Let’s be honest, how many of us go foraging for foods these days? This used to be regular practice but times have changed. However, there’s recently been a revitalisation of interest in people looking into what is available straight form nature’s ‘food aisles’.
We can argue that this is partly thanks to amplified awareness that has been publicised regarding the health benefits of wild food along with the TV adventures of outdoor high-energy explorers such Bear Grylls, and Ray Mears.
Foraging gives you the chance, as with UK glamping accommodation, for you to get in touch with nature and away from the urbanised culture we associate our lives with nowadays.
Don’t just head out and start foraging unprepared in the knowledge department though as this would be a very risky move. If you are a beginner, you should be aware that while wild food is generally good for you, but informing yourself of precautions and getting some tips and advice from experienced foragers is critical.
That’s where we can help. Let’s take a look at our 6 favourite options and have some fun foraging!
We like wild garlic. It’s a good choice for a number of reasons. Prevalent and copious across much of the UK, it’s easily harvestable during the course of the year, has a fantastic array of uses and flavoursome too. It possesses a milder flavour than cultivated cloves.
You can use the leaves to spice up a winter salad or stir-fry, alternatively add them to soups and stews for a depth of flavour.
Bulbs can be harvested year-round, but the ideal time for this is when the plant is dormant between the months of July and December. Wild garlic is easily identifiable, forming lush green carpets in woodlands close to bluebells, and emitting a distinctive garlicky smell. Garlic can help to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels too.
Again, like wild garlic, Elder is versatile in that the aromatic blooms can be eaten raw, cooked, powdered, or dried. It can also be added to wine, cordials, salads, cakes, biscuits, jellies, sweets, jams, and tea. We haven’t even mentioned that it can be used in addition to beauty products such as skin lotion and eye cream as well. Wowza!
Elder bushes are customarily covered in sweet-smelling flowers by the end of June, followed by berries between the latter summer month of August and beginning autumn season month of October. As far as the berries are concerned they can be put to many of the same uses as the flowers but take note as the leaves and stems are poisonous. You’ll find elder in abundance woods, in hedgerows, and on roadsides.
The leaves of the mallow possess a mild flavour and offer a distinctive gummy, glutinous texture, which makes them ideal if you’re looking to bulk up a salad. If you’re struggling with a bit of a dry throat or chesty cough then mallow can be used to combat these symptoms.
The mauve flowers have a similar flavour and texture to that of the leaves and are an equally good addition to your salad bowl. Mallow is extensively found across the UK from spring to midsummer in open and sunny habitats such as roadsides and pastures, so choose your moments to forage for this one folks.
Ah berries! Arguably the most popular and a classic option that never tires. Found in abundant, yummy, juicy and packed with vitamin C, berries are certainly one of the easiest foods anyone can forage for.
Berries are more than often found in copious amount in accessible areas. As well as their plentiful quality there’s also so much variety, you can’t go far wrong. The most common found in the UK are blackberries, mulberries, raspberries, and sloes. What’s more appealing for the berries is that they have uses ranging from juices and cordials to jams and jelly, pies and cakes, wine and gin.
You can go find berries in woodlands, hedgerows, and parks from late summer but the sloes are particularly fun for winter gin making (a personal favourite here at Quality Unearthed HQ).
Our fungal friends the mushroom are the largest living organisms on Earth, some reaching three miles in length! Wild mushrooms can be found growing across most of the UK. Thanks to the rich diversity of our native mushroom species, there are always some kind of varieties in season. However, autumn is without a doubt the leading time of the year for mushroom picking, as this is when the most edible varieties grow.
You should always cut the mushroom from the base when foraging instead of pulling them out of the ground. This avoids damaging the mycelium (root-like threads) that allows them to redevelop.
Take paper bags or a wicker basket and not plastic bags or you’ll end up with sweaty mushrooms. Yuck!
Once you have your mushrooms safely back home the options are pretty much endless in terms of their uses. Add into warming soups, grill them, stuff them, add to stir-fries and pies, or fry them with your wild garlic and some parsley. There are loads of recipe ideas for wild mushrooms online you can get ideas from too.
If you were anything like us at QU you were taught to avoid nettles due to their rather unpleasant sting and subsequent welts when you make contact with them. Let’s just pretend that you were never informed of this and erase the caution you practice. Don a pair of gloves, gardening, washing up, something along those lines, and you’ll soon benefit from the pros of nettles as opposed to the cons.
Like tea? Nettles can go in that. Soup? Yep, that too! What about beer? You guessed it, get the nettles involved! Simply boiling the plant will get rid of the sting.
Brimming with vitamins and minerals, nettles exceed the popular source for vitamin C that is the orange. Nettles should be harvested before the flowers appear in early spring and only the youngest leaves should be selected; mature leaves can damage your kidneys.
You can find the plentiful plant in gardens, woodlands, and pastures.
*Finally, always remember to check if the land you plan to forage on is protected, and whether it’s public – permission is essential if not. Always abide by the country code and be careful not to overharvest as birds and animals depend on wild foods to survive.