Beech – Fagus sylvatica

This tree is often seen as a feminine tree and paricularly elegant examples may earn the name ‘Queen beech’. Beech woodlands are characterised by a carpet of crispy fallen leaves and nut casings on the ground.

Beech Leaf Noyau

beech leaf noyau

Beech leaf noyau

In the spring as the beech leaves are are emerging is the time to prepare Beech leaf Noyau. This intriguing liqueur is traditionally made with gin and young  leave and is a springtime alternative to Sloe gin. It’s origins are obscure.

Here’s how to do it:

You will need to collect 400g of young leaves and cram them into a carrier bag! This has all gone into a jar with a bottle of gin to begin infusing. The next recipe from the hedgerow will be ready for Christmas and is Beech leaf Noyau. In a few weeks we’ll add a sugary syrup and some brandy too before straining and bottling!

Did you know:

The timber is used for fuel, furniture, piles, tool handles, kitchen utensils and sports equipment. Beech wood burns also well and is used to smoke herrings. The nuts were also important as a source of food, particularly for pigs! They are energy rich and could be used to fatten pigs up for market. In France the nuts are still sometimes roasted as a coffee substitute and they can also yield an oil which can be used in cooking or for oil lamps.

Remarkably there are few folklore records relating to beech. It was thought to have medicinal properties though. In the past beech leaves were recommended as a relief for swellings, and boiling the leaves could make a poultice.

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