Mindful Moment - Foraging
In late summer, British woodlands and hedgerows are teaming with life and colour, making it a perfect time to engage in some mindful wild produce foraging.
Foraging is enjoying a revival among people keen to eat fresh, seasonal and local food. It's a great way to slow down, reconnect with the land and learn more about indigenous, natural food.
Last year, our CEO Hannah spent a day in Huddersfield with a local guide, Lions Tooth Foraging, learning about the natural produce we can find on our doorsteps and how to identify and use what we find in day-to-day life.
Inspired by her experience we're taking a closer look at what we can find outside this August.
What To Forage In August
Picking blackberries is a pastime deeply embedded in British history and folklore and goes back thousands of years.
Blackberries have a high vitamin C content, can be eaten raw or cooked, and are typically used in pies, crumbles, and jams.
What to look for: this prickly shrub grows in woods and hedges almost everywhere. Pick the berries when they’re a deep purple-black from late July and throughout autumn.
One of the ancestors of the cultivated apple, crab apples are most frequently used to make jelly; delicious and enjoyed simply on bread or as an accompaniment to meat, particularly chicken.
What to look for: crab apple trees are found throughout the UK and their apples are ready from late summer into autumn (August to October).
An easy-to-recognise late summer fruit, elderberries are packed with vitamins and are most commonly used to make cordial. They can also be added to pies, crumbles or hedgerow jam.
What to look for: elder trees are widespread and easily found in woodland and hedgerows. The small, dark red-black berries hang in neat clusters and are normally ready to harvest in August and September.
Rowan berries are bitter and inedible when raw, but can be cooked to make delicious jams and jellies, or can be preserved in syrup.
What to look for: Rowan trees are widespread. Look for their distinctive pinnate, ash-like leaves, although they are smaller with more leaflets. Dense clusters of flowers appear in early summer followed by clusters of bright red to orange berries in late summer. Collect as a cluster from the tree.
The Wildlife Trust
Sustainable Foraging Guidelines
1. Minimise damage
Take no more than you plan to use.
Stick to paths and take care not to trample down or damage areas you are collecting from.
Pick leaves or berries with care, in moderation and avoid damaging plant roots.
2. Seek permission
If you're on land belonging to an individual or organisation, check what you're allowed to do.
The Woodland Trust Says:
'On our sites, we do not allow foraging for commercial purposes, only for personal use.
On some of our sites we prefer you not to forage, even for small amounts of fungi or other species. This is on sites that are important for conservation, are habitats for rare or vulnerable species or where there are problems with over-picking. These sites can be identified through signage on site, but please always check before setting off.'
3. Know what you're picking
Never consume a wild plant or fungus unless you are absolutely certain of its identification.
It could be rare and protected, inedible or even deadly poisonous. Use reference books to identify them. Fungi can be notoriously difficult to identify, so if you're unsure it's best to leave alone.
4. Only collect from plentiful populations
Only collect flowers, leaves, fruits and seeds where they are in abundance.
5. Leave plenty behind
Forage carefully to ensure there is enough left for birds and species to consume now and to ensure plants and fungi can regenerate and reproduce.
6. Do not collect rare species
Only take plants and fungi when you are certain you know what they are.
Take a good field guide to confirm species in the field and avoid confusion. Some species are protected by law, so know what not to collect. Ancient woods, in particular, can contain many rare species so take special care. If you're not sure, it's best to leave it alone.