How to start foraging
For many people, collecting and eating wild plants and fungi throughout the seasons is a way of life, filling punnets with wild edibles from ripening berries to sweet chestnuts.
In the spring, lush green carpets of wild garlic line riverbanks and surround bluebells in woodlands and are easily identifiable by the distinctive garlicky smell. Come summer, white flowered clusters blossom in abundance on elder trees, waiting to infuse cordials, champagne and desserts. A favourite flavour of summer, delightfully the elder tree yields a double crop, making a lovely addition to recipes come autumn too.
Following the warmer months, hedgerows and trees flower with berries and nuts. A popular season to forage, hazelnuts are best collected young when they’re still green and then roasted in the oven, while sweet chestnuts can be found at the foot of trees from October and taste delicious in a pesto or stuffing. Wild mushrooms flourish with the return of cooler, damper weather, however it’s best to do your research and choose only species that aren’t easy to mix up with poisonous fungi.
Copious amounts of blackberries can be found late summer through the autumn as well as wild raspberries and strawberries. While, in preparation for Christmas, sloe berries can be picked for homemade sloe gin, whisky and jam following the first frost.
Foraging is more than gathering food but a fun and refreshing way to reconnect with nature and your natural surroundings too. There are some wonderful guidebooks you can take along to help you explore, pick and enjoy the fruits of the wild safely.
HOW TO BE A RESPONSIBLE FORAGER
Seek permission from the landowner
Foraging in public spaces is perfectly legal, but you must seek permission of the owner if its private land.
Know what you’re picking
Only consume a wild plant or fungus if you are absolutely certain of its identification – it could be rare, protected, inedible or even poisonous.
Only collect from plentiful populations
Pick flowers, leaves, fruits and seeds where they are in abundance. Only take mushrooms that have opened their caps.
Leave plenty behind for others and for wildlife
Wild food is vital for the survival of our wildlife - it’s important to forage sustainably to ensure there is enough left for them. Only take home what you plan to eat.
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