As leaves begin to colour up and spiral down, the berries and nuts in our hedgerows and woods fatten and ripen. If you're out foraging then here are some ideas for what's out there. The wild damson (prunus domestica) is a purple variety of plum which ripens a good month later than cultivated ones. They're the must-have ingredient in autumn chutneys but are also great in jams, fruit wine and a delicious addition to liqueurs. While we're on the subject of alcohol, sloe berries remain on blackthorn shrubs throughout winter and is the mainstay of sloe gin, an absolutely delicious liqueur. The rule of thumb is to pick them after the first frosts, as this softens the skins and releases the juices - or you can pick them anyway and pop them in the freezer. Sloe berries are also great in jams and vinegars.
Elderberries are another forager's favourite: elderberry wine, jam and in pies with apples or pears. They are also high in vitamins A, B and C, so try making a syrup out of them using cinnamon, cloves, ginger and honey. The result is a gorgeous syrup which is immune boosting and was traditionally used to help get over colds and flu. Rosehips are another great source of Vitamin C, and like the elderberry syrup keeps well in the fridge. Like the elderberry syrup, boil the rosehips up with sugar and after an hour of simmering, strain through mesh. As rosehips contain hairs which are an irritant, it's important to strain properly. It is then delicious served with pancakes or ice-cream, but equally as good in wines, jellies, jams and as cordials.
As with everything, double check you are collecting the right berries and rose-hips before using.