Some of my earliest memories are of foraging for wild fruit. During the long school summer holidays a good friend and I would spend endless hours searching through the hedgerows and discovering new places in which to pick blackberries. Blackberries were the jewel of summer fruits. They would be turned into sweet slushies and pies. I would also on occasion arrive home to a bag full of nettle leaves picked by mum to turn into herbal teas. It was in those days that I learnt about hedgerow plants, their names and what berries could and couldn’t be eaten.
The joy of foraging is in the entire experience. It’s about slowing down as it takes time, it’s about looking and understanding the land. It’s about the delight in finding food and the creativity of ideas that run through your mind about what you can make and cook with the finds. The process is deeply satisfying and connects you intrinsically to the land.
These childhood lessons and memories are things I took with me to my new home. That first year I made jars and jars of jam from the fruits I found in my somewhat overgrown and slightly neglected garden. Foraging is a natural part of the harvest and as the food is wild, if picked from the right places, it gives provides access to additional organic and raw foods. It isn’t necessarily about finding a huge abundance of food, it’s finding a little here and a little there to add to the harvest from your garden/allotment and shopping. Whilst perhaps the most obvious time to look for wild food may be towards the end of summer and early autumn when many fruits are ripening you can find foods all year round. During the Spring time there are young and tender leaves to be found. Young nettle leaves, dead nettles, dandelion flower heads, wild garlic and garlic mustards can all be found which can be added to salads or make lovely soups. In late summer, nature offers a season of plenty, you can find elderflowers, raspberries, blackberries, wild strawberries, damsons, plums, apples, sloes and roses.
Rules around foraging
- It’s important to understand and respect where you can forage as there are laws around this.
- Don’t forage in Scientific and National Nature Reserves without expressed permission.
- On private land you will need the permission of the landowner.
- Always take a good reference book to understand the plants and clearly understand what can and cannot be eaten. I don’t forage fungi, however, if you chose to it is especially important to have an expert understanding on which can be picked as some can be deadly poisonous.
- Some plants are protected by law and are illegal to pick i.e. Pennyroyal mint
- Live in harmony with the earth and be sustainable, only pick what you need. Don’t take an entire plant, it’s flowers and seeds are it’s and our future. Leave enough for wildlife which depend on these foods also.
- Pick in clean areas, be mindful of chemicals and contamination – pesticides, herbicides, dog pee etc., that may have been used or drifted onto the plant.
Are you a forager of plant-based foods? What’s your greatest experiences? Would love you to share them 🙂