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Foraging for beginners UK

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Foraging UK – the basics 

Foraging is a great hobby that is both enjoyable and productive, it also gets you out and about in nature burning calories. In this article we will cover the basics of getting stuck into foraging for wild food. Fresh & free – what more could you want! Nature is full of wonderful flavours just waiting for you to go out and collect, however there are some do’s and don’ts which we will also cover. 

Not only does wild food taste great, foraging is a great survival skill that we once would all have been good at.

In this foraging article will cover:

  • How do I get started foraging?
  • What do you need to forage?
  • Where can I forage in the UK
  • What foods can I forage?
  • What can I forage in the spring?
  • What can I forage in the summer?
  • What can I forage in the autumn?
  • What can I forage in the winter?
  • What is the best free foraging app?
  • Other foraging apps
  • How to forage responsibly 
  • What is the law on foraging? 
  • Can you forage on private property?
Foraging for herbs

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How do I get started foraging?

The good news is that knowledge is the only thing you really need to get started foraging, but of course there are some tools and items that can come in handy when out in the field. Once you get stuck into foraging you’ll need something for cutting and something to store your goodies in. You will also need to learn what is out there to forage, a good book or app for a phone or tablet should be the first step on your foraging journey. 

What are the best free foraging apps?

The best foraging app depends on what you want to achieve. There are x3 that are a perfect aid when out foraging:

  • Shroomify Mushroom ID – This does exactly what it says on the tin and can be used to help identify types of edible mushroom
  • iForage – is an educational app full of info from other local foragers and their finds. You join and also post your foraging bounty to help out other people
  • PlantSnap – This can help you identify what plants you find when your foraging

What do you need to forage?

The following items will come in handy when foraging:

  • Book app or guide of local wild food and plants
  • Small sharp knife for cutting and slicing wild foods
  • Backpack or satchel to carry your foraged food in
  • Containers, plastic bags & tupperware 

What to wear when foraging? You need to dress appropriately for the environment you are foraging in – ie if you’re coastal foraging you will need to make sure you wear good waterproof footwear and clothing to keep you warm. Likewise if you are foraging in a fields hedgerows in summer you can go in your shorts and tshirt.

Picking sloes

Where can I forage in the UK

You can legally forage for wild food on any land in the United Kingdom as long as it is only for personal consumption. As soon as any foraging is undertaken for reward or for sale it can become illegal unless, on private land with permission from the land owner.

What is the law on foraging?  

“subsection (3) A person who picks mushrooms growing wild on any land, or who picks flowers, fruit or foliage from a plant growing wild on any land, does not (although not in possession of the land) steal what he picks, unless he does it for reward or for sale or other commercial purpose.”

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1968/60/section/4 

What foods can I forage?

In the UK it might surprise you how much food you can get from foraging. Especially if you live on the coast, there is a bounty of wild foods to be had from and by the sea. Salads, nuts,  mushrooms, roots & herbs are all available just outside your doorstep – all year round.

What can I forage in the spring?

In the early spring months you can forage for – 

  • If you’re lucky you might still find some blackberries in the hedgerows. Blackberries at this time of year will be very sweet indeed!
  • Chestnuts can be found on the floor in the woods for roasting
  • Pine Nuts  are easily sourced from pine cones at this time of year, best roasted
  • Alexanders are completely edible and readily available across Britain
  • Dandelions are the supreme wild food, completely edible and the roots even make a bitter coffee alternative
  • Nettles are also unsung heroes, they can be used for tea, salads, soups or even beer!
  • Wild garlic grows wild in many areas of the UK and is great for adding flavour to your dishes

For more on foraging in the UK we recommend going to the Woodland Trusts website. Not only do they have more about wild foods and how to use them, they also have some great advice on responsible foraging in Britain. 

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/things-to-do/foraging/

What can I forage in the summer?

Picking blackberries

As things get warmer there are a some more wild foods we can forage for here in the UK –

  • Chickweed is another one that grows everywhere and can be used in salads or a very tasty pesto
  • Hawthorn can be used to add some more flavour to your chickweed salad. The young leaves and flower buds are very tasty this time of year
  • Sorrel is a versatile wild food that is tasty and nutritious, this can be used just like spinach
  • Elder is a great wild food which flowers & fruit can both be used for and are very tasty. Elderflower cordial or Elderberry jam are tremendous
  • Bilberries can be found on the heathlands and moorlands of the UK. With a very pleasant taste raw they make great jams and condiment to ice cream 
  • Crab Apples don’t taste great raw, however they make great jams and jelly that goes great on toast or a great condiment for chicken

For more on foraging in the UK we recommend going to the Woodland Trusts website. Not only do they have more about wild foods and how to use them, they also have some great advice on responsible foraging in Britain. 

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/things-to-do/foraging/

What can I forage in the autumn?

You might think that the choices would start to reduce as the months cool down but that’s not the case. Autumn sees some of the most fruitful times to forage.

  • Hawthorn Berries are delicious… cooked, if you haven’t eaten all the flowers from the hawthorn bush and left some to fruit you can make some hawthorn jelly or even hawthorn schnapps! 
  • Sloes are one of the best known of nature’s berries for its ability to be converted into sloe gin or sloe whisky. You can also make equally tasty jams and vinegar
  • Wild Raspberries are not as tasty as their cultivated cousins but if you can find a decent amount of them they make a great wild raspberry sorbet
  • Rosehips are better known for their ability to make your friends back itch. Did you know they also make wines, jellies and jams all high in vitamin C
  • Walnuts are available during the autumn months and can be eaten raw, dry or pickled 
  • Beech Nuts are about most of the year including autumn, a tasty raw snack or they can be roasted. Just dont eat to many as they can be toxic in large doses
  • Wild Strawberries are just as tasty as their counterparts in the farm yard. They are smaller and difficult to pick but they’re good for a treat when your out foraging

For more on foraging in the UK we recommend going to the Woodland Trusts website. Not only do they have more about wild foods and how to use them, they also have some great advice on responsible foraging in Britain. 

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/things-to-do/foraging/

What can I forage in the winter?

As the nights draw in and the colder winter months kick in there are still a few wild foods that we can forage for in the UK. Although ideally you want to be wrapped up enjoying the preserves you made earlier in the year.

  • Bullace is a wild plum that can be found in the winter months. They can be used for jams, preserves, wines and gins
  • Hairy Bittercress is a hardy ‘weed’ that is actually a tasty herb that grows all year around and is good to spice up winter salads

How to forage responsibly 

This is really just common sense, when you are foraging make sure you only take what you need and be careful not to cause unnecessary damage. Always leave some food for the animals in the local area. If you are foraging as a hobby, you have a supermarket you can go to.

Can you forage on private property?

You can forage on private property so long as it is only for personal consumption, however it is probably a good idea to check with the landowner if you’re unsure. Foraging for sale or reward on private property without permission can have legal implications.

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