Our foraging Update

You may remember that at the start of the year, the kids and I set ourselves the challenge of learning more about both foraging and identifying our native wild plants in general. The inspiration came from our favourite walk, and our aim is to be able to identify all the plants we see on it. You can read more about what inspired us here.

Out foraging

The Infant Thames

Last weekend I attended a foraging walk with ethnobotanist Robin Harford. The walk was a Christmas present from my brother, and along with about 10 other enthusiasts, I spent the morning with him in Oxford. The course promised to introduce us to identifying wild edible plants, as well as learning their stories, their nutritional values, and their folklore and history. And that's exactly what it did! Although I did of course take my camera with me, I didn't get it out once. I simply listened, and touched, and smelled and tried to absorb all the amazing knowledge that Robin holds in his head. It was a totally fascinating morning, and it felt completely immersive - I could happily follow him around for days, and actually felt quite deflated having to get back on the train and return home.


Water Mint, Mentha aquatica

Water Mint (Mentha aquatica)

So what did I learn? I learned that I need to be using all my senses in identifying plants, and not to simply rely on books. To feel each plant, to roll it around in my fingers and to smell it. To focus and take my time, giving my brain the opportunity to take in all the information, process it and allow it to retrieve the knowledge that it already holds.


young meadowsweet

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)

I also learned that plants communicate and interact with each other, so you need to look at the bigger picture when foraging, and take in a plant's environment. Not only the obvious stuff like not foraging where every dog from the neighborhood pees, or next to a busy road, but also looking at the whole plant community, and whether it is thriving, or if there are poisonous plants present. Plants like us, are all individuals. So one patch may have a totally different taste from another, even when they are the same species. Likewise, we all may react differently to a plant - what suits one of us, may not another.


Cowslips (Primula veris)

Cowslips (Primula veris)

I learned that wild plants have huge nutritional benefits. For example, studies suggest that the humble stinging nettle boasts three times more iron than spinach, seven times more vitamin C than oranges, as much calcium as cheese and as much protein as some beans and chicken. It also claims some impressive medicinal properties, which frankly, makes you wonder why we aren't all eating it.


Exploring nature

It was also great to taste some wild edibles in a safe environment, Cow parsley, for example is something that I had never tried before, as I am always concerned over identification, and more importantly that the kids will copy me and get their identification wrong. Even plants that we know well, such as brambles turned out to be a surprise - did you know that their new stems are edible and have a coconut taste? Apparently they pickle well, which is something we will be trying.


peeling bramble stems

The knowledge that I gained on the foraging course has already made such a difference to how I approach wild plants. I am seeing the world around us far more clearly, amd we are taking small steps to introduce more wild food into our diet. We are trying one edible plant at a time, here it is Alliaria petiolata (Garlic Mustard, Hedge Garlic, Jack by the Hedge), which we have tried both raw and in a familiar meal.

Garlic Mustard

garlic mustard ready to cook

Chicken and rice with foraged garlic mustard

There are thousands of edible plants out there, and we are just taking our first tiny steps into the foraging world, but each plant that the kids and I learn to identify and use, feels like a step closer to both nature and our ancestral roots.

I would like to point out, as someone kindly did in the comments below, that foraging from the edge of agricultural land can result in picking plants that are contaminated with both the chemicals sprayed on crops, and pathogens from animals. Although our foraging walk crossed over this land, and I have included photos, we did not gather any edibles from these areas.

We have added this post to the following fab parties…
Cuddle Fairy
Life Unexpected
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
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  • Reply Maria

    Thanks for posting! I’ve been foraging a little this winter, but have plans to do more once the snow is gone. Looks like you’ve found a great way to get out and explore!

    February 22, 2017 at 3:12 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      It really is a great way to get out and looking at what’s around you isn’t it Maria, and the kids will try anything we pick which always amazes me as they can be really fussy about what is on their plate when it comes from the shops!

      February 23, 2017 at 12:25 pm
  • Reply Chelsea Louise Haden

    Last year, I was so proud to identify wild garlic and made pesto with it. I said that I wanted to learn lots more about foraging and I’ve found an excellent course nearby, to eventually enroll on to! It sounds like you’ve learnt loads and thanks for that valuable info. I’ve so many nettles in the garden, come spring (when the shoots are young and more tasty) I will be making soup with them. I never knew about their iron content!

    February 22, 2017 at 1:59 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      The course made such a difference to me Chelsea, I am so pleased I went on it. We’ve made a couple of nettle recipes on the blog – our favourite was trying it in fruit leather, the kids love it 🙂

      February 23, 2017 at 12:21 pm
  • Reply Monkey and Mouse

    This is so interesting! I’ve been on lots of plant ID courses and they are fab, but would love to go one to learn all about the edible plants, it sounds amazing! You’ve given me the perfect reason to start incorporating more foraged food into our meals, especially nettles! Thanks so much for linking up to #Whatevertheweather 🙂 x
    Monkey and Mouse recently posted…Dumyat: An Easy Hill Walk For KidsMy Profile

    May 17, 2016 at 10:20 am
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      You would love it Jenny, it was fascinating. We’re sharing some nettle recipes this week which I’ll definitely link up x

      May 17, 2016 at 10:33 pm
      • Reply Jenny Eaves

        Ooh! Can’t wait! Loads of nettles at the allotment, so could do with some recipes. Looking forward to them. 🙂 x
        Jenny Eaves recently posted…Whatever The Weather #43My Profile

        May 17, 2016 at 10:56 pm
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