Plant of the Day
The Beech Tree
The leaves are entire or sparsely toothed, from 5–15 cm long and 4–10 cm broad and are edible.
Beeches bear both male and female flowers on the same plant.
The small flowers are unisexual, the female flowers borne in pairs, the male flowers wind-pollinating catkins.
They are produced in spring shortly after the new leaves appear.
The bark is smooth and light grey.
The fruit is a small, sharply three–angled nut 10–15 mm long, borne singly or in pairs in soft-spined husks 1.5–2.5 cm long, known as cupules.
The nuts are edible, though bitter (though not nearly as bitter as acorns) with a high tannin content, and are called beechnuts or beechmast.
Beech nuts can be roasted, ground and milled - or pressed for oil. In Food For Free Richard Mabey says 500g of beechnuts produces 85ml of oil, which "is rich in fat and proteins" and can be used for frying.