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UK foraging guide: what to pick and eat from the wild

Family Foraging by David Hamilton (28th April 2018)

The place to forage: the coast

Crops by the coast should be rather a lot harder than these inland. Take a look at the leaves of coastal crops; they’re typically thick and waxy to allow them to cope with the robust winds and salty air.

Sea beet, for instance, has a lot thicker leaves than its relative the beetroot. Some timber have wider gaps between their branches to permit the coastal gusts to blow by means of them, whereas palm timber can bend in excessive winds with out breaking.

Widespread timber, reminiscent of hawthorn, are formed by excessive winds, making them look as if they’ve been caught in an enormous hair dryer. As an added safety from coastal gusts, some crops can develop near or
alongside the bottom in what is called a “prostrate” type.

The best way to forage there

Look within the dunes, alongside headlands and within the banks surrounding the seashores away from the shoreline. Marsh samphire grows solely in tidal marsh estuaries, so be sure you verify tide occasions and stroll within the mud solely whether it is protected to take action.

All the time wash and prepare dinner any low-lying coastal crops if canine are walked within the space. Should you hear of sewage contaminating your native seashore, it might be unwise to forage there (although fortunately that is uncommon).

What to seek out there

Goosefoot, plantain, marsh samphire, wild radish, sea beet, rose, big puffball (on headlands), hawthorn.

Woodlands and forests

A woodland can present a welcome break from the solar on a scorching summer time’s day, and a magical place to spend time with the household. Meals crops inhabit each area of interest, from clover-like wooden sorrel on the forest flooring, to brambles clambering their means into timber, and chestnuts rising excessive within the cover.

Even the smallest copse of timber may be host to numerous edibles, with wild raspberries profiting from any gaps within the cover and mushrooms feeding on the roots of the timber. In spring, the primary shiny inexperienced leaves of birch, hawthorn, lime and beech are all edible. If the branches are low sufficient, or you could have some shoulders to take a seat on prime of, you possibly can munch the leaves straight from the tree like a giraffe.

Household Foraging by David Hamilton (28th April 2018)

The best way to forage there

Start looking for wild meals crops alongside the outward edges of the woodland; blackberries, raspberries and woodland strawberries choose these lighter areas. Mushrooms are additionally typically discovered on the outer fringes, or on the sting of clearings.

What to seek out there

Nettle, wild garlic/ramps, elder, woodland strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, beech, ceps, birch, hazelnut, hawthorn, mint (close to water).

Parks, gardens, public areas

The native park is a superb place to start out a foraging journey. Throughout spring and summer time, search the wild corners for edible weeds and blackberries. Upon getting adopted a forager’s eye, you will see that meals crops merely all over the place. You possibly can typically discover wild roses and sumac timber in public areas comparable to grocery store automotive parks.

I by no means go to a stately house with out on the lookout for fallen chestnuts, windfall apples or woodland strawberries. The truth is, if I’m not cautious, I can spend a day taking a look at my ft. In some nations foraging in public parks is prohibited, so all the time examine native legal guidelines.

How you can forage there

Not all parks and gardens are the identical, nor have they got the identical guidelines. It ought to go with out saying that it will not be sensible to select apples, plums or pears from the orchard of a stately residence, however I doubt if anybody would thoughts in the event you picked their chickweed.

It is best to by no means forage in a personal backyard with out permission, though legally there isn’t any hurt in choosing an apple from a department hanging over right into a public road. Keep away from any crops which might be yellow, closely wilting or look like dying, as it’s possible that these have been sprayed with weed killer.

What to seek out there

Nettle, dandelion, chickweed, goosefoot, mint, plantain, cherry, elder, blueberry, sorrel, big puffball, woodland strawberry, plum, blackberry, apple.

Moors, plains and heaths

If your loved ones is prepared to have a bit of journey, there’s nowhere fairly like nice large open areas for every week away. In lots of nations these are the one areas the place wild tenting is permitted. With little or no mild air pollution, spending an evening beneath the celebs tucking into sausages and blanched wild greens picked earlier that night could be a spotlight of a well-spent summer time vacation.

Though their soils lack sufficient goodness to maintain many bigger crops, grassy plains, heaths and windswept moors are oddly thrilling locations to hunt for wild meals.

Nettles within the wild. (Photograph: Household Foraging by David Hamilton/White Lion)

The best way to forage there

Many weeds retreat to the sides of partitions and the boundaries of fields for cover, so these are all the time good locations to start out wanting. Even when tenting is allowed, by no means begin a fireplace on land with peaty soil; as an alternative, place a burner or cooking range on prime of a flat rock. Timber can develop sparsely in these areas, and the fruit, particularly wild apples, could be fairly small. It’s particularly very important right here that you simply take
solely what you want.

What to seek out there

Sorrel, bilberry, blueberry, blackberry, nettle, dandelion, plantain, chickweed.


Edgeland is neither rural or city, however someplace in between. They could be locations that have been as soon as managed however have been left to go wild. Typically referred to as “wasteground”, these might be the banks of canals, the edges of roads, small patches of timber, previous quarries or long-abandoned railways. The phrase can even describe locations with pockets of land that are managed by individuals, but in addition have giant wild areas resembling allotments, city farms, group gardens or scraps of land. These are sometimes very close to residential areas and – aside from our personal gardens – are sometimes the simplest wild locations to get to.

The best way to forage there

Edgelands are a number of the most ample of all foraging areas, as they will embrace each native crops and people which have escaped from gardens, resembling sumac timber, self-seeded apples, plums, cherries and raspberry runners. It is very important take care in these areas, as a result of they are often locations the place inconsiderate individuals have dumped their garbage, and there could also be unexpected hazards hidden by the undergrowth.

What to seek out there

Nettle, blackberry, plantain, elder, goosefoot, chickweed, hawthorn, cherry, woodland strawberry, wild plum, wild garlic/ramps, sumac, apple, rose, raspberry, beech, hazelnut, candy chestnut, big puffball (roadside), garlic mustard.

Wild blackberries (Photograph: Household Foraging by David Hamilton/White Lion)

Foraging fundamentals

Foraging could be a good way to attach as a household and get again in contact with the pure world. You could ask: “Why do I have to forage? Certainly every thing I eat could be purchased within the grocery store?” Nicely, sure, it may, however head to any grocery store, anyplace on the planet, and also you just about know one can find the identical basic items. The place is the enjoyable in that? Apart from, who has ever had an journey in a grocery store?

For the journey

Whenever you set foot outdoors your entrance door on the lookout for wild meals, an journey begins. You by no means actually know what you will discover, how a lot of it you will convey residence, or what will occur that day.

Maybe you will see that an apple tree so laden with fruit that you could fill your stomach and your bag to bursting level. Or perhaps Dad will sting himself on a patch of nettles or tumble right into a bramble patch making an attempt to get the juiciest blackberry.

The entire household can take part

Each my youngsters might determine blackberries earlier than they might speak (all the time beneath supervision). There isn’t any actual decrease or higher age restrict, so foraging is one thing you are able to do with pals and kinfolk from toddler to 90 and past.

The way to forage safely

Be 100 per cent sure. This primary level is essential. By no means, ever eat a plant or mushroom until you’re 100 per cent positive of precisely what it’s.

Don’t dive in

Attempt to not search for the strangest issues to select first. Begin by merely in search of acquainted fruits resembling apples, plums, cherries and blackberries. After you have constructed up your confidence with acquainted meals, then begin on the lookout for these which might be much less acquainted to you.

Native guides

Ask members of your loved ones or buddies with a great information of untamed meals to return with you in your first forays. Additionally, search for guided wild meals walks in your space.

Get an area information e-book

There’s a thriving marketplace for wild meals, wild flower and mushroom guides, each on the web and in charity outlets/thrift shops. Decide up some in your area; they may assist as your curiosity in foraging and wild crops grows.

Use the web

Edible crops have widespread and scientific names: for instance, chickweed is Stellaria media, and nettle is Urtica dioica. Sort these names right into a search engine and you will notice many footage of the plant, fruit, nut or mushroom you’re on the lookout for.

Allergic reactions

You by no means fairly understand how you may react to a totally new meals. To verify you aren’t allergic, put a tiny bit in your mouth, chew down on it, then spit it out. Wait an hour then attempt a bit extra. In case you are advantageous, eat and swallow a bigger piece, say teaspoon-sized, then repeat this the next day. When you have no response, then the meals is protected for you. There isn’t any want to do that for meals you might have had earlier than, resembling apples or plums.

Take what you want

Solely ever decide what you want; people aren’t the one creatures who eat wild meals, so make sure you depart sufficient for birds, caterpillars and mice.

Wash your meals

Wash your meals earlier than you eat it. It will eliminate any bugs – each microscopic ones which may make you poorly, and enormous ones which could spoil the style of what you’re consuming. Should you decide the place canine have been walked, wash and prepare dinner no matter you decide.

Air pollution

Don’t decide by the aspect of the street or close to factories, areas which could be fairly polluted. Additionally, don’t decide in graveyards, because the lead from the coffins can get into the wild crops and particularly mushrooms.

Recipes: Garlicky nettle pesto

(Photograph: Household Foraging by David Hamilton/White Lion)

Serves four


  • A colander filled with nettles (use tongs or gardening gloves to deal with the nettles)
  • 100g cashew nuts
  • A big (grownup) handful of untamed garlic/ramps leaves
  • 50g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1tsp lemon juice
  • 2-Three pinches of salt
  • 2tbsp olive oil (you might want so as to add somewhat extra)

Sporting gloves, wash the nettles rigorously in a colander.

Deliver a pan of water to the boil over a low warmth and simmer the nettles for 2 to 3 minutes, making certain that each one the nettles are submerged.

Drain the liquid – this makes a fairly good tea.

Dry the nettles off in a salad spinner or place in a tea towel and squeeze the liquid right into a sink. It is best to find yourself with two adult-sized handfuls of nettle leaves.

Grind the cashew nuts to a superb powder in a clear espresso grinder, seed grinder or pestle and mortar. For those who don’t have any of those, attempt putting them in a sealed bag and bashing them with a rolling pin.

Put all of the components right into a blender and whizz them up for 5 seconds, including slightly extra oil if required. If not absolutely blended, whizz for an additional 5 seconds or till it’s a clean paste. Serve with pasta.

Wild garlic butter

  • 40g wild garlic leaves
  • 125g butter

Roll the wild garlic right into a ball and chop into fantastic items. You could have to work over them with a knife quite a lot of occasions, since you need to be left with very small items of leaf (assume tea-leaf-sized).

Soften the butter by squeezing it in your arms.

Utilizing your arms, work the chopped leaves into the butter till it’s all included and evenly distributed. Form right into a log and wrap in foil.

Wild garlic bread

Wild garlic bread. (Photograph: Household Foraging by David Hamilton/White Lion)

  • A baguette or bread baton
  • Wild garlic butter (above)

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Fuel Mark 5.

At 2.5cm intervals, reduce into the bread – not right through, simply right down to the decrease crust.

Add a teaspoon of untamed garlic butter into every slice.

Wrap in aluminium foil and place on a baking tray and into the preheated oven.

Take away from the oven after 20 minutes; the bread ought to be crispy and all of the garlic butter melted.

Wild garlic

A garlic-scented woodland plant with fats, pointed leaves and white flowers. Crops develop collectively in clumps, and it isn’t uncommon to see an entire forest flooring coated with it.


2-5cm vast and round 15-20cm lengthy, rising round a central stem.


On a leafless stalk with a firework-like spray of flowers. Wild garlic has star-shaped flowers when nonetheless in leaf. The plant doesn’t have bellshaped flowers, so keep away from these.

Different traits

A robust, virtually overpowering garlic odor. Wild garlic is inexperienced above floor with a white bulb; if there isn’t a bulb, it’s not wild garlic.

What to keep away from

When you can’t odor onion or garlic, then you will have the fallacious plant!

Nettle urtica dioica

The nettle is a standard herb with stinging hairs and toothed leaves. It grows in patches, with a lot of crops clumped collectively and may develop as excessive as 2m.


The leaves have toothed edges and develop reverse one another on the stem, to a size of 2-15cm.


These don’t look very similar to flowers, however fuzzy greenish or brownish clusters which droop down from the stem.

Different traits

Stems are upright, and sq. or flat-sided. The stem and the underside of the leaves are coated in tiny stinging hairs.

Household Foraging by David Hamilton revealed by White Lion at £16.99