Well everyone has to start somewhere don’t they? So I started with the wild foods that I already recognised, Rhubarb from our garden, kindly left behind by the previous owner of Corner Cottage (our home) and blackberries from the lane opposite. We have had the rhubarb in our garden from the very first day we moved in, but apart from the odd rhubarb and apple crumble I have never had the time to be that creative with it. In fact, I am ashamed to say that like most of the fruit and vegetables in the garden most of the time it was left to rot away unused.
From now on that will happen no more. This year’s rhubarb crop has been harvested in full and used in a number of different ways including the already mentioned crumble, as well as rhubarb and ginger jam and a wonderful rhubarb puree which has been frozen for future use. Yes, this year I am feeling very pleased with myself.
Foraging for blackberries is pretty straight forward as little or nothing really can be confused with them and there are numerous delicious things that you can make with them. I made a wonderful Blackberry and Apple Jam, Gluten Free Blackberry & Apple Crumble, Blackberry & Apple Tea, Blackberry Liqueur and I also stocked my freezer with them for later use!. However, before you rush off to forage away, there are seven golden foraging rules that I would like to share with you before you start:
The Seven Golden Rules of Foraging
- Never eat anything that you are not 100% sure you can identify. Some edible plants have poisonous look-alikes.
- To ensure you comply with (1) beg, borrow, or buy a good plant field guide or foraging guide (I have made a few suggestions at the bottom of this post).
- Don’t forage from roadside verges or any area where there are a number of dead or dying plants which may signify that the vegetation has been recently sprayed.
- Don’t over harvest plants, or next year when you return you may find that you have nothing to harvest. Ten to twenty percent is a good rule of thumb although you don’t have to worry with abundant plants such as blackberries, but to avoid waste its best to just pick what you need.
- Avoid areas beside dirty, or otherwise contaminated water and wash all foraged foods carefully.
- It is a good idea to wear sensible clothing, long sleeved tops and trousers with close-toed shoes. Take gloves, scissors and a wicker basket or loosely woven canvas bag to collect your harvest. Plastic bags are not ideal but will do in an emergency.
- Respect the law. It is fine to forage for wild fruits, stalks, leaves and nuts on any land that is publically accessible. However, you must not dig up any plant without the permission of the landowner.
So there you are you are all ready to go. Here are a few books to get you started. These are the ones that I am using at the moment, but I suspect my collection will grow like weeds, in fact, I have quite a few more on my Christmas wish list. The links are through the Amazon associate program, but you will find them to purchase elsewhere, though I generally find that Amazon are the cheapest option… unless you can acquire them second hand or via the library service.
Food for Free by Richard Mabey seems to be everyone’s go-to book for first-time foragers and always comes highly recommended. It is good, but I have fallen in love with the River Cottage Guide Series and am planning to add a few more to my collection… I have already included them on my Christmas wish list!
This is one of the best mushroom identification books I have found and I need a good one because I am very nervous about foraging for wild mushrooms. One day I may even get up the courage to eat some!
To ensure that you avoid serious mistakes when identifying edible wild plants you need a good field guide with a key This one is an excellent choice though there are many other equally reliable books out there.
Well, that’s it, my very first Frugal Forager blog post is done. I hope I have inspired some of you to get started.
Until my next post… happy foraging…