5 foods to forage in Autumn

At Darnley’s Gin, we pride ourselves in using only natural botanicals and respecting the ingredients gifted to us by nature. With that in mind, we've put together a quick guide of easy-to-forage foods so you can re-discover nature. 

In autumnal Scotland, you can easily forage for blackberries, sloes, hazelnuts, damsons and elderberries. Scroll down to discover how to safely forage for these 5 foods.

Before You Begin:

  1. When foraging for food in nature, it is crucial that you only take what you need and leave plenty of food for animals living in the wild. Find out more on how to forage sustainably on the Woodland Trust website.
  2. If you are ever unsure of a species you find in nature, it is best to leave it alone as a precaution. Alternatively, there are great resources in the form of apps to identify safe plants, click here to find the top rated apps for iOS and Android.


Where do blackberries grow? Blackberries are abundant in Scotland and can be found on shrubs in sunny and sheltered conditions. 

What does a ripe blackberry look like? Blackberries grow in groups, often ripening at different rates. A perfectly ripe blackberry will be dark purple in colour and plump to the touch. Another indication that the fruit is ready to be picked is when there is little resistance felt when plucking from the shrub.

What do I need to do to my blackberries before I eat them? Before consuming any wild fruit, it is best to wash the berries well in cold water and then steep them in a salt water bath to kill any bugs. Blackberries do not last very long once foraged, so consider freezing your supply to prevent waste.

What can I make with blackberries? Blackberry pie, blackberry crumble, blackberry sorbet, blackberry coulis.


Where do sloes grow? Sloe shrubs in Scotland can be found growing in lots of places! Hedgerows, woodlands, forests, but grow particularly well in meadows.

What does a ripe sloe look like? A ripe sloe is dark purple in colour and soft to the touch. If you are gathering sloes with the intention of making sloe gin, it is best to pick them after the first frost of the year as the temperature drop allows their skins to soften and their juices to be released. Freezing them at home will also give the same result.

What do I need to do to my sloes before I eat them? Raw sloes have an extremely harsh and bitter taste, leaving your mouth with an overwhelming dry feeling. We suggest using sloes for flavouring instead of a snack!

What can I make with sloes? Sloe gin, sloe vodka, sloe syrup.


Where do hazelnuts grow? In the UK, hazelnuts grow on hazel trees often found in the understories of lowland oak, ash or birch woodland, and in scrub and hedgerows.

What does a ready-to-eat hazelnut look like? Hazelnuts begin to ripen as hazel tree leaves change colour. When the papery outer layer of a hazelnut begins to peel off, this is a good indication that the nut is mature enough to eat.

What do I need to do to my hazelnuts before I eat them? The flavours of hazelnuts are amplified when roasted. By removing the water content from the nut, it adds extra crunch and a richer nut flavour. We recommend roasting for 15 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius for best results.

What can I make with hazelnuts? Eat roasted on their own or in a salad, hazelnut butter, hazelnut flour.


Where do damsons grow? In the UK, damsons are frequently found in hedgerows, parks, woodlands and gardens in September and October.

What does a ripe damson look like? Damsons are a member of the plum family, so look like a small plum but are much smaller; they are a little bigger than a large grape. A ripe damson will be purple/black in colour.

What do I need to do to my damsons before I eat them? After a cold wash, a damson can be eaten raw; but they contain as much flesh as they do stone and so may be better used in cooking to release their complex flavours.

What can I make with damsons? Damson jam, damson gin or vodka, damson crumble. 


Where do elderberries grow? Elderberries grow on elder trees in woodlands, hedgerows, scrub and wasteland.

What do ripe elderberries look like? Elderberries grow in large clusters, transitioning from green (unripe) to a dark purple colour (ripe).

What do I need to do to my elderberries before I eat them? Elderberries have a very short lifespan after being harvested and therefore should be cooked or frozen within 12 hours. They also require a cold water bath to remove any dirt or insects before use.

What can I make with elderberries? Elderberry gin, elderberry syrup, elderberry jam.


We hope you found our guide helpful, and please share your foraging finds with us on instagram at @DarnleysGin 

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