A Beginners Guide To Foraging

Foraging is such an incredible way of utilising what is already growing in your area. It’s so much fun to learn how to do and a fantastic skill to have. You can forage all sorts of things, from berries to leafy greens to nuts. You can forage not only edibles but also to make into products for the body and home.

When done responsibly, there are so many benefits to foraging. Firstly it’s a much more sustainable way of eating as you are utilising things already growing in your local area. You can be introduced to new flavours that aren’t typically found in a supermarket, and it is also really nutritious. It also gets you outside into nature, and it’s completely free. What is there not to love?

Remember to always forage sustainably and responsibly

It is very important to make sure you forage responsibly. Here are some general rules to follow when foraging:

  • Make sure you know and follow the laws in your area when it comes to foraging
  • Make sure you are certain on identifying what you are foraging. You don’t want to end up eating or using something that is unsafe, so make sure to thoroughly check and be sure
  • Always forage from an area you are sure has not been sprayed with any harmful  chemicals, and isn’t close to a road
  • Only take what you need, and make sure to leave plenty behind for wildlife and others
  • Don’t ever uproot plants as this means the plant will not regrow in this area
  • Do your best to not trample or damage the plants in the area you are foraging
  • Don’t ever waste what you forage

What to take with you on your foraging trip

There’s a few things we recommend you take with you to ensure a smooth foraging experience!

  • Pocket foraging identification book: it’s always a good idea to have a little guide with you to make sure you are identifying correctly. A lot of plants can look similar, however one is completely edible and safe and the other is poisonous. It is so important to identify correctly. If you aren’t 100% sure on something, it is best to leave it behind.
  • Foraging knife: To be able to cut off the parts you need with ease. Not always necessary depending on what you are foraging but very handy to have.
  • Gloves: when foraging some items such as nettles with their sting, or blackberries with their thorns, it is a good idea to take a pair of gloves with you to protect your hands.
  • Basket or container: to store your foraged finds in until you get home!

Below we have listed a selection of easier things to forage that can be commonly found in the northern hemisphere:

Spring foraging

Dandelions: a common weed, this yellow flower is the bee’s first source of nectar in the spring. The entire plant is edible, the flowers can be made into honey or baked into cookies, the leaves can be used in salads or made into pesto, and the roots can be made into a tea.

Wild garlic: this fantastic plant is common in woodland. It is easy to identify as the leaves smell just like garlic. It tastes the same as typical garlic but is milder in flavour. You can use the leaves to make a delicious pesto, in salads, and any dishes you would like to add a garlic flavour.

Nettles: another very common weed found widely in Europe and Northern America. Hated for its nasty sting, nettles are actually an extremely nutritious and versatile plant! Harvest the tender tops with gloves and either cook or blend to remove the sting before eating or using. You can use in pesto, as a replacement for cooked spinach in many dishes and even in home made skincare.

Elderflowers: an end of spring delight, these flowers smell so wonderful and make a great cordial/syrup. Best picked on a sunny day in the morning. They are recognised easily by growing on a large bush and their distinctive sweet smell. Make sure not to confuse with cow parsley or deadly hemlock.

Summer foraging

Wild cherries: These bright red berries are unmistakable, looking just like your classic cherry. They tend to be a little smaller than grown varieties but still delicious and the options for dishes on these is endless!

Blackberries: A tasty treat that you can harvest from thorny bushes in late summer and early autumn! It’s extremely widespread across the world and easy to identify. Harvest once they have turned black and eat fresh, bake into a crumble or make into a jam!

Elderberries: If you were sure to leave plenty of elderflowers behind in the spring, then the little flowers will turn into wonderful elderberries. Just like the flowers, the berries make a delicious syrup.

Chamomile: These little flowers look similar to daisies but easily recognisable once you know the difference. Dry out your chamomile flowers to turn into tea that you can enjoy all year round.

Bilberries: These little blue berries are very similar in looks to blueberries, but taste very different. They are best when they are cooked into pies, jams or sauces. They are only available for a very short time between August and September.

Crap apples: These apples are wild apples, and have different varieties that can be anything from absolutely delicious or quite sour. They are smaller than typical cultivated apples, and can be eaten and used just like normal apples.

Damsons: These are a type of plum, small and purple. However the damson has less water content and the stone is easier to remove. This makes them perfect for baking and cooking, and they even hold their shape better due to the lower water content.

Autumn foraging

Sweet Chestnuts: An autumn classic – the sweet chestnut! Not to be confused with the horse chestnut that is not edible, however has been made into a laundry detergent by some. Sweet chestnuts have a shell that resembles a hedgehog, and are roasted and peeled before enjoyed.

Sloe berries: A classic for infusing into gin, these berries are said to be best picked after the first frost. They are small, with a stone in the middle and sharp tasting.

Rose hips: An easily recognisable autumn/winter favourite, rose hips are bright red and also best picked after the first frost. You can dry them out for tea, make jams or syrups!

Winter foraging

Gorse flowers: A rare winter flower, these bright yellow flowers do brighten up any dreary winter day. Best flavour for foraging tends to be the end of winter. The flowers have a subtle, sweet, coconut type flavour and make a delicious cordial.

Pine needles: Not edible, but a fantastic thing to forage in the winter. Infuse into vinegar for a few weeks and then dilute 50/50 with cooled boiled water for an easy all purpose cleaner (not to be used on marble or granite).