Autumn Fruits and Nuts
Nature Bulletin No. 572-A September 13, 1975
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation
AUTUMN FRUITS AND NUTS
Autumn, in many respects, is the finest time of the year for strolls and
"cooks outs" in your favorite forest preserves. For added enjoyment,
there is the fun of finding many wild fruits and nuts. Some you will
relish as you pick them; others may be taken home for use in various
Elderberries, filled with crimson juice, are ripe now. Those large shrubs
are common in woods and along roadsides, ditches and watercourses.
The deep purple berries are sweet but rather flat-tasting. If lemon rind
or, preferably, wild grapes are included, they can be used like
blueberries in pies, muffins and pancakes. For jam and jelly add
vinegar, or pectin, and sugar.
Wild grape vines, climbing over shrubs and small trees, are abundant
along the trails and woodland borders. They bear bunches of small
grapes that, when ripe, vary in color from light blue to nearly black.
The purple juice has a tart tangy flavor. Wild grapes are fine for wine
and jelly. Most kinds become sweeter after a heavy frost.
cherry trees are common in our preserves. They have a slightly
bitter but pleasant winey flavor. They are easily picked from the smaller
trees and used to make jelly, jam, preserves and wine, or to flavor ice
cream and beverages such as "cherry bounce. .
The choke cherry is a shrub or small tree that grows like a weed along
fencerows, woodland borders, in old fields, and as an understory in the
forests. On many of them the branches are drooping with clusters of
dark red berries. They have very bitter and "puckery" juice but Indians
used them, and it is said that they lose that astringent quality when
cooked to make jelly. Birds love them.
The wild plum, a small thorny tree, is scattered through the forest
preserves. Its round pulpy plums -- red or sometimes yellow -- have a
tough skin but are good to eat or use for jelly, jam, preserves and pies.
Hawthorns, millions of them with fruits or "haws" resembling tiny
apples, vary in size and in color from scarlet to dull red or yellow. The
hard seeds are surrounded by pulpy flesh that is dry and tasteless in
most species. The variety with large scarlet mealy fruit is the "red haw"
commonly eaten, and makes good jelly if you can find enough that
Wild crabapples, too, are widespread and many are loaded with small
green apples. These are too sour to eat raw but taste better after being
frozen, and few wild fruits make finer jelly. When combined with wild
grapes they make excellent jam, preserves and pickles. If buried until
spring, they make good cider.
In the wooded uplands there are innumerable shagbark hickories. On
the ground, beneath some, you may find the nuts enclosed in thick green
husks. Inside the hard white shell is a sweet kernel unsurpassed for
cakes, candies and fireside eating. In some valleys and moist woodlands
there are black walnuts. The nut, inside a round green husk that
becomes black as it decays, has an oily kernel with a strong but pleasant
taste. They are mighty fine in candy, cakes and ice cream. In a few
locations there are thickets of hazelnut bushes. The hazelnut, small and
much like the European filbert, has a sweet flavor all its own. All of
these fruits and nuts are also important food for wildlife such as birds
and squirrels. Please do not injur the trees, shrubs and vines.
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Update: June 2012