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).
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.
About the Author
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).
Foraged Vodkas from Isle of Wight
Tipsy Wight makes quirky flavoured vodkas, infused on your beautiful island. Made from natural ingredients either grown locally or foraged from fields and hedgerows on their Victorian farm, these give a taste of a genteel English summer year-round. All bar their honey vodkas are vegan-friendly, and everything is packaged in attractive glass bottles, in cardboard packaging.
Did you know that some vets use vodka as an emergency way to soak up antifreeze, for pet emergencies. When administered correctly, it has saved the lives of many pets who have ingested antifreeze (with follow-up care, as antifreeze ingestion can cause internal organ damage quickly). Let your mechanic change antifreeze or use a safer version with a funnel (see tips for safer car maintenance).
Tonic waters contain quinine, so avoid serving them if pregnant or you have an abnormal heart rhythm, kidney or liver disease or low blood sugar. Avoid grapefruit slices for certain medical conditions, and avoid rhubarb tonic waters for stomach/kidney issues.
- Elderflower vodka is the flagship product, made from fresh elderflowers, sugar and vodka, sold in a presentation box with two tipsy shot glasses. Delicious ice-cold, and also good with Prosecco to make their ‘Elderbubbles’ cocktail.
- Old English vodkas are from Isle of Wight orchard fruits. Choose from Apricot, Medlar (tastes of apples, dates and cinnamon, perfect with ice and tonic), Damson (nice with Disaranno and lemon juice over ice), and their award-winning Quince (try with soda, lemon juice and thyme leaves) and Cherry vodka liqueurs (good with prosecco).
- Wild & Hot Set includes Wild Mint & Cucumber (good with soda or tonic, mint and sliced cucumber), Horseradish & Beetroot (good with carrot juice), Wild Garlic, Chilli Vodka and Beech Leaf (made with young tender tree leaves that unfurl in spring over the bluebells).
- There is also a spicy Chilli Vodka that uses very hot Bhut Jolokia chillies, grown from seed in their greenhouses. 400 times hotter than tabasco sauce, these have a rating on the Scoville Scale of over 1 million, so to calm things down, they blend them with Scotch Bonnet peppers and two types of Jalapeno pepper for the ultimate Bloody Mary.
Taste of the Hedgerow is a set containing spiced pear (enjoy with apple juice and sparkling wine), wild plum (enjoy with prosecco and ginger syrup), crabapple (good with crushed ice, lime juice and passion fruit), sloe (combine with mulled apple juice for a winter warmer) or the signature Hedgerow Row (a blend of blackberries, haws, elderberries and soda – good with soda or lemonade on ice, with a garnish of fresh blackberries).