Edible Wild Plants – My Top 3 Foraging Tips

Edible Wild Plants – My Top 3 Foraging Tips

March 21, 2019 0 By Foragers Folly
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Edible Wild Plants

During my daily walks with Caber I’m pleasantly surprised and astonished by the new growth of edible wild plants that appear overnight! This means, of course, that there are many more plants to forage for. But, do you know what to look for? Are you aware of the foraging rules? And do you know what you should doing from the outset? If the answer to any of those questions is no, then keep reading.

My Top 3 Tips

First of all, let’s take a look at the basic equipment you need for foraging edible plants:

  • A good pair of walking shoes/boots or wellies.
  • Waterproof clothing.
  • A small outdoor knife.
  • A mushroom knife.  (optional)
  • A camera or phone camera.
  • Pocket sized first aid kit.
  • Pocket size book(s) on edible plant/mushroom ID.
  • Field note book and pencil or phone app that enables note taking.
  • Small rucksack.
  • Natural cloth collecting bag or basket.

Don’t Be In Such A Hurry

Secondly, let’s focus on what you need to be doing from the outset to identify edible wild plants:

If you’re new to foraging, or ready to take the next step, then this advice applies to you. And here it is…don’t be in such a hurry! Simple advice isn’t it? But this makes good sense and you should pay attention to it. And here’s why…

Not All Plants Are Edible!

Recently, on a couple of Facebook groups I’ve been following, there’ve been examples of people who decided they wanted to try foraging for edible wild plants. However, said people had adopted a somewhat, “gung-ho” attitude to it.

For example, one person ate a leaf from the wild plant, Lords-and-Ladies (Arum maculatum). Unfortunately this plant is highly toxic, particularly the berries. The good news is, that aside from a burning sensation in their mouth, no further damage was done.  BUT, it could have been so much worse. Kudos to that particular person as they decided to publicly share their story so that it wouldn’t happen to anyone else.

Identifying Edible Plants

The lesson to be learned here is that you need to do your homework. And, if after you’ve done your homework, you’re still not sure what the plant is, then leave it alone! Therefore, do yourself a favour and ask yourself these questions before you go foraging:

  • Decide what you’re foraging for before you leave the house.
  • What does the plant look like? You need to know the following:
    • Colour
    • Leaf shape
    • Leaf veins (front & back)
    • How many leaves does it have?
    • How are the leaves growing on the stem?
    • Does is flower?
    • What shape are the flowers?
    • Do the flowers grow in a particular pattern?
    • How many petals does the flower have?
    • Stem (i.e. is it hairy/non hairy, spiky, hollow, shape etc)
    • Height
    • Does it grow in clumps, rosettes, singular
  • Where does it grow?
  • What does its habitat look like?
  • Does it have an identifiable scent?  
  • Does it look similar to any other plant?
  • If the answer to the above question is yes, then go through the entire questioning process again.
  • Acquaint yourself with the most common poisonous plants and mushrooms.
  • Is it an edible wild plant?

Now, I know this seems like a lot, but the reality is, that its 15 minutes of prep time before you close the front door behind you and venture forth!  Also, there’s a fantastic book on edible wild plants which you’ll find really helpful. If you’re genuinely interested in foraging, then this book is a “must have”…click on pic below. It’ll be the best £13 you will ever spend on your foraging hobby. It’s highly rated in the foraging world.

However, if you want to invest a little more money and want a book that completely holds your hand as a beginner, then you won’t go wrong with the book below.

Sensible Foraging Rules

Ok, you now know what basic equipment you need and you’ve also done your homework on those edible wild plants you’re looking for. But what are the rules?

  1. Never pick or eat any wild plant unless you are 100% certain you know what it is!
  2. Keep sustainability in mind at all times – pick only those wild plants you intend to eat or craft with.
  3. Always make sure you leave enough edible plants behind for regrowth.
  4. Check that you have permission to forage for edible wild plants if necessary.
  5. It’s illegal to forage for commercial gain. (i.e. you can’t pick vast amounts of wild garlic to then sell on). You can however forage for personal use.
  6. You can only forage wild plants for commercial gain on private properties/land.
  7. Always be aware of the possible ecological impact of removing a wild plant or animal from its natural habitat.
  8. Some plants, mushrooms and wildlife are protected. Take time to acquaint yourself with them.
  9. Remember that all wild food supports wildlife and they need it for their own survival, you don’t!
  10. Don’t pick from roadsides due to contamination.
  11. Don’t pick from hedgerows or ditches surrounding farms, chances are that the farmer has used chemicals.
  12. Stay clear of the “dog zone” on pathways, woodland walks etc…

So, What’s Next?

If you’ve taken note of my top 3 tips, then here’s a bonus one for you. Start taking photographs! Infact, take photographs of every wild plant you see, bearing in mind and noting my advice in tip 2. Then, along with the photographs, start adding your notes. Every few weeks, right through to winter, take photographs of the same wild edible plants. Note their growth patterns and changes. This is the only way you will get to know edible plants inside out!

If you can, try to focus on only 2 or 3 edible plants from each season and get up close and personal with each of them. Before long you’ll have a comprehensive list of wild edible plants. The next step after that is studying their uses, but don’t worry, I’ll keep that one for another day!

And Finally…

The photographs above are a tiny sample of some of the wild plants I’ve photographed over the last 2 days. And by the way, some of them are inedible! I’ll also be adding my own gallery of edible wild plants to my blog over the coming weeks. So make sure you look out for it. Non edible and poisonous plants will also feature within it.

So, all that remains to be said is….If you don’t want to miss a post, then don’t forget to subscribe! And, until next time, take care and stay safe.