The sudden downturn in the temperature doesn’t have to dampen your chances of finding a bounty of free wild food. From mushrooms to seaweed, shellfish and a handful of winter greens, there is still plenty of foraged edibles to gather during the cold winter months. Here’s a short guide to a few of our favourite…
GROUND ELDER (Aegopodium podagraria)
Ground elder has been used as an edible vegetable for centuries. Introduced by the Romans, it quickly turned into a gardener’s nightmare thanks to it’s prolific growing ways. The best way to keep it under control is to eat it. The young leaves are a great addition to any winter salad and the older leaves make a wonderful alternative to cabbage.
Find out how to identify ground elder here»
GARLIC MUSTARD OR JACK-BY-THE-HEDGE (Alliaria petiolata)
A delicate little plant that packs a stinky punch. Garlic mustard’s distinctive heart-shaped leaves start to appear in the depths of winter. They make a great replacement for garlic cloves, a perfect addition to herb stuffings, a wonderful spicy kick to winter salads, and a flavourful twist to soups.
Find out how to identify Garlic Mustard here»
CHICKWEED (Stellaria media)
Chickweed is a tough little weed that thrives during the colder months. The soft, young leaves are mild and tasty (tastes similar to spinach) and can be used in winter salads, soups and stews.
Find out how to identify chickweed here»
HAIRY BITTERCRESS (Cardamine hirsuta )
Hairy bittercress is a member of the cabbage family but has a mild peppery flavour like rocket and watercress. It makes a wonderful pesto, adds a flavourful bite to salads, works well with bacon, and makes a great addition to soups.
Find out how to identify hairy bittercress here»
There are 20 edible varieties of seaweed native to the UK coastal water and they are available all year round. Seaweed is easy to gather and highly versatile, it gives a variety of textures and flavours to almost any dish, and is a remarkably rich source of essential minerals, vitamins and protein.
A guide to edible seaweed can be found here»
From mussels to oysters, whelks, periwinkles and cockles, there’s an abundance of shellfish to collect on chilly days. Just make sure to forage safely, always collect from a clean source, and don’t over harvest.
Read this book to find out how to identify shellfish safely.
A few tasty mushrooms that still flourish in the depths of winter such as oyster, velvet shank and blewits. All work deliciously well in wild game casseroles, hearty beef stews, and warming soups. However, identifying fungi can be a very tricky game, so always be absolutely sure you know what it is before you eat it.
Read this book to find out how to identify fungi safely.
Unless you are 100% sure of what it is and 100% sure that it is edible, DON’T EAT IT! Harvest only what you need. Consider pesticides, herbicides, pollutions and dog pee. Think about all that could, might and will have drifted onto your plants, shellfish, seaweed, fungi and pick wisely. Always read the foraging rules in your local parks and green spaces, and if you’re foraging on farms or private properties, be sure to get permission from the landowner before you start picking.