wild edibles to search for with your kids. easy to find in the woods or your local area make the best from foraging these edibles and make the easy recipes to add to your cupboards.

14 Wild Edibles Kids Can Forage In Autumn.

I was lucky enough to grow up with a parent who loved the outdoors and would walk miles with me telling me what the animals and plants were along the way.
Now, when I pass families in the woods which is rare these days – all I hear is parents yelling ‘You can’t eat them – they’re poisonous!’
Now, don’t get me wrong, yes, kids have to be taught to respect nature and learn what they can and cannot eat, as there is after all poisonous stuff out there, however putting a blanket ban on all natural food is not needed.
There is a huge abundance of FREE food out there ready for the munching.

wild edibles to search for with your kids. easy to find in the woods or your local area make the best from foraging these edibles and make the easy recipes to add to your cupboards.

14 Of The Best Wild Edibles To Forage

Our ancestors foraged nearly all of their food, but as farming grew in popularity , it became easier and more convenient to rely on processed food.
However, in the last 15 years, foraging has made a big comeback as people have realised the chemicals are a huge mistake.
It’s not surprising either with food costs rising that were returning to other readily available sources of food. We live in an uncertain world so it makes sense to make sure our kids can rely on the natural world around them.

Autumn is the best time to explore foraging as there is an abundance of wonderful berries, nuts and leaves to try. Not to mention the lessons that can be learned like seed sowing, seed saving, respect for nature and sustainability.

The benefits of foraging for wild edibles

Foraging isn’t just about finding free food.

Gathering wild edibles gives us a deeper connection to nature, improves our mental and physical health and supplies us with highly nutritious food for free!

What you need

Although not essential, these bits do make collecting a lot easier.

  • A small pair of scissors, or pocket pen knife.
  • Gloves are a good idea as lots of wild fruit has thorns or prickles not to mention bugs taking advantage of the juicy fruit too.
  • Some sort of container. We keep the plastic fruit containers from grapes as these are ideal for preventing small hands from squashing the fruit.
  • I would also recommend some good boots especially for kids. Wellington’s are our footwear of choice so nettles etc don’t attack while were out.

How to forage for wild edibles safely

While foraging is very easy, beginners need to be very careful to only pick plants that they know.

It’s not a good idea to collect plants that you’re not 100% sure of as lots of edible plants often have similar toxic look a likes.

It’s not all bad news though. There are lots of things that are easy to identify with the help of a good book or local knowledge.

 

Hawthorn

Hawthorn trees produce fantastic blossom and stunning red fruit. the berries are used in lots of recipes and have so many benefits that it would be silly not to sample them. Find these berries in the woods or the hedgerow.
Hawthorn berries are a fantastic start to Autumn gathering.
If they are picked when they are red and plump, they are something really ripe apple flavours. These are the perfect food to gather in late autumn.
We love to collect them to make Haw Ketchup. We got this recipe years ago from my copy of River Cottage book, Preserves. This book has become my bible for all things delicious. There are so many wild edible recipes in here.
It has a wonderful almost spice flavour and the red skins makes an amazing coloured ketchup style sauce.

Hazelnuts

Ok now, we class this delicious nut as a rare find. The squirrels almost always beat us to the nuts. But when we do time it right they are delightful.
These nuts are popular in woodlands and hedging. If you have them growing close by check them regularly and lift the branches as these nuts like to hide under the leaves.
My daughter CC likes to think of them as shy.

Sloe Berries(Blackthorn)

These berries are also starting to fill the hedgerows with round, blue/black fruit.
Foraging for wild edibles like sloe berries is brilliant family fun. Find out how to make sloe gin as a fab christmas gift from sloes too
The sloe berries actually are a form of wild plum, however if you’ve ever tasted one raw, you will know how tart these little balls are.
My eldest ED actually sucks them raw, he says they taste like the sour plum sweets we get!
You may be wondering why I have included sloes in this guide for kids. Well each year one of our must do tasks in to pick sloes for Christmas gifts.
 The kids love the task of making homemade gifts for neighbours and family and the most requested is sloe gin!
The kids add the sugar and berries to the large bottles and I top with the gin. Then, when the Sloe Gin is ready, we bottle it up into small fancy bottles and decorate it with labels and ribbon etc as home-made gifts for the adults.
Closer to Christmas, we also make indulgent chocolate truffles or gingerbread men truffle figures to give with the gin.
I also read that once you take the sloe berries out of the alcohol you can de-stone them and use the stewed fruit as a centre for boozy chocolate truffles but I haven’t tried this(yet)
500g Ripe sloes
250g Caster sugar
1 Litre of gin.
  • Add the sloes which have been pricked into an empty preserve bottle (The kids love to sit with a fork and puncture the berries but this can be time-consuming and dangerous as the berries can ping off like bullets! Instead you can freeze the berries and then defrost them which usually splits the skins)
  • Fill half way up the bottle with berries, use a 2 litre bottle or we use 2 x 1 litre bottles so there is room for all the berries and sugar.
  • Now,  pour in the sugar. (Either into the one big bottle or  divide it into the 2 smaller ones)
  • Top the bottle up with gin (you can also use vodka) It doesn’t have to be the best gin for this although I wouldn’t use the cheapest either.
  • Shake the bottles well but carefully.
  • Put them somewhere cool and dark and remember to shake them everyday for a week to make sure the sugar dissolves in the gin.
  • Now just leave them alone in a dark place for 2 to 3 months or longer if you can as the flavour will keep developing.
  •  Then strain out the fruit to complete the recipe. Just bottle into a clean bottle and decorate for gifts.

Sweet Chestnuts

These are another early winter forager’s treat. Sweet Chestnuts are probably one of the first foods eaten by humans.

Foraging for sweet chestnuts is a fun family activity. Look for a large tree with spikey round cases. Can be used in lots of recipes like mont blanc or roasted

Inside there is a cluster of 3 to 4 nuts in each shell which is very prickly.

 

The tree itself is very tall and the nuts prefer to grow high in the canopy so can be tricky to get hold of but there is nothing better on a cold Autumn night than roasting off a few nuts on the edge on a bbq or on a stick marshmallow style and eating the sweet starchy insides.

 

This nut IS NOT A HORSE CHESTNUT as those are slightly toxic to eat SO Don’t!

 

Dandelion

Next on the list is dandelions.

As a kid, I was told if you pick dandelions you’d pee the bed (where do these sayings come from! Possibly from its diuretic properties makes you need a wee.)

Foraging for yellow dandelions has so many benefits. It can be used in lots of recipes from tea to bread and the leaves, seeds, root and flowers are edible.

This was my only association with them until my late teens when I learned I could eat them.

  • The Victorians used to love them in a salads so why shouldn’t we. This plant we simply class as a weed is so useful.
  • The root can be dried as a coffee alternative.
  • The flowers can be eaten in a pancake batter – fritter style, or used to make dandelion jam, a lovely yellow sweet jelly.
  • A friend makes a sunshine bread using the petals too, so many uses and so much more.
  • The leaves also make a good tea said to settle a ‘funny tummy’
 We like to pick these leaves in huge amounts in the Autumn so we can dehydrate them as a part of our rabbits feed everyday. But I also put some in salads, crumble them in stews and make tea on a cold day.

Rose hips

Rose hips are everywhere. They are one of the highest fruits in vitamin C.

They’re the fruit of any rose variety, and it’s the flesh of the fruit you use, discarding the itchy seeds.

I make rose hip syrup to put over our ice cream. It’s a great immunity boosting syrup that lasts well. When my granny was small, kids used to get paid to pick them to help ma ke this syrup to help prevent scurvy in their communities when rationing was on the go.

My kids love it to this day over ice cream or pancakes and it makes me feel close to my granny on a cold day.

The recipe we use is also in the Preserve book mentioned earlier 

 

Elderberries

Elderberries are one of the most popular sights of Autumn, with the glossy black berries.
Earlier in the year we collect the flowers from this plant but the more flowers you take the less berries so we always leave some.
Elderberries are high in vitamin C and other good stuff and have been used in winemaking for a long long time.
We haven’t taking things that far yet but we do make a thick syrup from them which the kids love and because of the high vitamin content its a great immunity booster for them.
A spoonful of syrup IS the medicine going down ha!

Sea Buckthorn

Please note it is nothing to do with Common Buckthorn or the poisonous Alder Buckthorn

Brambles ( Blackberries)

These berries are the easiest to recognize in the Autumn woods.

My kids can’t get enough for these berries and we had to buy a chest freezer just so little CC can munch them most of the year round. ( she’s even dunked them in tomato soup calling it a fruit salad!! Although technically correct as tomatoes are fruit too I don’t fancy giving it a try)

These berries also keep us in delicious jelly, cordials and ice lollies most of the year round. Try the Family ‘Beena recipe from the River cottage Preserves book.

Damsons

Damsons are related to wild plums. They are available from mid-late summer.
We love to pick a basketful to make Damson Cheese a fresh tasting vivid coloured jam which is thoroughly amazing.
Careful, as wasps love damsons too so avoid disturbing them as they might sting you.

Crab Apples

Foraging for apples.
I can’t understand why anyone would buy an apple between August and October.
Whether it’s in a neighbour’s garden, pick your own orchard or as part of local authority plantings, apples are everywhere. But if they’re not in your area why not plant some?
Look out in early spring at what trees show blossom early in the year the chances are these will be fruit trees so mark the location.
Here’s a simple guide to knowing your wild  edible apples.
Take a bite, if it’s :-
Large and Sour = cooking apple
Sweet = it is an eater
Small and really sour = it’s a crab apple and best used in wine or jam.
Crab apple jelly is one of my all-time favourite jams. It has a pinky orange colour and yummy.

Beech Nuts

The Beech tree produce nuts. As far as we know it’s a very uncommon nut to eat but oh so delicious.

They can be awkward to process which I think is why they aren’t as popular as they should be.

 

Simply dry roast these in an oven in the shell, then place between two tea towels and rub them to shell.

You can also use these nuts like pine nuts too.

Mushrooms

The Puff-ball is of the easiest of fungi for beginners to find thanks to its ball like shape like a football.
It’s very common in Europe and the USA.
It’s quite soft, and is edible as long as the insides are solid white..
They grow in the leaf litter under hedges and often in grassy fields.
They are easy because they can’t really be confused with anything else.
The best way to eat mushrooms (In our house anyway) Just fry up slices with butter and garlic and pop then on crusty toast.
They also freeze well.

Plantain Leaves.

This little gem is amazing. It’s a fabulous medicinal plant especially when dealing with scrapes, bug bites, and bee stings.

 

Where to find it

Well this one is easy! I bet you’ll have some in your backyards! If not, maybe you have a sunny driveway, or you might have some plantain growing along it as they love poor soil that’s warm.

Harvesting it.

Use the smaller leaves in salads and you can even add seeds to crackers, breads, muffins, etc

Plantain leaves are anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving. They are an herbal remedy that works wonders on mosquito bites, bee stings, and minor cuts and scrapes.

I actually make a tea from the leaves and it really helps with muscle pain.

 

If you like this activity or are looking for more to get out and do this Autumn check these out!

Fantastic Outdoor Activities For Kids This Autumn

Kids Garden Activities For Autumn.

So, there you are, I hope you’ve found a few new things you could try with your kids. 

Remember to join our Facebook page for more ideas for getting out with kids.

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Fantastic list of Wild Edibles for beginner's. Where to find these plants with suggested recipes and how to use them. whether from the woods or your back yards bounty there is so much for FREE

 

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