Autumn Foraging in Suffolk

As the leaves begin to turn, you may notice a few more seasonal changes. If you’re a keen cook and love to forage for your food, autumn’s a wonderful time to collect nuts, berries, apples and field mushrooms darted throughout Suffolk’s hedgerows and woodland.

There’s a real sense of being at one as you explore what nature has to offer. All the senses are awoken when we forage. You can almost sense it now. The inhale of fresh air, the rich scent of seasonal berries, the earthiness of mushrooms and sweet aroma of ready-to-roast chestnuts.

It’s one of the reasons why autumn is a favourite season of ours as we have plenty of foraging grounds on our doorstep at Vale Designs. So, what are our top five things to forage?

5 things to forage this autumn


Blackberry picking is a wonderful weekend activity. Stepping outside with a basket in hand, it’s a great thing for all the family to do. Found in hedgerows, blackberry bushes are instantly recognisable with their roundish serrated leaves and pops of dark purple berries. Just be careful of the sharp prickles along the stems.


How to use them

Blackberries are a firm favourite for keen dessert-makers. Being wonderfully sweet and full of flavour, they are a lovely pairing with more bitter fruits such as cooking apples and make the most delicious pies. If you collect enough, you can also make a rich, thick jam, or simply eat them with some cream.

What to look out for

Blackberries are generally at their best at the end of August to September and should be shiny and firm when you pick them. Just avoid bushes near busy roads and any fruit that is low enough to be ‘watered’ by passing dogs.


If you love sloe gin, autumn is a fantastic time to go foraging. Sloe berries grow on blackthorn, a spiny tree or bush that belongs to the rose family.

Sloes are tart and acidic, which is why they blend so beautifully with gin and caster sugar to make the deep red, wintry sloe gin.

Sloe berries on blackthorn

How to use them

Traditionally you wait until after the first frost to pick sloes. Nowadays though, there’s no reason why you can’t pick them earlier, pop them into an airtight bag and into your freezer to replicate that first frost. Quite simply, the frost helps to soften and split the skins, allowing the juices to seep from the sloes and into whatever you’re making.

Most people pick sloes to make their own sloe gin, which is relatively easy to do. All you need are a few simple ingredients – gin, sloes (but plenty of them), caster sugar. Other people make slow whisky or brandy liqueur, and even jam.

What to look for

Sloes are jewel-like blue/black berries and are typically ready for picking from the end of September until December. How many sloes you can expect to find will largely depend on the weather during the previous spring and summer. If the weather has been dry, the sloes may be smaller than usual, and too cold, they may not grow very well.

In some years, blackthorn trees along hedgerows and fields are heavy with fruit, though.


Suffolk is, believe it or not, home to 11 apple varieties. Typically ripening between August and November, the countryside is dotted with apple trees, possibly harking back to the county’s cider making days.

The most common varieties are the St. Edmund’s Russet, Lord Stradbroke and Lady Henniker.

Cox Apples

How to use them

When out foraging, you’re most likely to come across crisp green apples, which are wonderfully sour and best when cooked. You can make a wide variety of desserts, from apple crumble and tarts to your very own apple sauce.

If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon Cox or Discovery apples, they’re perfect to eat as they are.

What to look for

Most apple trees are privately owned and so make sure you have permission to pick them. Also, do check for any safety hazards around the tree – wasps are common, and so too are fallen branches.

Also, be prepared to pick your fair share of spoiled apples as they’re prone to insect damage.

Sweet chestnuts

Sweet chestnuts are an absolute favourite at this time of year, and a real Christmas classic.

Introduced by the Romans for its nuts – often ground into flour – chestnut trees stand tall in many Suffolk woodland areas. They are easy to spot as the chestnuts are wrapped in spiky, green casing.

Sweet Chestnuts

How to use them

The nuts can be baked, roasted, boiled or even microwaved. You simply score a cross on top of them to stop them from exploding when they are cooked. Once cooked and peeled they can be eaten as they are or used in desserts and stuffings.

What to look for

The sweet chestnut tree has long leaves with large teeth along their edges, and soft spined fruit cases the house two or three chestnuts.

You’ll find the best crop at the foot of large established trees. Typically, trees start dropping nuts from October and into late autumn and early winter.

Field mushrooms

I’ve been collecting field mushrooms since I was a child, when I used to go out foraging on Aldeburgh marshes with my dad.

Field mushrooms (Agaricus campestris)
Field Mushrooms (Agaricus campestris)

How to use them

Mushrooms are wonderfully versatile, especially cultivated (button) mushrooms. They can be used in almost any recipe, from bolognaise and stews to curries and risotto. They’re also delicious when fried whole and can even be dried to add a rich earthy flavour to dishes.

What to look for

Field mushrooms (Agaricus campestris) start popping up from July to October. They mostly grow in pasture land, and particularly seem to like fields where sheep have been. You will also find them growing in other grassy places, such as along the edges of a hedgerow.

The gills of the young field mushroom are a dusky pink colour, which changes to brown and then black as the mushroom matures.

Remember… foraging for field mushrooms is fun, but make sure you have the correct identification before eating to be safe. Here is a video from Wild Food UK to help you:

Final Thoughts

Something I was taught from a young age is to only pick what you need and what you know.

There are some fantastic foraging apps that you can download for use on your mobile phone and a wonderful selection of pocket books in local book stores. Having some photos you can refer to is a massive help!

Lastly, please let us know of any fruitful foraging sites you find. We’re always keen to explore new spots!