Like many people, the kids and I love to forage. Foraging is simply searching for, and collecting wild food. There are many good reasons to forage. Wild foods are far more nutrient-dense than commercially produced crops, and the meals in our hedgerows are what our ancestors evolved to eat, making them essential for our health. Foraging also allows us to learn, and pass on our knowledge, as well as giving us a closer connection with the natural world around us.
Foraging for wild food is a brilliant way to get outside and interacting with our natural environment, and over the next few weeks nature’s larder will explode in an abundance of new growth as our wild plants establish themselves for another year. If you look closely while out for a walk you’ll find plenty of wild edibles already growing well in sheltered spots.
A quick summary of the legality of foraging in the UK…
- It is illegal to uproot ANY wild plant without permission
- It is illegal to disturb or collect plant material from any PROTECTED wild plant
- It is illegal to trespass, so you must gain permission before foraging on private land
Common sense also says that if you entirely strip an area of wild food, you will damage that habitat, so only collect where food is bountiful, and just take reasonable amounts.
Only collect and eat a wild food that you are 100% sure you have identified correctly. Be aware of what goes on in the area that you are harvesting from. Plants near busy roads may be absorbing emissions from vehicles. If nearby fields are sprayed with pesticides, chances are some will make their way onto wild plants too. And if watercourses are polluted, your native plants will be drinking that water.
There are endless ways that you can introduce wild food into your recipes. Try using edible spring shoots in soups, quiches, pesto or just thrown into a salad.