Nuts are actually fruits, ones with a hard shell containing an edible kernel. The ones mentioned in this post, so beech nuts, hazel nuts, acorns and chestnuts with their hard outer casings, are all true nuts.
But nuts such as brazil nuts, almonds and cashew nuts aren’t true nuts, they’re the seeds of fruits. Peanuts are actually legumes, so botanically closer to peas and beans than true nuts. Which whilst interesting isn’t particularly relevant here as our focus is on native species.
Nuts are a great source of calories and contain varying quantities of vitamins and minerals such as manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, fluoride and selenium. They are generally easy to forage for and can be collected quickly without expending too much energy.
You might also want to take a look at this post about edible fruits and berries.
Beech (Fagus sylvatica) are magnificent trees, one of my favourite species. They produce a spiny husk which contains two 3 sided nuts. They are edible and can also be dry roasted to make a passable coffee substitute.
I’ve heard that you shouldn’t eat them in large quantities but I haven’t been able to quantify what ‘large quantities’ are. With that in mind, in everyday life I just eat a few at a time.
Hazel (Corylus avalana) is all over the place in woodlands and hedgerows. You need to be quick though because the squirrels are on them well before the hazel nuts ripen.
Sweet chestnut (Castenea sativa) was introduced by the Romans as a food source. The nuts can be roasted (my favourite) or dried and made into a flour for baking.
Acorns come from mighty oaks and mighty oaks come from acorns! They need to be flushed through to get rid of the tannins. You can do this by putting them in a net bag in a stream, or your toilet cistern, or boil them and keep changing the water until it stays clear. You can then grind them to produce a flour.
Remember though, if you are not 100% certain of your identification, don’t eat any nuts, berries or plants.
We look at these edible nuts on our 1 day foraging course.
You can see loads of photos from the day, as well as from all of our courses, on our Facebook page.