How to go foraging for food

Feast on the forest with this guide to foraging for food. You'd be surprised at the amount of fruits, veg and herbs available in the great outdoors, waiting for you to pick and eat!

I know a bank whereon the wild Thyme blows

But Titania wouldn’t have stayed there long, because it grows on anthills.

“Ants are very fond of thyme—they grow it in their gardens,” explains Natural England’s Duncan Mackay, author of Eat Wild.

You can see why, because it’s deliciously piquant. Grab a handful of wild garlic too and you need never patronise the herb stand at Tesco again.

 

Summer: Perfect for foraging

Summer is a great time to feast for free, so head for the woods and hedgerows.

You’ll need a field guide to identify the plants, says Mackay, particularly the mushrooms that flourish during August. Better still, go on a guided walk. His rainbow selection includes the white giant puffball (“as big as a sheep—just slice and dip in egg and breadcrumbs”), the amethyst deceiver, the coal-dark charcoal burner, the fennel-like aniseed toadstool plus two disturbingly meaty fungi.

Look for the dark-red beefsteak fungus which drips “blood’, and the golden chicken-of-the-woods, which blooms on oak trees (take care—it can make you feel dizzy if you’re sensitive to it). And check the stem when gathering chanterelles and field mushrooms; a yellow streak means it’s a poisonous yellow stainer.

 

The first-time forager

First-time foragers might prefer to stick to recognisable foods.

Blackberries, elderberries, rosehips and crab apples are everywhere, but you’ll also find bilberries hidden under the plants’ leaves. And at the beach, gather samphire and sea lettuce, and barbecue limpets.

Once you've got some blackberries together click here for some fantastic blackberry recipes to impress your friends and family.

Gourmet cooks should visit eatweeds.co.uk, where nutritionist Marion Turnbull works magic with wild food.

Her dishes include meadowsweet sorbet and wild garlic focaccia. “I forage and eat wild plants every day—it’s a joyous way to reconnect with nature,” says Robin Harford, who runs the site (and foraging courses in East Devon). And it nourishes both mind and body.