So you have decided that you want to give this foraging thing a go. You have some sturdy boots, gloves, a basket, scissors and a plant field guide, but where do you begin? Well, this was the question I asked myself when I was wondering whether or not to get into this foraging business. I already walked a lot – one of the benefits of having a dog. Jinks (my dog) and I had our regular stomping ground, but I had never really noticed anything worth foraging. However, in truth I had never before really looked, but when I did I was instantly astounded at the number and diversity of free and edible species that only days before I had walked past without even noticing.
I quickly discovered the following all growing on and around the area of my normal walk.
Hawthorn Berries (yes you can eat them)
All of these were relatively well known and easy to identify except for the Parasol Mushrooms, but with the help of the River Cottage Mushroom Guide, I soon managed to confirm their identity to my satisfaction. It was their aroma of warm milk and the snake skin stalk that finally reassured me that I had the correct fungi. I must admit that I felt quite pleased with myself when I made the identification.
I am sure that when you start to look around the wild areas where you live you will be equally rewarded. All of this beautiful, fresh food was just there waiting for me to pick it, and all of it completely free. In no time at all I was well and truly bitten by the foraging bug. Though this was much to the annoyance of Jinks whose walks suddenly became a lot less fun as I ignored my duties as number one dog ball thrower in favour of picking berries! Happily for Jinks, though, I have recently learned to multi-task and can now do both at the same time.
I have come to appreciate how really lucky I am to have such a beautiful place to walk and which is also bursting with produce to forage. The best thing is that I will never get bored with the place as the scenery changes with each season, as does the variety of produce available.
On one of my very first forays, I bought home crab apples, sloe berries and hazelnuts. If you would like to know what I did with them, then check back later for the recipes for Sloe Gin, Crab Apple Jelly, Hedgerow Jelly and Roasted Hazelnuts!
I hope that this has inspired you to have a good look around your area and see what treasures you can find.