As I collected more walnuts from under the tree it occurred to me that I was “gathering nuts in May”. I then wondered how this English nursery rhyme could have arisen. While the English might have cold and frosty May mornings, surely their nuts would be harvested in October or November?
Wikipedia tells me that nuts are not gathered in England in May, although groundnuts (which are actually tubers) may be in season then. These were commonly gathered by children as they grow sparsely under the ground, meaning they were not a viable food source to be gathered in quantities by adults. It’s also possible that the rhyme’s lyrics could be a corruption of “knots of may”, referring to the blossom of the common hawthorn.
“I go gathering nuts in May
and eat them on a winter’s day.”