Chequers for foragers

  • Hey Guest, We're having our annual Winter Moot and we'd love you to come. PLEASE LOOK HERE to secure your place and get more information.
    For forum threads CLICK HERE


Full Member
Nov 24, 2004
I have just posted a note on another thread re native trees and this has just reminded me of a local unusual tree. Sorbus Torminalis or Wild Service Tree. This is an unusual and rare tree although I have come across it in Ashdown Forest too. and no doubt it appears in other parts of the UK. It bears fruit called 'Chequers' and these resemble small olives.(foragers note) I have read that these were used as childrens sweets in mediaeval times. They were gathered and left to partially rot producing a sweet and probably pulpy exterior. I really should remember to put money where mouth is and try this :eek: and probably poison myself in the meantime! There are two veteran (1704) trees near me and 11 now planted locally for future generations to enjoy. I tried for years to grow a sapling from the seed and failed so finally used a sucker. I also cheated and bought some from our nursery suppliers.


Need to contact Admin...
Aug 20, 2004
Dorset & France
The fruit are really good to eat and kids love them. Just make sure they are really ripe (they are very soft to the touch and almost orange/brown in colour) otherwise they are very tart!.

The seeds probably contain hydrogen cyanide (like apples which are the same family Rosaceae) so do not eat too many of these and best to avoid them at all. To avoid this I do as follows:

The best way to eat them and avoid the quite large pip I found was to squeeze them gently until the soft pulp squeezes out like a toothpaste tube, then discard the skin and pip. They are really really sweet 'n sour flavour, almost citrus in intensity. You can cook them too and strain the skin pips and they make a fine fruit compote. Also they used to be make into an alcoholic beverage called 'Chequers' ;)

They are very rich in glucides and easily digestible, nutritious (with energy from the sugars) and also high in vitamin C and B12 which is particularly important if you don't eat meat in your diet.

Here in the south of France we have a native growing relative, the 'Cormier' (UK=Whitty Pear, the Sorb Tree or the True Service Tree) Sorbus domestica which has larger fruit and really ripens nicely here.

Photo here:

Cormier fruit

It does grow in the UK BUT is very rare and endangered so avoid eating from this. Read more here:

The Whitty Pear - Sorbus domestica L. A Natural Pioneer Millennium Award Project, Work in Progress

Do have a go at these, they are really nice and refreshing. But you will have to wait a while now ;)

falling rain

Oct 17, 2003
Woodbury Devon
There are 2 Wildservice trees in Shotover country park Oxford (that I know of. Maybe more), but only small examples and I've never seen fruit on them. I've looked for the last 3 years in Autumn. The wood was used in Medieval times for cross bow manufacture and the stocks decimated. They are finicky growers and not shade tolerant so need optimum conditions to grow and this is a couple of the reasons they are so rare.


Nov 30, 2004
Believe it or not there are a couple of Wild Service Trees in a narrow strip of land in Downham (a suburb in Sarf Lundun)

It's supposed to be Ancient Woodland. It's just over a mile long and about fifty yards at its widest :eek:

Not the sort of forest you can get lost in though :confused:

Hultafors Outdoor knife for Sale

We have a a number of Hultafors Outdoor Knives with Firesteels for sale.

You can see more details here in this thread OUTDOOR KNIVES The price is £27 posted to the UK. Pay via the paypal button below.