Over the last few weeks, I have been chatting with you about the woods and what is happening in them, either by nature or by me. I have discussed foraging with you and given a few hints and tips regarding what is growing in our wild pantry. However, I will back up for a moment and begin at, well, the beginning.
This week we will discuss foraging at its most simple; a stroll.
The dictionary will state that the definition of foraging is to go out and look for food. Indeed, the etymology shows that it is a mix of French, German and middle English all relating to fodder. So it is only right and proper that we think of this as being correct.
In the world of bushcraft though, foraging means so much more. We go out looking for building materials, medical supplies and everything in between. I consider it going out with a shopping list and trying to stick to it. The easiest way is to follow these rules.
What volume to Pick?
There’s so much growing out there that we would need a pack pony to carry all our foraged goodies home. So let’s set some simple ground rules;
- Only pick what you are going to use. If you end up throwing away a large amount of your haul then it’s a total waste and unfortunately you have deprived others, be they sapiens or woodland dwellers, of the items you have discarded. Don’t be greedy. Take only what you need.
- Know what you are going out for. This focuses the mind and prevents you taking too much.
- Leave the first two patches or specimens alone. This goes hand in hand with the rule above. As soon as you have seen three specimens then pick what you need. Leave some in the patch though. Don’t take the whole lot.
- Take one basket or one bag. Once this is full it’s time to go home.
- Once home prepare the foraged items immediately. Tomorrow never comes. If your items wilt or start going soggy you will have deprived someone else of the chance of enjoying it.
I know those rules seem a little preachy but with the idea of foraging becoming more popular then I believe that respecting the wildlife as well as our fellow enthusiasts can only be a good thing.
So where can we pick
I’d say use common sense but that hasn’t been issued in equal measure. I’m afraid you are going to have to conduct your own research on this. If you type “Foraging Laws UK “into your search engine then you will get a whole host of sites to visit. Please make sure it is a reputable site and not one wanting to grind the axe against The State. Growing wild is always a good place to start but getting permission from the landowner is better.
What to Pick
Bearing in mind the laws you have just researched you can pick any flowers, fruit, fungi and foliage that is growing wild and it’s for your own personal consumption. Add to that the fact that you can pick and pluck the four Fs and not cut them down or dig them up. Obviously if you have permission this last part doesn’t effect you. Whilst choosing your Fs only choose what looks good. If it appears soggy, then it is. If it’s wilted, why is it? Don’t pick on freshly sprayed farmland.
What to Take
The basket is always a good start. It is unassuming and looks “right” in the woodland setting. If you don’t fancy that idea a large paper bag or a cotton bag will be just as good. So long as you are letting your foraged goods breathe. Sweaty mushrooms are not nice, not one little bit. For squishy berries and other fruit a plastic bag or box is fine.
For now, that is all the equipment I am going to talk about. Keep It Simple.
Great Britain’s weather is notoriously changeable. Don’t be too hard on our climate, it is exactly this that allows our four seasons and the huge array of flora and fauna. It is up to you to wear the appropriate clothing for your foraging stroll. There are so many apps out there for weather but I use one. It’s online and it is Metcheck. They are very accurate and break the days down for you. A great example of how technology helps.
Your Smart Phone and ID
Just as the weather site is great there are rubbish ID sites on your phone promising that they will identify what you have just found for you. I’m afraid that I will not be encouraging you to use them.Yes, they are like a signpost to the final ID but they will never replace and expert or books.
Always take the book to the flower, never the other way. Observe as much as you can about the flower, take lots of photos. This is the fun part. Getting to know your quarry.
Use your foraged goodies straight away. I’ve discussed this already but I would like to reiterate it here. This is another fun but really important aspect of your foraging forays. The secondary ID. As you go through your basket to process the four Fs you can make sure you have picked wisely. Then you can start to make your teas, gins, rubs, salves, smudge sticks…you get my drift.
So, Next Time You Are Out And About…
Get out with your basket and an idea of what you want to find. Make sure you are legally and physically safe and enjoy yourself. You may not find anything but you will have had fun trying.
Until next time.
Greg. Check out my Instagram.