Foraging, the act of looking for food, helps us to map the world around us, to give it meaning. If you know that in a park on a certain corner breakfast beckons in the form of damson jam then you start to care about the place in a very different way ~ Alys Fowler
The revelation of unsuspected tastes and the knowledge that there’s a wealth of free food all over our neighbourhoods has most definitely made us look at our local landscape in a completely different way.
Wild food grows all around us: in woods and fields, along roadsides, even in our gardens. Fruit, nuts, mushrooms, edible leaves, dandelions and so much more are all delicious, nutritious and free for the taking.
So why forage? It gets you outside! But most importantly, it connects you to your natural surroundings and the food on your plate!
What’s more, wild foods are good for you! Highly nutritious and full of other healthy stuff, they’re packed full of vitamins and minerals, much more than the cultivated equivalents.
Now, before you go off hunting, you first have to know what to pick, where and when to find the edible wild bounty and how to prepare your foraged finds at home. One of the best ways to learn about wild plants is with the help of an experienced forager and there are many fantastic courses throughout the UK, just google it! Reading as many books on the subject as you can is also highly recommended (see sources & recommended reading at the bottom of the page). Like growing your own food, foraging demands knowledge and the more knowledge you have, the safer you will be and the more responsible you will become.
Throughout the 2015 foraging season, we will be featuring all our favourite wild ingredients and recipes, we’ll share a few of our hunting expeditions and all the helpful information we’ve learnt along the way, starting with this beginners guide to foraging…
Unless you are 100% sure of what it is and 100% sure that it is edible, DON’T EAT IT!
FUNDAMENTAL RULES & CODE OF BEHAVIOUR
Generally, if it’s within reach of a public right of way and wild, its fair game. If you have to trespass to get it, then it isn’t. Simple!
Never pull up a plant by its roots – leave the root alone and always snip off the leaves and flowers just above the stem so you avoid damaging the populations.
Never pick plants if they are scarce in the area.
Never take too many plants from one particular patch. Be a sustainable forager and only take what you need, leave plenty for the wildlife. Harvest respectfully: seeds and flowers are the plant’s future.
Be cautious with new wild foods. Just because something is generally edible, that doesn’t mean that you can eat it. If you are susceptible to food allergies or have a sensitive digestive system, you will probably have a reaction to wild food. Do a tolerance test to be safe.
Take a good reference book with you.
Know which stage of the plant you should eat. Understand there are some herbs and wild plants that are fine to eat except if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Take a good knife, secateurs, gloves, a basket or paper bags.
Pick mushrooms extremely cautiously. If you get it wrong you can DIE! Here is a ‘keep you alive’ guide.
Consider pesticides, herbicides, pollutions and dog pee. Think about all that could, might and will have drifted onto your plants and pick wisely.
SOURCES & RECOMMENDED READING
Photos 1 & 3: taken by our lovely Dutch friend Judith who joined us on a foraging adventure in Dorset.