I know that foraging isn’t at the forefront of people’s minds at this time of year, although there are still pickings to be had, but I think it’s a good time to talk about the idea of foraging in general and in preparation for next year’s bounty.
So what are you legally allowed to forage in this country? Basically all you need to remember is the Four Fs – flowers, foliage, fruit and fungi! However you do have to be careful that you’re not foraging on land that you do not have rights or permission to be on. There are sometimes local bye laws in place prohibiting foraging in certain areas, which can be passed by the council or the National Trust for example, if this is the case there will be notices on display.
Make sure you only take from where there is an abundance of what you’re harvesting, leave scarce and rare things well alone, and only take what you’re actually going to use. It’s easy to get carried away on forays and come home laden with armfuls of wonderful things that you’re not actually going to get round to using, with the result that it ends up on the compost heap.
Be very careful with identification too as mistakes can be serious, if in doubt leave it out! Also be aware that just because edible plants and fungi are natural this does not automatically make them safe and suitable for everyone. Some people are allergic to the Asteraceae family for instance, which may mean that even the humble dandelion can produce an unpleasant reaction. I would suggest that if you’ve not tried a plant or fungus before it is advisable to have just a little bit to start off with. Also, as I often mention in my posts, some plants should be used with caution in certain medical conditions, during pregnancy or if you are on particular medications from your doctor. If you’re not sure whether you should be ingesting a particular plant then don’t!
In terms of where you should forage there are a few guidelines which are really just common-sense. Avoid busy roadsides where pollution from passing traffic will undoubtedly contaminate the plant life and areas which are dogwalking favourites are definitely best avoided. Armed with all this knowledge you are now ready to go out and explore! I intend to do lots of foraging next year and I shall be running some courses on foraging for edible and medicinal plants If you’d like to join me. A number of folks have asked me to run bespoke courses for them and I’ll also be publishing a diary of walks, talks and hands-on workshops in the new year.