Once upon a time foraging in the Cairngorms would have been a way of life. It probably still is in many cultures around the world, but for Western civilisation it has long been considered a little bit out of the ordinary.
So whether it’s taking the kids out bramble hunting (a favourite in this house!), seeking out elusive sloes (sloe gin anyone?) or searching for wild garlic and mushrooms, it’s time to rediscover the riches of our landscape – and late summer/early autumn in the Cairngorms National Park is the perfect time to get started.
Now most foragers are unlikely to share their best spots with you so if you’re not sure how to tell your chanterelle from your giant puffball, a great way to get back to your hunter-gatherer routes is to join a local guide or Ranger, who can take you to the best secret spots and steer you well clear of anything toxic. There are lots of knowledgeable and experienced guides in the National Park who will be able to point out various edible plants and fruits including Andy and Rebecca at Scot Mountain Holidays, who not only grow lots of their own produce, but spend time foraging for all the finest wild foods offered by the Cairngorms.
1. Chanterelles – Prized by wild mushroom hunters and restaurant chefs across Scotland. They are one one of the most delicious wild mushrooms you can find. Once harvested they can be used to make a number of tasty recipes from soup to risotto.
2. Blaeberries (also known as Bilberries) – Found on woodland floors in late Summer and Autumn. These little berries are delightful and have a similar taste to Blueberries. They can be eaten raw or used to make pies, jams and other puddings. Beware of your give away purple tongue, face and hands after!
3. Rose hips – Can be found in Autumn and Winter and are packed with vitamin C. A few uses for these orange/red berries include rose hip tea, syrup or jam.
4. Brambles (also known as Blackberries) – These deep coloured berries can be found in hedges from late summer to early autumn. Often found near raspberry bushes and taste great together in fruit salads or in crumbles, pies or jams.
5. Nettles – Put on your gloves and and harvest some nettles leaves. These stinging leaves are actually full of Vitamin C , Calcium and potassium and can be used to make yummy soup, pesto and pasta dishes.
6. Sloes – Sloe Gin anyone? From October to November wild sloes can be found growing in the Cairngorms but their location is often kept secret.
7. Rowan berries – Rowan trees can be found all over Scotland but their berries are not commonly used. The fruit should not be eaten when raw but can be used to make jelly’s, jams or wine.
Autumn in the Cairngorms offers rich pickings from fungi and plants to berries and herbs, but as well as food from natural and wild places there are a wealth of fine food and drink producers based in the Cairngorms National Park. The National Park is home to lots of top-quality producers, food innovators, cafes and restaurants that can do all the hard work for you!
Always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and leave no trace. If you’re foraging on a farm or private property, be sure to get permission before you start picking. It’s also best to avoid areas that are next to busy roads. Once you’ve got your harvest, be sure that your fruit and mushrooms are properly identified and cleaned before you consume them. Some mushrooms can be extremely poisonous so if you are in any doubt seek professional advice first.
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