Teach Your Kids To Forage – It’s amazing what’s out there.
SO, What’s Foraging?
Why Should You Encourage Your Children Forage?
- It can help to cement the bond between you and your kids and the natural world around you.
- It’ll give your kids a chance to fall in love with nature from a different point of view. Nature suddenly has a use and a function not just pretty to look at.
- Foraging can introduce you to a world of edibles that are generally highly nutritious and full of flavour. According to Jo Robinson, from Eating On The Wild Side. “Dandelions are a Super-food” and have 8 times more antioxidants. Twice the amount of calcium, 3 times more vitamin A and 5 times more vitamin E” Unbelievable for a weed!
- It’ll help your kids experience the flow of the seasons and pay more attention to them.
- Kids feel more in control of the world around them. Foraging can help make the world feel smaller and less intimidating as kids understand and recognise the leaves and plants around them.
What Is A Good Age To Start Foraging With Your Kids?
When should you forage?
As you learn to recognise plants, you’ll find out what plant parts are only safe to eat, or which ones taste best when eaten during a certain stage of their growth, while others can be eaten all year-round.
It all sound complicated but don’t worry. Start with a familiar plant such as the dandelion and explore its uses and flavors. Once your comfortable with one plant its easy to spot others you can look into as you go.
What to Collect
I’ve listed the easiest 10 most common plants that are so easy to forage for,
Dandelions, Violets, Chickweed, Wild garlic, Stinging nettle, plantain, purslane, and raspberries, brambles(blackberries) and Mahonia berries(Oregon grapes).
These really are the tip of the iceberg however so find a local foraging book or a local group to join to learn as much as you can.
What to Bring when you forage.
- A good strong basket or bag to hold your yummy goodness is a must although for soft berries a tupperware tub would be easier.
This is the one I use, I was given it for my birthday and I love it!! We gather wild edibles for our rabbit too so it gets used everyday.
Ulster Weavers Foraging Foxes Packable Bag
- I’ve also found gloves for kids is a good idea to avoid being stung or scratched.
- Good sturdy wellies can help too if your going to be walking near nettles etc.
- You also need to set some ground rules with the kids. Make sure they’re aware the MUST have an adult with them at all times before they pick ANYTHING. Think about what kind of place your visiting, will there be a river to stay away from, do the kids need to stay beside you or is there an area you want them to stay inside. Set this out before they get out.
- You could also make a Nature Journal and use it to draw and record your foraging results. Information you’ve learned and record the location of any fantastic finds so you don’t forget next year.
- Bring some drinks and snacks to keep energy up. It’s better to wash your foraged findings before eating so bring something the kids can snack on.
You could also try to find an app on your phone to help you identify plants, see if you can find one for your area.
Now you and the kids have foraged and collected some wonderful plants that you are sure of, now what?
At home, wash your goodies gently. Then munch them all up. Its amazing what kids will eat if it doesn’t look like conventional food. You might also have to prepare the fruit etc for cooking if your making jam etc.
Why not try a different recipe with your edibles. Here are some recipes that they will love:
- Dandelion Flower Fritters via Mountain Rose
- Make dandelion jam.
- Make wild garlic pesto.
Some tips of where to start if your still unsure.
- Find a local club or group to join to build your
- Just start small. If your family only explores, identifies and works with one plant a month thats still 12 plants you’ll know next year that you don’t know now!.
Ok so we have covered lots of information on;
- -Why should you forage
- -When should you go
- -What you need
Now lets look at some examples.
I’ve listed some of our favourites ‘findables’ here. As you can see the best wild edibles to begin teaching your children are the obvious ones.
Berries like Blackberries and easy to find and they taste so sweet. Freshly picked Blackberries always taste better than any shop bought ones.
Edible flowers are another fun idea for kids. We collect bags full of Dandelion’s to make allsorts of recipes from dandelion fritters to beautiful syrup to pour over our ice cream.
It is an invader from far off climates that has made a successful home here. It covers riverbanks in pink flowers that have an almost aniseed flavours.
We call this plant “popper” for its seeds, they are long pods filled with black seeds that explode at the tiniest touch. The kids love it. The seeds are used to flavour bread and we use the pink flowers to make a syrup which has a shocking pink colour. Find the recipe in my post on Himalayan Balsam.
These are one of the best edible treasures of early summer. Whilst we don’t tent to eat them raw (though the flowers can be forked off the stem and added to salads and jellies) a great snack for children is to turn them into fritters! Just mix chickpea flour with water until you get a thick batter and then fry in hot oil for a minute or two. Lightly dust in cinnamon and a small amount of brown sugar or honey.
Sadly more and more children in the UK have never popped a ripe Blackberry into their mouth straight from the hedge. Wild blackberries are like the ones you buy, but better. The fruit, which ripens from mid-summer to early autumn, goes from green to red to black. There are so many fun recipes to create with your kids but for me – nothing beats bramble jam on toast. The kids LOVE making their own drinking coridial and ice lollies.
Mahonia berries are everywhere in council plantings at the moment. And they’re not a common edible in this country at least but they are AMAZING!!! They are high in pectin so are great to add to jams. Which is what we do with them, I make an amazing jam which id say is like blackberry jam but nicer!. Its also a good fruit for making cordials with.
The leaves of this under appreciated plant are very tasty and SO good for you. It grows everywhere here but not many people even notice it. If you ever scrape your finger or get stung by a nettle, crunch some of these up and rub on. They are nature’s cure-all.
The edible flowers have a coconut smell and a subtle almond taste. A great snack food to nibble on as they are high in protein. Watch out with picking as the stems have sharp spikes.
Here’s a simple foraging guide for the things we find in our area
Right now you are ready, Remember Safety First!
Please go over regularly with your kids that they MUST check every plant with you BEFORE they eat it. If you yourself are in any doubt, then just leave it alone.
Make sure your children understand that not only do they need to be sure that the plant is edible, they also need to ensure that they are picking their edible plants from a safe location – e.g. not from a busy roadside or low down on a path frequented by dog walkers,
Also, it’s worth reminding them not to pick everything from a plant , be responsible and only pick what you need from a few different plants. The plant your picking needs to be able to feed itself to survive and if you rip off all the leaves it can’t do that and you might kill the plant.
Remember the wildlife in your area will also depend on the food you are picking, don’t take more than you need. Always leave some for others.
Encourage your kids to have a try. Children are usually brave and adventurous at trying the plants as they don’t look like ‘food’.
Try to set challenges, like the first to spot a clump of wild garlic wins. Have a taste test with some rotten or sour flavoured objects like vinegar put in for a bit of fun.
So there you go, I hope this guide has helped give you a bit more information on Forging with your kids to get you all outdoors, eating healthy and experiencing the space around you in more detail.
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