Want to make the most of nature’s bounty? Here’s some helpful advice to get you started…
Watch out for sneaky look-a-likes! For example, what might look like pretty cow parsley could in fact be it’s close relative hemlock, an incredibly poisonous plant that irritates the skin and causes blindness. Do your research beforehand and always err on the side of caution. If you’re not sure what it is, leave it alone!
Learn from the experts
Seek the guidance of a local plant expert who can help you identify the subtle differences between species. Visit foragingcourses.com to find a course or wild food walk taking place near you. Always keep a detailed field guidebook close at hand too, such as Food for Free by Richard Mabey (£4.99, Collins Gem).
Keep it simple
Don’t run before you can walk. Some of the tastiest wild foods are those we are most familiar with, so why not start by foraging for those? Dandelions are a lovely addition to a salad, while juicy blackberries cooked up in a crumble are one of our autumn favourites.
Leave more than you take
You can forage safe in the knowledge that you’ve got a supermarket close at hand should your search not prove fruitful – animals and birds are not so lucky! Leaving plenty behind ensures they won’t go hungry, something that’s particularly important as we head towards colder months.
Never dig up whole plants
This will result in no re-growth (and consequently no blackberry crumbles!) next year. As a general rule of thumb, take less than a third that a plant has to offer to ensure your foraging is sustainable.
Pick from the right places
They may be rich in bounty, but some areas are best left untouched. Steer at least 100 feet clear from busy roads to avoid a not-so-tasty side of exhaust fumes and beware of pesticides and herbicides. Popular dog-walking paths might not be top of your hit list either… if you catch our drift!
Follow the seasons
Keep an eye on your local haunts. Watch how plants change over the year, how the flowers open, what colours the berries turn… after a while you’ll learn the best times to harvest to ensure a tasty crop.
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If you’re on private land, check with the landowner first that they’re happy for you to forage there. Leave no trace of your visit and always take your litter home with you.
Make the most of your bounty!
Download the Forager’s apprentice, 69p (iPhone or iPad) – an app designed to inform and inspire you with delicious recipe ideas. Turn wild fruits into jams, jellies and chutneys, store nuts in dry, sealed containers and press pretty flowers to retain their freshly-picked beauty.