Foraging in the Woods

Foraging is a fun and productive way of re-connecting with nature

So the economic downturn has hit pockets hard. Does that mean we stop shopping at supermarkets as food prices rise? Probably not. But if you were going to turn to foraging for your food, how would know what’s good to eat?

Weeding the garden could be eradicating an easy, local source of food. Some common “weeds” were vital sources of nutrition to our ancestors. Like the dandelion. But one thing the ancients did that we’d be wise to remember – they didn’t harvest everything in one area. Maintaining the balance that guaranteed new food sources next year meant leaving some plants behind.

Our ancestor’s food was seasonal by absolute necessity. No lorries in December bringing strawberries from Spain, no New Zealand lamb. Knowing what was good and when it was at its most nutritious would have been common knowledge. Supermarkets providing seasonal food year round is just one of the factors that has contributed to a slow erosion of this knowledge.

Wild food is more potent than modern cultivated food and can have stronger tastes – less is more. And foraging in the woods and hedgerows is much more fun than scooting down the aisle with a shopping trolley! But where to go, and when?

A very general rule is leaves in Spring, berries in Summer, roots in Autumn. Of course, each plant must be researched individually to find the optimum harvesting time. A handy pocket version of a great book we recommend on our courses is Food For Free. A wider selection of our recommended books about wild food is here.

When foraging for wild food, think about where the plant is located:

Next to fields

Has the famer been spraying? Early on in the season crops are more likely to have been sprayed with harmful pesticides, closer to harvest, spraying is minimal.

Edges, base of plants

Is the area popular with dog walkers? One cocked leg is all it takes!

Next to roads

Carbon monoxide and other pollutants will have contaminated the plants and made them potentially harmful.

Next to water

How clean is the water? How do you know how clean it is?

There are also some interesting items to note about foraging and the law.

[Natural Pathways strongly suggest that any foraging be carried out under the supervision of trained practitioners and is the sole responsibility of the individual forager.]