Common Name: Beech
Scientific Name: Fagus sylvatica
Family: Fagaceae (Beech)
Beech is one of our largest forest trees, a graceful introduction from Central Europe that is widely plants, including as hedges.
A tall tree with smooth light grey bark. If found as a hedge, the clue is that it holds it brown leaves on the twig over winter. The oval leaves with silky hairs along the edge are a pale lime-green in spring, darkening to a glossy dark green by late summer. The leaf buds are a glossy brown colour, long, thin and pointed.
The newly unfurled spring leaves are edible in salads and sandwiches. The real treat is found in autumn by opening the beech mast (seed case covered in hooks, pictured) to reveal long, triangular cross-section seeds. Peel off the glossy brown coat to reveal the creamy nut, great to eat as it is or toasted in salads or pesto.
Include toasted beech nuts in place of pine nuts (or other nuts) in any pesto recipe.