Foraging the UK - Into the Wild

Published: Tuesday 12th Jan 2016

Written by: Alex Smith

We all have fond memories of rummaging in hedgerows for blackberries and sneaking a strawberry whilst filling up punnets to brim but with foraging becoming ever popular, we thought we’d take a look at why so many people are pulling on their walking boots and venturing into the countryside to see what goodies mother nature has to offer.

The UK has a rich range of locations great for foraging. The Isle of Skye boast highlands heaving with hedgerows. Devon, with its miles of open acres is prime for exploring and Dorset offers treats from both land and sea. Coastal rewards are just as easy to find with samphire, sea beet and mussels up for grabs.

Don’t feel that you need to live in the middle of nowhere to coax out your inner forager. With the growing trend for ‘Urban Foraging’, even in some of the least likely locations you can find some edible goodies. Wild strawberries, beech nuts and hawthorn berries are just a few of the things a keen eye can spy.

If you have already been out grabbing some wild garlic or picking the sloe berries to spice up some gin then maybe you already know a thing or two about the plethora of edible treats that can be unearthed with a keen eye. However, the main thing to remember when foraging is that you must do your homework to be sure of what you’re picking, that it is safe to touch and if you need to do anything particular to prepare it before eating. With that in mind, if you’re itching to get outside and do your best Ray Mears impression then there a few simple rules of thumb to follow:

  1. Be 100% certain that you know what you are picking! For safety’s sake, start with the easily identifiable shrubs, plants and sea life like blackberries, Samphire, sloes, nettles, wild garlic etc. Buying a handy guidebook will prove to be an invaluable addition to your foraging tools, too. 
  2. Seek out the abundance. Discover where there are lots of plants growing and start your foraging here. Try to disperse your picking too, by picking from different areas. Don’t just strip a single sloe bush of all it’s ripe fruit.
  3. Clean and healthy pickings. Wild foraging allows you to reap food which is free from pesticides and fertilisers, but don’t forget roadsides and hedgerows are attractive to all sorts of other nasty additives… like dogs and car pollution, so always pick away from busy roads and pick above ‘dog height’... and of course, wash your harvest before eating.
  4. On your rambles, bare in mind that if you are on someone’s land you need to ask permission. The land and its riches will belong them, so make sure you’re not trespassing and that they are happy for you to pick anything that may take your fancy.

Finally, let’s not be greedy about it! The general rule is that you should only take what you need and make sure you’re leaving plenty behind for the plant to continue to grow. It goes without saying not to pick a plant which is a protected species. So with this in mind and baskets at the ready, happy foraging!

Alex Smith
Alex Smith



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