I have ‘consciously’ started foraging just this spring but I am already hooked. In years before I had often gathered wild raspberries or blackberries because that was what my family did when we were kids, but I never intentionally looked out for edible foods in the wild.
I started foraging just this year inspired by other traditional food bloggers, and the first thing I gathered was spring nettles. I made nettle soup, pakoras, tea and plant fertilizer. In May I gathered dandelion flowers to make dandelion syrup and dandelion infused oil for soap making. Now wherever I go I am constantly on the lookout for new edible plants.
No matter where you live, you can always forage something. I live in the city but can still find edible plants in the park, on the playground next to my home or in the forests surrounding the city.
Foraging was once an essential part of food culture here in British Isles, and many plants have a history of being used as food or medicine.
You do not need a lot of free time to forage. I have a small daughter who does not allow me to gather plants for more than a few minutes at a time, or she gets bored, so during the week I usually gather a little bit of everything on our way through the park to the playground.
And this weekend we also went to a forest just 15 minutes drive from our home. Here is what I foraged there…
Raspberries for my homemade pink lemonade (recipe coming soon).
This is cleavers, also known as goosegrass (because geese love to eat it). It is easy to identify since it clings to anything that it touches. It can be eaten cooked, just like kale or spinach (if you gather it before the tiny round fruits appear). It can also be made into poultice and used on the skin to treat burns, wounds or stings. I am drying my bunch of cleavers to make it into tea. It is supposed to be very good for the lymph system (e.g. to treat tonsillitis). I am very curious how it is going to taste and I will update you when I know.
Linden flowers grow on the linden tree. I love their sweet, honey-like aroma and they remind me of spending summer holidays at my grandma’s cottage in the Polish countryside. The linden trees are in bloom in July so now is the best time to gather enough of them to use as flu tea in winter. They dry very fast spread on paper towels or trays on the kitchen counter. I want to use some of them to make linden lemonade.
This is the humble tansy which can grow everywhere, even on wastelands. Flowers, buds and leaves are edible. Flowers and buds can be dried and used (sparingly) as seasoning – it is supposed to taste like sage. According to Darina Allen in Forgotten skills of cooking a little of fresh chopped leaves (1 tsp – 1 tbsp) can be used as seasoning in bechamel sauces or omelettes. Tansy is believed to keep flies and bugs away and has a really interesting history. I found a video on Youtube talking about tansy being used in meat transportation and also put inside coffins -find it here.
I hope this post will inspire you to go out and look for edible plants. There are many great books, posts and videos about foraging online if you want to know more about this topic.Here are some of my favourites:
16 Ways to Eat Dandelions by The Prairie Homestead
Let’s Talk About Foraging by Ariana at And Here We Are.
Joe and Zach Survival channel on Youtube have lots of short videos about foraging.
Food for Free by Richard Mabey is a great book about foraging.