A Beginner’s Guide To Foraging
Have you ever been on an afternoon stroll on a well-worn path and seen some berries you didn’t recognise? Well, perhaps it’s time to learn by trying out a new hobby – foraging.
Foraging has been a practice carried out for centuries. In today’s era of store convenience, it’s considered more of a novel pastime, but in years gone by, it would have been the usual practice for those looking for food to put on the table.
If you’re thinking of dipping your toe into the world of foraging, then here are the basics you’ll need:
Know what you’re picking
Never consume a plant you’re unsure of and always err on the side of caution by looking it up in a foraging reference book if you don’t recognise it. It’s not only that you could end up with a stomach ache – or worse – if picking inedible plants, but you could also inadvertently pick a rare and protected species. Don’t forget that fungi are particularly difficult to identify, so if you are unsure then it’s wise to leave it alone.
Ask permission where needed
You can forage freely in most public areas – parks, footpaths, woods etc. but you shouldn’t go into any privately owned land before checking whether it’s allowed first. Most areas overseen by organisations like the Woodland Trust and the National Trust will allow people to forage for personal use (not commercial), but it’s always best to ask.
Don’t forget your garden
If you have your own green space at home, you’ll be amazed at how many great edible plants you can find right there. From dandelions to chickweed and nettles to hairy bittercress, it’s a fabulous place to get started – especially if you’ve fallen behind on the weeding!
Only take what you’ll use
Perhaps you have ventured out and found an immense load of blackberries on the hedgerows. There is a myriad of tasty treats you can make with these sweet berries, but try to only collect the number you’ll actually use. Not only will other foragers like to join in with collecting, but wild animals also depend on nature’s edible gifts to survive.
“Forage carefully to ensure there is enough left for birds and species to consume now and to ensure plants and fungi can regenerate and reproduce. You may not be the only person foraging and plants and fungi need to produce seeds and spores to grow into the next generation.”
– The Woodland Trust
Where to get started
As the autumn and winter months begin creeping in, you may think that there would be a smaller supply for the budding forager. In fact, there are plenty of plants to get started with. Here are some to look out for over the last months of 2021 (please note, some plant names are repeated if available in more than one month)
September: beechnuts, wild raspberries and strawberries, hawthorn berries, rosehip, and sloes
October: bullace, beechnuts, hazelnuts, rosehip, sweet chestnuts, sloes, and walnuts
November & December: hairy bittercress, bullace, hop, pine, and sweet chestnut.
This article was taken from our latest edition of our little book of Home Comforts. Along with lots of other lovely articles, it also includes a recipe for a foraged Christmas pudding – you can read the book online or order a printed copy here.