As the vast majority of us have spent a lot of time indoors in the past year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many are craving time outside and in the fresh air.
One way to get closer to nature this autumn is by taking up foraging, with Belinda Blake, a nutritional therapist and clinic tutor for the Institute of Optimum Nutrition (ion.ac.uk), noting that there is a multitude of benefits to the hobby, including a grounding influence, natural aromatherapy, positive vibes, and access to really fresh - and free - food.
"Autumn is a beautiful time of year to forage. It is a time of abundance, but also marks the transition and gradual slowing down of nature, which can have a calming effect on our mind and body," she shared. "As always, forage responsibly and always make sure you are 100 per cent sure of what you are picking. Why not see if there are any foraging classes near where you live or, alternatively, invest in a good wild plant identification guide to help get you going and pick safely?"
In addition, Belinda insisted those interested make sure to check the Foraging Code for full details on safe foraging and to ensure compliance with the law.
As for what to forage for during the autumn months, the health expert noted that now is the time to search for fruits.
When foraging for these delicious berries, be sure to stop in check hedgerows.
"Familiar and easily recognisable, these juicy berries are rich in fibre and nutrients. Their dark purple colour comes from anthocyanidins, or plant chemicals, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation and support a healthy immune system," said Belinda. "Delicious when made into warming crumbles or jams, whizzed into smoothies or just enjoyed straight from the bush!"
If you know of someone with an elder tree, now is the time to ask for the berries.
"Elderberries are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants and can be made into a delicious syrup which, with the addition of warming spices like clove and ginger, may help protect against colds and viruses as we transition into the colder months. It is fascinating to observe that nature provides just what we need at the right time," the nutritional therapist continued.
You've probably recently walked past crab apples without even taking a second glance.
"These tiny, sour apples are commonly found growing on trees lining our streets or on common land. Inedible raw, these apples make a fantastic base for jams, and chutneys or can be pureed with other autumn fruits and dried into fruit leathers," she added.