The beech trees this autumn are a wonderful sight. On some of them the nuts or masts are almost as plentiful as the leaves and on a cursory glance the tree thereby loses some of its slender grace and assumes a more robust form.
In this country, probably little use will be made of the rich mast harvest. They will be left on the ground for the squirrels, mice, rabbits and deer where these have access to the woods. The nuts are traditionally eaten by pigs and, where there are beech trees near the farm yard, none of this rich food need be wasted. Like all nuts, they contain a rich percentage of fat or oil and, on the continent, the oil is extracted and used for frying and also as a fuel for lamps. In central Europe, where butter is scarce and dear, the peasants use beech oil as a substitute.
Since writing the foregoing paragraph, I came across the following statement in the notes of a naturalist: Winter thrushes are here and the bramblings are arriving to help the chaffinches make the most of the plentiful beech mast harvest.