Edible Wild Plants
Well, hello spring! Now that she’s undeniably raised her head, we find ourselves in the enviable position of having a plethora of plants, from which we can forage. But, are you aware there are rules for foraging? And do you know what you should be looking for, or taking into consideration before you even set foot outside? If the answer to any of those questions is no, then you need to take a gander at, ‘My Top 3 Foraging Tips’.
My Top 3 Foraging Tips
First of all, let’s take a look at the essential equipment you need for foraging:
- A good pair of walking shoes/boots or wellies.
- Lightweight waterproof clothing that you can “bung” in your rucksack.
- A small outdoor knife.
- A mushroom knife. (optional)
- A camera or a phone camera.
- Pocket-sized first aid kit.
- Pocket-size book(s) on edible plant/mushroom ID.
- Field notebook and pencil or a phone app that enables note-taking.
- Small rucksack.
- Cloth bag or basket for collecting your wild goodies.
Don’t Be In Such A Hurry
Secondly, let’s focus on what you need to be doing from the outset. 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 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, there have been a couple of people who tried foraging for the first time. However, said people had adopted a somewhat, “gung-ho” attitude to it.
For example, one person nibbled a leaf from the wild plant, Lords-and-Ladies (Arum maculatum – in the photograph below). Unfortunately, this plant is highly toxic, particularly the berries. Thankfully, aside from a slight 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.
How to Identify Edible Plants
The lesson to be learned here is that you need to do your homework and take note of my top 3 foraging tips before you even start foraging. And, if after you’ve done your homework, and you’re still not sure what the plant is, then leave it alone! Walk on by, wave it goodbye, sayonara plant, you aren’t my friend! Do you get the gist of what I’m saying? So, do yourself a big 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:
- Leaf shape
- Leaf veins (front & back)
- How many leaves does it have?
- How are the leaves growing on the stem?
- Does it 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)
- 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?
Ok, you now know what equipment you need, you’ve also done your homework on the plants that interest you the most, and you’re ready to start picking. But what are the rules?
- Never pick or eat any wild plant unless you are 100% certain you know what it is!
- Keep sustainability in mind at all times – pick only those wild plants you intend to eat or craft with.
- Always make sure you leave enough edible plants behind for regrowth.
- Check that you have permission to forage for edible wild plants if necessary.
- 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.
- You can only forage wild plants for commercial gain on private properties/land.
- Always be aware of the possible ecological impact of removing a wild plant or animal from its natural habitat.
- Some plants, mushrooms and wildlife are protected. Take time to acquaint yourself with them.
- Remember that all wild food supports wildlife and they need it for their own survival, you don’t!
- Don’t pick from roadsides due to contamination.
- Don’t pick from hedgerows or ditches surrounding farms, chances are that the farmer has used chemicals.
- Stay clear of the “dog zone” on pathways, woodland walks etc…
It’s Time to Prepare
Taking my top three tips into consideration, it’s worth noting that it takes only 15 minutes of prep time before you set off on your foraging adventure. However, if you still feel you need something to boost your confidence, there’s a fantastic book on edible wild plants which you’ll find helpful. And, if you’re genuinely interested in foraging, then this book is a “must have” and, it’s highly rated in the foraging world.
However, if you have a little more spare cash available and want a book that holds your hand as a beginner, then you won’t go wrong with the publication below.
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! Take photographs of every wild plant you see, bearing in mind and noting my advice in tip two. Then, along with the pictures, 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. By following this advice, you will soon get to know your edible plants inside out!
If you can, take my advice and 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!
The photographs above are a tiny sample of some of the wild plants I’ve photographed over the last two days. And by the way, some of the above, such as Dogs Mercury, are inedible! I’ll also be adding a gallery of edible and non-edible wild plants to my blog over the coming months. So make sure you look out for it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading ‘My Top 3 Foraging Tips, and if you’ve any questions, drop me an email or leave a comment below. So, now 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.