Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Beech nuts (Fagus sylvatica)

It is now September and the beech nuts are ready for picking so we thought we would revisit the beech tree and provide some photographs of these little beauties. See beech (Fagus sylvatica) for the main article about these lovely trees.

An image of beech nuts hanging on a beech tree
Beech nuts hanging on the tree

We have very many beech trees of all ages from the very young saplings to the very large mature trees. Many of the larger trees are producing copious quantities of nuts at the moment. Others are producing absolutely nothing at all.

When the time is right, the burr opens up and drops the beech nuts onto the ground. Luckily some of the the nuts drop out onto tarmac and they can be easily swept up with a dustpan and brush! Those that fall into the long grass are lost to us. Some will be eaten by animals such as deer and squirrels, others will take root and grow into small trees or rot into the ground. nb a tarpaulin or other large sheet can be laid down under the trees to collect the nuts.

Here we have a bag of freshly picked beech nuts together with their fuzzy outer burr. The burr is closed and is very difficult, if not impossible, to prise open by hand. However, once the burrs have been left in a warm room for a few hours or days, they will peel open of their own accord. After opening, the two little nuts can easily be popped out.

An image of freshly picked beech nuts with outer casing or burr
Freshly picked beech nuts with outer casing or burr

The triangular shaped nuts are covered with a leathery casing which, thankfully, are not as difficult to remove as the casings from a sweet chestnut! One side of the casing can be fairly easily prised off with a long finger nail and the nut popped out. The nuts are small and the task a bit fiddly and time consuming. Some of the skins will contain a nut (seed) and others will often be empty.

An image of beech nuts with their leathery skin
Beech nuts with their leathery skin

Beech nuts have a brown furry astringent covering which can be eaten in moderation but is best removed.

An image of beech nuts with the brown astringent skin
Beech nuts with the brown astringent skins

We soak the nuts overnight and then just slide the brown skin off. Nuts can then be eaten as they are or dried for later use.

An image of beech nuts soaked and skinned
Beech nuts soaked and skinned

Don't forget that now is the time to sow the fresh beech seeds. Sow in pots outside in a coldframe or in a seedbed and they will germinate in the spring. Seeds are not viable for very long. When the seedlings are big enough prick out into individual pots and grow on for a year before planting out into their final position. Beech trees are very very large so be prepared to find a suitable final planting site for them.

UPDATE: November 2017

We stored a quantity of beech nuts in a plastic container in the kitchen cupboard. We'd love to say we were doing a three year study on storing them. To be truthful we forgot they were there! That said, it was a useful exercise. They were stored minus their outer burr but with their leathery skin. The container was not airtight. The kitchen is rather humid. Warmish in the summer and cold in the winter.

We removed the leathery skin and the brown astringent layer underneath had turned black and dry. Around one in ten of the nuts tasted and smelt stale. The odd one or two were empty. None of them were rotten or contained any pests. The flesh of the 'good ones' tasted sweet and almost as fresh as when we picked them. We were happy to eat them. Not a scientific study. The oil may well have been rancid! Our taste buds may be poor! Interesting all the same.


  1. Hello, is it possible to buy beech nuts from you? Please, contact me via email stadlerova.barbora@seznam.cz

  2. No, we don't sell beech nuts. Sorry!

  3. do you know where I can buy beechnuts?

    1. Have you found an outlet for your beechnuts yet?

    2. I have Beechnut and I can buy more from the state forestry, but they are very expensive due to difficult processing with shelling both outer and the inner brown bitter skin. I mostly deliver to Michelin restaurants and gourmet chocolate producers. The nuts make a delicious marzipan. The Beechnut raw bitternes (tannins and more) goes away with processing watering and heating, and it improves the taste. The nuts taste more like a cross between pine, cashew and almond (but no pine flavor, it tastes more green forest-taste like spring in the forest, especially the marzipan). Roasted they go more the pine-cashew taste, goes well in salads or with chocolate.
      I invented some machines and a way to process the shelling of nuts, i can make around 1 kg of raw perfect nuts in an hour. Currently, the oil is sold quite expensive but is made with the shel on. you can text me at (+45 26522772) this e-mal is not checked often

  4. We've never seen beech nuts for sale. That doesn't mean someone somewhere isn't selling them, we just haven't seen them. Your best best is to find a stand of beech trees and periodically check them for nuts.

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    1. We have a lot of beech I noticed this year there is absolutely tons of nuts there good but a lot of considering the amount of meat you get but as a trailside tidbit not bad just rub the brown skins off personally I like hickory nuts much better

  6. Black walnuts are the best for making ice cream and caramels.

  7. Ok, maybe it'not beech, but it's october in burlngton, vt and they are falling down again and they taste good, i finally found out and they have no shell and are about 1/4 inch across and off white and velvety