14 Of The Best Wild Edibles To Forage
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.
- 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.
These are another early winter forager’s treat. Sweet Chestnuts are probably one of the first foods eaten by humans.
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!
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.)
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’
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
So, there you are, I hope you’ve found a few new things you could try with your kids.
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