Foraging means eating wild food for free. Sounds good, but you have to know what you’re doing, to avoid poisoning yourself. Also it’s really important to know how to pick, and what not to pick – to protect nature, wildlife and endangered plants. Keep conkers away from pets, horses and wildlife. Blue Cross has more info.
- This cotton canvas foraging bag is handmade in Bristol, from durable cotton canvas. It has a beautiful retro design and handy loop, to hang onto your belt. You can wash the cotton liner, to remove berry stains. To close, hold the bag flat and pull the sides together, then tie shut.
- Woodland Trust has a guide on what to forage. Don’t pick items you don’t know (chervil is safe, hemlock can kill).
- Never forage without permission, or wildlife may be impacted. For instance, you taking hazelnuts could mean a dormouse dying in hibernation.
- At the seaside, avoid foraging for seaweed (experts know how to do this safely and ‘give seaweed a haircut, not removing the roots). Don’t let dogs eat seaweed (they like to play with the fronds, but these can expand in the stomach, as they dry).
- Pick common plants that re-grow (only pick leaves, never damage the roots). If you see ‘little alligators’ on leaves, these are baby ladybirds (laid in nettles to protect them). Leave for a few weeks until gone, only pick the top tips. If you don’t mind the odd sting, nettles are good in tea or nettle soup (don’t pick when in flower).
- Don’t forage items that look like something has pooed on them. John Rensten of Forage London says to ensure that anything you pick is ‘out of the dog wee zone’ (see his foraging safety tips for more info). Avoid fume-covered berries near roads. Berries freeze well.
- The Urban Forager includes 32 veggie recipes by a professional forager to make hawthorn berry ketchup, cherry blossom shortbread, nettle ravioli, elderflower fritters and cowslip summer rolls. Forage London runs courses (Dorset, Hampshire).
The Hedgerow Apothecary Forager’s Handbook looks at those who foraged in the hedgerows like herbalists of the past. Designed to be used in hedgerows, forests and woodlands, the book is helpfully arranged by season and includes clear photos to aid plant identification, ideas on how to prepare and preserve your finds, forage folkore and handy pages to make your own notes and drawings. Includes a monthly foraging calendar and advice on foraging etiquette and tips for creating a forager’s toolkit.
Author Christine Iverson moved to a Sussex Download village and this led to volunteering at a local museum to teach children on medieval and Tudor medicine. She runs regular workshops and gives talks to horticultural societies.
A Forager’s Guide to the Landscape
Where the Wild Things Grow is a forager’s guide to the landscape. Focusing on freely available free food all around us – from riverbank redcurrants to garden weeds and cherry blossoms.
Foraging is banned in New Forest and Epping Forest. David gives tips like picking berries at ground level to ‘leave the rest for birds’. If you see signs of otter scat by a riverside or ‘nut shells nibbled by dormice’, then gather from elsewhere. Also if fungi or seaweed are scarce (never let pets near mushrooms nor seaweed – can expand in the stomach, as it dries).
This book focuses more on urban foraging in city streets and park. Wild food is all around us, if we know where to look (although foods near roads are usually not a good idea). David can shows you how and where to find the food, and also delves into the forgotten history and science of wild foods and their habitats and shows you where to find mallows, mustards and pennywort, as well as sumac, figs and mulberries.
You’ll also learn how to pick the sweetest berries, preserve mushrooms and know how to make salad, risotto and puddings, with your foraged food. Beautifully illustrated and rich in detail, this is more than a field guide. It’s a celebration of the wonderful and fragile gifts, hidden in our landscape.
- Urban Parks & Public Spaces
- Paths, Cycle Paths & Roadsides
- Hedgerows & Farmland
- Chalkland & Lime-Rich Soils
- Acid Soils: Heath, Moors, Bogs, Hilltops & Uplands
- Meadows & Pastures
- Mixed Woodland
- Conifer Woodland
- Broadleaf Woodland
- Fresh Water & Wetlands
- The Coast
- Salt Marshes
The book also includes tips on safety and how to preserve produce including freezing, dehydrating and pickling, along with recipes for :
- Fruit leathers
- Fruit cordials – David’s tip is to add lemon juice to blackcurrant cordial, which will restore them to their natural bright pink colour.
David Hamilton is a forager and horticulturalist who began making soup from his family garden’s nettles as a teenager and has been for a forager for over 25 years. He has hitched, walked, cycled and driven all over the world in search of wild food, and has taught thousands of people how to forage. He holds a degree in food science and nutrition, a diploma in horticulture and leads the Guardian Masterclass in foraging).