Once upon a time, long before the evolution of the monetary system and corporations, it wasn’t unusual to see our ancestor’s literally defining the meaning of fast food as they chased after an antelope and dragged it home to utilise every element of the creature for food and well-being. These days the hunter gatherer in us can merely press a few buttons on an app on our smart phones and voila! Food arrives!
Unleash the beast!
As convenient as this is in the modern day society, within all of us – lying dormant, is the wild creature who is capable of heading into the wild to source food with our bare hands; or at the very least, a few primitively assembled tools.
Unleashing this natural beast provides incredible benefits for the body, soul and bank balance. To be at one with nature and to connect one’s self to the earth is rewarded with an incredible sense of place and self, diversifies the palate and helps your body fall back into the rhythm orchestrated and conducted by the natural world we inhabit. Mother Nature has provided us with a veritable smorgasbord right on our doorstep. And it’s all free.
Our connection to the earth
Over the years we have all definitely lost our connections with the environment around us. The centuries that we spent teaching ourselves which plants and berries are edible and which we should avoid, is now redundant in a world where food from across the globe can be accessed via a few clicks. But foraging for food in the hedgerows and undergrowth is beginning to prove popular again amongst a few daring souls who are not only willing to brave the elements and bring home food that hasn’t been pre picked and packaged but are realigning themselves with natures body clock alongside fresh wild seasonal produce.
Some forageable foods that are available all year round are:
- Shepard’s Purse – flower tips can be used to snack on and leaves can be eaten raw or cooked
- Crab apple – leaves can be used for tea and the crab apple can be used for cooking.
- Clovers – the flowers are the part mainly used; the leaves can cause bloating if eaten in excess.
- Nettle – nettle leaves can be cooked, eaten raw or used in a tea.
Points to remember before you set out to forage
Foraging for any wild food should always be done with professional guidance and it is not recommended that you venture out to forage without fully consulting and cross referencing several information sources first.
If you are trying foraging for the first time, you should first seek out a reputable forging organisation, of which there are many that run all around the country.
You can find one close to you by looking on the internet.
If you are unsure about any food item, DO NOT EAT IT.
Many forgeable items will be accessible from a public right of way; nature reserves do not count as a public right of way. Certain plants may be considered ‘protected species’.
It’s not always possible to uproot a whole plant without the landowner’s permission
Rules in England and Scotland do differ.
If you are unsure if you should be foraging on a particular piece of land, you can always check with the landowner, if they are unavailable then contact your local authority for further advice.
Seasonal foraging guide
Chestnuts – Pickle the chestnuts or eat roasted
Damsons – Jam
Crab apples – Jam, chutney or eat the leaves
Blackberries – Freeze them and add to smoothies or make blackberry jam
Sloe – Make sloe gin
Elderberries – Eat raw, add to berry fruit salads
Cranberries – Make cranberries sauce, jam or chutney and bake in cakes
Chickweed – Add the leaves, stems and flowers to salads and eat raw
Mussels and Oysters – Clean well and cook
Wild Garlic – Eat the leaves and flowers in salads or flavour olive oil
Stinging nettles – Make tea with the leaves
Elderflower – Make elderflower cordial
Mallow – Add the leaves to salads or dry to make tea
Primrose – Eat the flowers and the leaves in salads
Clover- Eat raw in salad
Pignuts – Eat raw or in salads
Some useful foraging websites and apps
general advice on what foods are ideal to forage and at what time of year
a wild foraging school with plenty of blog posts about wild foraging
an app to test yourself on edible plants