and eating their ‘treasure’

    • Thanks Jane, they do really enjoy the taste of chestnuts roasted over the open fire, well who wouldn’t. They are not so fond of mushrooms though! Of course, whilst roasting and enjoying the chestnuts, they also had a little treat and toasted some marshmallows on sticks too, they are on holiday after all!! xx

      • I bet it was a real party around your fire, I adore roasting marshmallows and tasting the sticky liquid with a slight burnt flavor!

    • Awww thank you so much Ellen. I don’t think we deserve that title at all, but we do our best and I love the company of the children, which must say something about them, they are such fun and great conversationalists. Hope you are having a lovely week. xx

  • One of my favorite autumn activities is collecting mushrooms. I remember as a child my parents picking field mushrooms, the bigger the better. i didn’t like them then and I didn’t appreciate them back then either, in fact I hated it when they found some, we would have to eat them for supper, even worse!

    • I didn’t like them as a child either Amanda, and our children don’t like them now, but as I learnt to love them so I hope they will do too. I remember the big field mushrooms, we would find them in the field where the horses grazed, my mother would pan fry them very simply, my father did not like garlic he preferred to taste things as they were meant to be and savour the flavour! xx

  • Thanks for the gorgeous walk through the woods! Stunning photos….gorgeous chestnuts and hazelnuts…
    You really bring real life home to all of us. These are unforgettable memories for your lucky children as well. So grateful to be a part this!
    Ps- have never seen red chrysanthemums – so very beautiful mixed in with the purples, oranges, yellows. What a treat to see!
    Thank you
    Please tell your fellow and guest author Bentley that I enjoyed seeing his cameo ( can a bum be s cameo?) as well. I’m s huge fan.

    • Ha ha, yes a bum can be a cameo I guess! I will pass it on to him, he loves being out in the woods, so does Evie, but she was probably too far ahead, sniffing out a rabbit or something! We all love waking in the woods, especially now when it is so dry, no need to wear wellies and easy walking. xx

  • We have lots of walnuts and chestnuts in the garden and mushrooms in our forest but I would not eat them, the mushrooms that is, as I know nothing about mushroom hunting and so many are toxic. I will stick to buying them from my sweet little mushroom lady at the market.

    • We have lots of walnuts in the garden Nadia, but no chestnuts. I wonder if you have had a little more rain than us, because here there is literally not a mushroom or fungi of any type in sight. The locals thought we were mad to even try and go mushroom hunting, but it was fun none the less. You could always take what you find to the local pharmacy, being such a great chef you could certainly make some wonderful meals out of the most unusual ones?

    • I totally agree, it really does surround one with a ‘feel good’ feeling, all the fresh air as well as the sheer pleasure of finding something totally wild that is edible. Back to basics, sometimes really is the best. xx

    • It totally agree, and what one finds wild in nature is nearly always good for us, full of vitamins and minerals so we are getting healthy on all fronts, with the food, the fresh air and the exercise, what’s not to love! xx

  • I feel as if I’ve just had a wonderful walk through the forest with you. What a beautiful woodland you have there.
    And, ahem, feeling absurdly proud of self that when I first glanced at your opening picture, I thought, “Oh, chestnuts.” Didn’t know I knew that.

    • Chestnuts indeed, when I was little we used to see them roasted on street corners around Christmas time, the man always had a big half barrel and he sold them in little cones made out of newspaper, maybe this is why I love them so much, they bring back so many childhood memories! There are plenty of great forests around here, some are very young and some old, the trick is to avoid the time of day when they are hunting and typically the weekends, now that it is hunting season! xx

  • It’s half term here in England too and the children and I have been out looking for mushrooms. Not the elaborate types you see in France, we are happy wandering through the New Forest and searching for bog standard mushrooms!

    • I think we would be more than happy to find anything Lisa. I can just imagine you walking through the New Forest, having grown up just across the water on the IOW, it was a place we visited often. We took the children there a couple of summers ago, their first time and they had such fun, we walked for hours, they loved seeing all the wild ponies and nothing had changed at all since my childhood. Enjoy the rest of your half term with your children xx

      • We often pop across to Yarmouth on the ferry, we have friends in Freshwater so it’s very convenient. Love your blog by the way and even more so now I know you are a local!

      • Sadly not born and bred though, we moved there when I was 2. The Yarmouth/Lymington crossing is always my favourite, it is so pretty seeing all the yachts on both sides of the solent. xx

  • Chestnuts..My husband love them and we have a wonderful neighbor who forages for them every fall in Seattle and shares them with us, I have to say they are not my favorite until I have them with some rosemary butter and a glass of tawny port. Enjoy! So love hearing and seeing you adventures. You have made my morning. Thank you

    • Thanks so much Freda, isn’t it funny how everyone likes sweet chestnuts a different way. My grandfather hated them roasted but loved them as a dessert, coated in sugar, sweet and sickly! I am not so mad about them in general cooking but I love them warm from the fire when I can peel of their skins and eat them as they are. We used to have a man who sold them to us like this when I was a child, he would roast them in a huge fire in an old barrel and give them to us in cones made out of newspaper, it was always around Christmas time; perhaps this is why I love them so much, childhood memories! Have a wonderful happy day xx

  • There is nothing better in the autumn than escaping the rat race with the husband, children and dogs in tow and spending a weekend in the country, with no internet, no need to wear makeup, no television, just long walks and roaring log fires – my perfect kind of bliss after a hard working week, and the children, well they kind of get it too, just!

    • Hi Susannah, firstly welcome to the blog, it is great to have you following along. When I worked in London, which seems like an eternity ago, but was actually only a couple of decades, pre children and pre marriage, I used to love nothing more than going home to the country from London. Of course back then we had no internet anyway, but it was fun just to relax, wear jeans and wellies and go for a long ride with the dogs. All the things I couldn’t do in London. I used to return on a Sunday evening or Monday morning feeling utterly refreshed, as if I had been away for weeks rather than just two days. xx

  • I belong to my local mycologie club and so I think you need to be careful about the taking wild picked mushrooms to the pharmacy thing. Our expert members will mentor pharmacy students doing their mycologie unit, but the unit is optional these days and most pharmacists choose not to do it. The other thing is that if they don’t practice, their identification skills aren’t much good. Technically, the pharmacist is supposed to tell you to throw the mushrooms out, no matter what they think they are, unless they can all clearly be identified as edible species and it can be established that they have not come into contact with any toxic species (been put in the same basket, for example).

    • Hi Susan, thanks for the information of which I had no idea. Here our local pharmacy actually has a sign in the window welcoming people to bring their mushrooms in for identification, I happened to see it was back in situ when I drove past last week and even commented on it. Where we used to live further south we would always go out foraging with our French neighbours, we were always quite lucky and collected quite an array and those we were unsure of we took to the pharmacy, they were actually all edible, they were all in the same bucket and we are still here to tell the tale! Next time I am in the pharmacy, I will ask them what their practice is as they seem terribly friendly on the odd occasion I have been in. We have a huge exhibition here in the village in the salle des fêtes one weekend every November, it is quite fascinating hundreds upon hundreds of different fungi are all displayed and carefully labelled, such dedication and hard work goes into it and I am always happy to see that it is so well supported by all the villagers. xx

  • Loved your woodland adventures. The autumn colours have been so good this year haven’t they? The native beeches and oaks are now starting to turn coppery here too. It’s just beautiful. If only it would last a bit longer.

    • Thanks so much. The colours are fantastic, everywhere we turn at the moment we gasp, everything just looks so spectacular, here it seemed to happen so suddenly, last week, the leaves had hardly turned and now everything is a mixture of russets and oranges and yellows and every road we drive down just looks incredible. I hope it does last a little longer, it’s too beautiful to be over too quickly! Xx

    • I quite agree, it saddens me so much when inner city children don’t even know where their milk comes from. I wish I could take them all out with me into the woods for a day, to explore with us, I feel I could teach them so much, even though I am far from an expert, but there is so much to see and learn. Xx

  • I just came across this quote from writer Terry Pratchett on mushrooms, and thought it appropriate to the discussion.

    “1. All fungi are edible.
    “2. Some fungi are only edible once.”

    Bon appétit. 🙂

    • It takes quite a lot for me to laugh out loud at something I read on my computer, but with this you succeeded. I love it, in fact I laughed so much, Jack next to me just looked at me like I had gone quite mad, now he is laughing too. This obviously just appeals to our slightly warped sense of humour!!

  • This brings back wonderful childhood memories of weekend wandering in forests, paddocks and along the beaches of Normandy. Every weekend was spent going somewhere that involved collecting wild food: mushrooms, chestnuts, berries, nuts, crustaceans…. and then gorging ourselves on our finds. Still do this as an adult. Can’t go for a walk without being head and nose down fossicking!

    • I totally agree, it tastes so much better when we have collected it ourselves, these make such wonderful childhood memories. There’s always something in the wild that is edible. How about in Australia, easy or harder? xx

      • Not so much easier or harder, just less commonly done and the species are different. I think collecting wild food requires knowledge passed on by your elders but in Australia it is less readily done than in Europe. Here the aboriginals hold a lot of knowledge about botany. We could learn a lot about ‘bush tucker’ but it is not mainstream.

      • Very true, most things I know I have learnt from my parents, things I remember from my childhood, searching for mushrooms for instance, just something we did and something that seems so normal at this time of year. I can imagine the aboriginals could teach you so much, are there any courses available? I would find that so fascinating, we can learn so much from listening to the locals wherever we are in the world.

      • I SO remember being crazy about collecting chestnuts in my childhood days in N Europe, never mind the ‘ouches’ . . . and going mushrooming after a week or so of rain showers was a huge treat – so agree with svtakeiteasy that in Australia but few are used to the foraging possibilities and excitement known tho’ the indigenous should have been able to teach us way before! Matters changing as far as herbs and berries are concerned but many still do not realize the wonderful seaweeds and marine vegetables available and the fact one can actually go mushrooming in many of the European planted forests most successfully . . . .methinks we are learning . . ..

      • Chestnuts roasting on the open fire – one of my all time favourite late autumn/winter treats, probably the reason I love them so much is because they bring back so many happy memories. Likewise foraging for mushrooms, I can picture myself back on our farm with the horses collecting field mushrooms with my father just thinking about them! I think people are slowly realising how much is available for free and how good it is for us, but there is still so little known about the seaweeds and marine vegetables which are of course the healthiest of them all. I too am far too ignorant, I would like to learn a great deal more. Hope you are having a wonderful Spring weekend down under! Xx

    • Thanks so much David, we are lucky to have such easy happy go lucky children. The autumnal colours are fabulous at the moment, they sort of appeared out of nowhere, one minute the leaves were still green and then suddenly they turned and the landscape became a mass of russets and oranges and yellows, it is quite stunning. xx

  • Thank you for another delightful post. I can almost smell the aroma of chestnuts roasting over a fire in a huge metal pan, by vendors in several places in Europe where we happened to be in the autumn.

    • Hi Judy, I remember when I was a child a man would sell chestnuts around Christmas time, he roasted them in an old barrel and served them to us in cones made out of old newspapers. They were still warm and tasted delicious, perhaps it is the memories that chestnuts evoke that makes them taste all the more delicious to me! and that smell is divine! xx

  • Lovely fall colors, how I would like to take a walk in those woods with you and your lovely family and are those the dogs I spy too?

    • Hi Shari, yes those are indeed the dogs, never could we go for a walk without taking them with us! We are lucky that they are able to go off their leads. The woods are a great place to walk, now that the hunting season is upon us we must of course avoid them at the weekend! The autumn colours are fantastic this year, every turn we take we gasp, they just get better and better. xx

      • I envy you those walks, we are not able to let our dogs roam free, they always have to be on the leash. Lucky children and lucky dogs, another reason to move to France!

      • I love being able to walk freely with the dogs, of course we do have to keep them on the lead through villages and anywhere where there are houses, but in the woods and down our local farm tracks we scarcely ever meet another person and if we do their dogs are always roaming free as well, so as long as ones dogs are sociable there is never a problem!

  • Autumn – a time of leaves, roast chestnuts and walks. I think you have covered all three ingredients there, Susan. There’s a couple of spots for mushrooms in Richmond Park we visit and I see certain people walking around, heads to the ground as usual for this time of year. I suspect a plastic bag is in a pocket or two. Alas, we never find any…..I envy you the chestnuts, haven’t tasted those for years, I must admit. Lovely photos as always, thank you.

    • Thanks so much Simon, the chestnuts are delicious, one of my absolute favourites at this time of year. I also like traditional field mushrooms the best, the flavour is more subtle and less intense. Do you not still get street sellers roasting chestnuts in old barrels where you are? I used to love buying them around Christmas time, always served in a cone of newspaper! Xx

      • Gosh, the last time I ate chestnuts from a street vendor was outside the British Museum, yonks ago. All I seem to come across nowadays are what appear to be dodgy people selling roasted peanuts and things.

        But field mushrooms are something else. I remember as young boy finding them in meadows by the river when my dad would take me fishing in the early morning, . At home, he’d pan-fry them, slide a fried egg on top and add a couple of slices of bacon to the plate and we’d eat like kings. I must have been the odd child who liked them by the look of the comments here. I always think the trick is not to add too much butter – it’s a fine art to make them ‘crispy’ more than ‘slimey’. I have a friend who roasts his in the oven to great effect, but that’s a rather long-winded process for breakfast and involves a little olive oil.

        Now you’ve made me hungry and there isn’t even a pork pie on the opposite desk to keep me entertained this morning.

      • My father used to love field mushrooms cooked just like this, simply fried with bacon and eggs, his Sunday breakfast treat, I remember how happy he would be to come in from the farm for breakfast with mushrooms. So sorry to hear you can no longer buy chestnuts from street vendors, too sad!

  • What a great blog. I love foraging for nuts and fruits and greens. I remember my father bringing a paw paw in from the woods one day, delighted to have found a tree where he had not expected one. It was delicious, and I’m still thrilled to find them. Your outings with your children sound fabulous. Lots of good memories in the making…

    • I would be ecstatic to find something as exciting as a paw paw here, of course we don’t even get them in France so there is no chance! I will have to settle for our chestnut tree and mushrooms! I do love foraging it is such fun and so healthy, fresh air, exercise and nutritious food, what could be better! Xx

  • Susan,
    What makes your posts so special is that All of them are “heartfelt.” One can really tell that you cherish your family deeply. What a perfect Autumn day for such a fun outing!🎃🍁 And yes, it’s those little surprises that can continually tug at our ❤️ strings. It sounds like it was a day filled with “moments” and “memories” Great Adventure…Fabulous Photography…Susan, your children are VERY LUCKY to have such a Creative Mom!
    Thank you for not only sharing your “Fun Filled Day” but for being such a great role model to Everyone! Love those Chestnuts! ❤️🍁🎃

    • Thanks so much, if there is one thing I can honestly say it is that I only write about what I truly believe in. I love spending as much time as possible outdoors and if it can be with the children too then so much the better. It’s funny sometimes it looks cold and it takes a lot of effort to get everyone to put on coats and go for a walk, but once we are out, no one ever wants to come back! have a great end to the week xx

  • You even have to know your chestnuts. There are châtaignes, which sometimes are called marrons and are edible, and marrons d’Inde, which are not (and not from India, either!).

    • Very true, we have a Horse Chestnut in the garden and another outside our house, lots and lots of conkers fall every year onto the pavement, do you call them conkers in the US? We grew up playing conkers, as children we would fill our pockets with as many as we could. The little kids in the playground at the village school here pick them up all the time to play with. Sadly we don’t have a Spanish Chestnut in the garden nor in the village that I have seen, but now we have found our secret supply!

    • I think your ‘marrons d’Inde’ are horse-chestnuts, francetaste. If so, rest assured that all good English children know the difference from an early age 🙂 !! One nut is destined for a piece of string and the playground, and the other is to be collected for consumption, and it’s drummed into us at an early age that the ‘conker’ will make us rather ill. The Spanish variety, could, in moderation, be eaten on the way home uncooked, though – if one had a penknife and carefully removed all the fluff. Not too many, though….. However, from bitter experience (both mine and my friends) the same could not be said of the ‘conker’.

      • Growing up in England, we just grew up with both Spanish and Horse Chestnuts as Simon says, but I can imagine if you didn’t grow up with them it would be really confusing, thanks for pointing this out. I think all English children just automatically now the difference, conkers (the chestnuts from the horse chestnut) are for playing with and spanish ones are for eating. Actually the game of conkers on strings I believe got banned from playgrounds in the UK, because so many people got hurt knuckles, when you hit hard with them they hurt! Trust me I know, it’s a vicious game! The children have french friends over playing at the moment so I asked them if they know the difference, they just looked at me with that wonderfully classic french look and simply said “bah oui” as if I was quite mad to even ask them, I love that the French can put me in my place so easily!!!

      • I’m intrigued you have actually tried eating a conker!! well at least you lived to tell the tale, so that proves they are not deadly!!! Like you we grew up just knowing the difference, we didn’t think about it, it’s just how it was!

    • Not quite singlehandedly, I always have my band of helpers both two legged and four legged!!! In fact here in France it’s rather a common past time and the more I look around the internet the more I see its becoming popular once again, a good thing for sure! Have a great weekend xx

    • Thanks, it is great fun to get out there with them, great exercise, lots of fresh air and they learn a thing or two about nature in the process. I love spending days like these with them during the holidays. xx

  • I do miss foraging for mushrooms since we have moved to Mid TN, It was always rewarding to beat the trespassers. We have to rely on a neighbor’s back yard fire pit but we will enjoy the smell of logs burning and probably a few lost marshmallows.

    • I very much doubt we will get any mushrooms at all this year. However, the children are terribly happy or roast some marshmallows on the open fire, they absolutely adore them! Enjoy yours and the firepit and your neighbour’s and have a lovely weekend xx

  • I always feel that foraging for wild foods satisfies a very deep, primal hunting and gathering instinct. We are hard-wired for it, surely. Even when I don’t find anything, the process itself of searching for wild food is extremely satisfying.

    Some have predicted a very harsh winter this year in Maine. Several local beekeepers had bees preparing much earlier than usual for winter. But we’ll see. With these crazy weather patterns, nothing would surprise me.

    • Hi Brenda, I totally agree, even if we don’t find anything the process, the fresh air, the walk, it is all so satisfying, anything we find is a bonus. I hear they had snow yesterday in CT, we have good friends there and often they say we get the same weather as you do in New England, just a few days later and perhaps a little less harsh. Here the locals are also predicting a very harsh January and February so we shall have to wait and see.

    • Oops sorry, I hit reply a little too quickly! I was fascinated by the bees. I think bees are the most incredibly fascinating creatures and I think we can learn a lot by observing them, I would take that as one of the safest predictions of the winter ahead, they know these things, how I don’t know, but I truly believe in learning from them.Have a good weekend and stay warm! Xx

      • I am besotted with my honey bees. We think that we have some understanding of them–and we do–but, really, we are incredibly ignorant about their intricate, highly-developed world. As you said, it’s utterly fascinating.

        Oddly enough, right after I wrote my weather comment, I read a prediction from NOAA that Maine will have a milder than normal winter. Perhaps we should leave it to the bees.

      • I completely agree, the more I read about them and the more I learn the more I realise I know nothing at all. I think we should definitely leave it to the bees, but my money would be on harsh if they were preparing early!

  • Ah, hazelnuts and chestnuts – what treasures! I recently planted two hazelnut shrubs in my landscape because I miss them so much and have not been able to find them wild, here in the Virginia mountains. BTW, thank you so much for following Beauty Along the Road.

    • Hi, are your hazelnuts fruiting yet? Ironically we have an entire hedge down the centre of our garden of a mixture of cobbs and hazelnuts. About 20 in total and not a single one ever produces any fruit. They are a perfect age, neither too young nor too old, even our neighbour who is a French landscape gardener and has lived here all his life cannot understand it. This winter we are going to try a radical move, we are going to cut them hard back to half their size and see if that shocks them into producing! Have a Lovely Sunday in a beautiful part of the USA xx

      • I just bought my hazelnuts this summer and one (one!) had a single hazelnut on it. Will see what happens next year. Good luck with your plan. Perhaps you should research first when to prune them because some trees fruit on old wood, others on new and I have no idea which group hazelnuts belong to.

      • Well that is one more hazelnut than us! We did research it a lot, we have to cut them back this winter, after all the leaves have fallen. Where would we be without google! Also with out landscape gardener next door who is a very good friend it is easy just to ask him what to do, between the Internet and him we should get it right I hope! But we can’t do any worse than zero nuts!!!

      • Always and by cutting them hard back we will create a lot more light, in fact it does more good than harm and if we end up getting some nuts in the process then that’s an added bonus!

  • What lovely photographs Susan and a post filled with useful information. I had no idea that chrysanths were associated with La Toussaint or that you could take your foraged mushrooms to the pharmacie for identification. Can imagine what they’d say if you tried that in Boots!

    • Thanks so much Fiona, there are Chrysanths everywhere here, all over the entrances to supermarkets, at every market and garden centre and in so many colours. Can you imagine walking into Boots indeed with a bag full of fungi, it would almost be worth trying just to see their faces!!! Hope you have had a lovely weekend, stunning weather here, 22C for the past few days, perfect autumnal weather. When are you back? Susan xx

      • Yes I gather you have a good forecast as I was in touch with the Camping proprieteur earlier this week, who told me, it seems they are almost fully booked for les vacances de la Toussaint. Alas I will not be back until spring… lots of things to do at home. It’s been quite mild here also, 13 degrees when I left for work at 0500h the other day! x

      • It is the most perfect weather, fantastic for the holidays which makes me so happy, not just for us (of course) but for a the whole of France, it is great for the tourism industry. Our second daughter was in the UK last week, sailing, and she said the weather was lovely. Enjoy the sun and mild weather whilst it lasts! Xx

  • Lovely autumnal photographs, thank you. We have walnuts and hazelnuts a plenty and sloes for the super-delicious sloe gin. But like you, the mushrooms are AWOL. When we first came here there were hundreds of small thin ones in our field. Our local woodman gave them the OK and gently fried in a little butter they were delicious. They’ve never been back though.

    • Thanks so much, we had plenty of sloes this year and walnuts in the garden but our hazel and Cobb trees of which we have about 20 still have not produced a single nut. They are neither too old nor too young and even our landscape gardener neighbour is perplexed! This winter we will cut them hard back and see if that does the trick, we have nothing to lose and will gain a lot of extra light if nothing else! I remember plenty of mushrooms in the fields when I was a child, this year they have been non existent but then so has the rain! Have a lovely week.xx

  • The photos show how beautiful the weather has been for your family forages. We don’t venture far from our backyard when foraging — strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes and some garlic — but I have been crunching on a number of nuts on the sidewalk recently that I should look into. Great post.

    • Thanks Paulita, we can still forage for plenty in the garden thanks to the continuing good weather, tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, figs, peppers, walnuts and of course lots of eggs from the chickens. But there is something far more rewarding about finding wild food, plus the walks are always such fun! Xx

  • A lovely post Susan. Very atmospheric. I hope that we can do this sort of thing with our grandchildren next year. I love showing them new things, especially in nature, as at home it ‘s more homework, computers etc . My husband and I have always wanted to go on a foraging break, there are some around these days, so once my husband is retired……. Have a spooky Halloweeen!

    • Hi Marian, thanks so much. A foraging weekend would be such fun, I can imagine the things one could learn going out with a professional, I think if I were to choose my time of year for this it would have to be in the spring when there are so many new things in abundance. Spooky Halloween indeed, the children are all out trick or treating around the village, and it’s remarkably busy for France, it’s catching on very quickly! Happy Halloween to you too xx

  • Lovely post.
    It’s always nice, comforting even, when the teenagers are participatory.
    I love how your pharmacies will examine your mushrooms — I mean, that’s really spectacular, and something I’ve never heard of. We collected some walnuts in the woods yesterday, but generally, this time of year, the garden is less than and we do most of our foraging at the markets 🙂

    • Thanks so much, it always makes me so so happy that the teenagers love doing things with us, really what more could one ask for? We have had such incredibly mild weather and despite the complete lack of any rain, or perhaps because of, the garden is still producing rather prolifically, tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, peppers, figs and walnuts. The markets here in France are of course a treat, even though I am used to them, they are still such fun! Have a great Halloween! Xx

  • I’m old enough to remember eating Sweet Chestnuts out of a big pan when my sister and I were with my grandparents in Cornwall. Give me the Great Outdoors any day, rather than TV, and technology – all the better for family life – and a curious mind.

    • I totally agree, there is so much to learn from the great outdoors, living here in France, has enabled us to show our children so much. Of course they do still have their computers, but they also love adventures, they have loved foraging for food, they are very outdoor children. For me, I am always happiest when I am outside! xx

    • Thanks so much, I really appreciate it. The children really are loving life here, it has given them so many opportunities and it is great fun to be able to share everything. Hope you had a happy halloween xx

  • How I love chestnuts, and I suppose that hunting for them in the crisp air with family or friends could bring you even closer to the primitive side of our being! Then there is the aroma of the roasting, then the taste, the texture. I can only buy them imported from France or Italy during the holidays, but I savor every chewy bite! Love where you live, it is STUNNING! And thank you for visiting my post! Anita

    • Hi Anita, I adore chestnuts, I think it must go back to my childhood, chestnuts remind me of how we used to buy them from street vendors, they were always cooked over coals in an old half barrel and sold to us in cones made from old newspapers. Roasting them in the summer kitchen here over the traditional fire in the chestnut roasting pan is a real treat, as you say, the aroma is gorgeous and the taste even better! Of course I love your blog, I savour every post, they are always so beautifully artistic. xx

  • Hi Susan, gorgeous pictures. I love the one where the kids are cycling between the autumn trees – beautiful. And I love to go hunt for mushrooms in France when it rains, my kind of adventure which I enjoy so much. I had a great read. Juli

  • What a fun adventure! As a falconer who loves wild game I find a very deep connection in using a falcon to help secure tonights dinner. My children love to go with me and the bonding experience is amazing. I honestly feel like teaching your children how to secure wild food is a way to give them a gift that cant be purchased. Great Post : )

    • I totally agree with you about the bonding with our children and searching for wild food. There is so much more to be learnt in life than just what is taught inside a classroom, I love nothing better than getting the children outside and opening their eyes to so much around them. xx

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