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best wild foods of summer - blog

A Foraging Ramble Through Summer’s Bounty

As summer arrives, the countryside becomes a treasure trove of seasonal wild foods waiting to be discovered. Imagine setting out on a warm, sunny day, the air filled with the sweet scent of blooming flowers and the hum of bees. With each step, the land around you reveals its hidden gems, inviting you to explore and taste the season’s best offerings.

Whether you’re a novice forager eager to dip your toes into this delightful pastime or a seasoned wild foodie looking to expand your pantry, summer is the perfect time to immerse yourself in nature’s bounty. Join us on a foraging ramble through the countryside as we highlight some of our favourite wild foods found from June to September, complete with tips for identification and delicious recipe ideas.

Safety is paramount when foraging, especially with wild food and medicine, as the old saying goes; “If in doubt, leave it out.” We always recommend bringing at least two guidebooks on your foraging adventures: one with photographs and one with diagrams, to give you a more rounded picture and accurate identification.  The following selections are drawn from Your Wild Food Year, our popular online foraging course, where we explore monthly foraging opportunities, share recipes, and feature guest speakers. If you’re keen to develop your foraging skills, check out the FREE course content here.

Now, let’s delve into six of our favourite wild foods of summer. We hope you’ll enjoy discovering and savouring them as much as we do.

 

ELDERFLOWER

Picture strolling along a sun-dappled hedgerow, the air fragrant with the sweet scent of elderflowers. Elderflower, with its clusters of tiny, creamy-white flowers, is one of the most accessible wild foods to forage. You’ll often find it in along sunny hedgerows, open scrub and woodland edges. The flowers bloom from late May through early July, creating a striking contrast against the green foliage.

wild food foraging - elderflower

Left: Elderflowers in full bloom. Centre: leaves typically have 5 leaflets. Right: A small tree in the hedgerow

To identify elderflower, look for its distinctive clusters (umbels) of small, star-shaped flowers that point upwards, accompanied by leaf made up of (typically) 5 smaller leaflets, each with a serrated edge. Harvest the entire flower head on a dry, sunny day for the best flavour.

Elderflower is incredibly versatile. Use it to make a refreshing tea or cordial, or try your hand at brewing elderflower champagne or cider. For a sweet treat, transform the flowers into sorbet or batter and fry them. Remember to leave some flowers on the tree to enjoy the rich, dark berries in autumn, perfect for syrups and natural remedies.

wild food foraging - elderflower

Left: Elderflower cordial, a classic recipe, Centre: Elderflower cheesecake with wild rose syrup, Right: Elderflower sorbet with wild strawberries

WINBERRIES

Winberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) are what we call them here in Wales. You might know them as bilberries. They are a delightful find, often hidden in the heathland’s low-growing foliage. These small, dark berries are packed with flavour, surpassing their larger, commercially grown relative, the blueberry. They thrive in acidic soil, often sharing space with heather, sitting under birch or oak in upland areas.

wild food foraging - winberry

Left: Tiny berries bursting with flavour. Centre: the leaf of winberry. Right: Berries on the low-lying bush

The leaves of the winberry plant are small, oval, and bright green with a finely serrated edge. The berries appear from July through September, so they have a long season for gathering. Foraging for winberries can be a bit of a treasure hunt, as they tend to hide beneath the foliage, but the reward is well worth the effort.

Our top tip is to invest in a berry picker (see the picture), which speeds up your harvesting no end.

These berries make an excellent trail snack, or you can gather enough to use in summer puddings, pancakes, or boil them down into a coulis or syrup for cheesecake.

wild food foraging - winberry

Left: A mixed berry salad in syrup. Centre: Summer pudding, a highlight of the year. Right: Winberry syrup

 

FAT HEN

Fat hen (Chenopodium album) is a real opportunist, sprouting up in bare soil. So, look for it as you wander through disturbed ground such as compost heaps, neglected garden borders, allotments, farmyards, and ploughed field edges. It’s a plant often dismissed as a weed by gardeners and allotment owners. Yet, it offers a delicious, spinach-like taste that’s less bitter and more versatile in the kitchen.

wild food foraging - fat hen

Left: Leaf shape is changeable, sometimes spade-like as seen. Centre: Growing in disturbed ground. Right: Always go for the most tender leaves and stems when picking.

Fat hen leaves can be variable in shape, but they are typically roughly diamond-shaped and with a large serrated edge. A coating of dusty white meal on the top leaves makes them easy to identify. This “frost” distinguishes it from other plants with similar leaves. Although there aren’t many poisonous lookalikes it is worth mentioning that there are some members of the potato family that have similar leaves, most dangerous being Black Nightshade, so be sure to get to know this plant too before setting out with your basket.

Use fat hen as you would spinach—add it to curries, steam it, or toss it into pasta or stir-fries. It doesn’t take a lot of cooking so throw it in the pan at the end. Be cautious of potential lookalikes like black nightshade, and stick to the frosted leaves for safety.

wild food foraging - fat hen

Left: Look for the white “frosting” on the top leaves. Centre: Fat hen & orache tart. Left: Steamed as a side vegetable – delicious.

 

WILD CHERRY

Wild cherries (Prunus avium) are a true summer delight. The trick is in getting to them before the birds do. The sweet fruits can seem to be here one day and stripped to almost nothing the next. So, pick out your tree earlier in the season and visit it regularly as the ripening time approaches.

wild food foraging - wild cherry

Left: Ripe cherries on the branch in late June. Centre: The distinctive bark of Wild Cherry. Right: Glossy leaves with a finely serrated edge and also unripe cherries.

We’ve had some great cherry harvests from urban trees, but trees planted as ornamentals are often cultivars favoured for their blossom rather than fruit. So as well as seeking them in town parks and village greens look for them standing above hedgerows also. The bark of the wild cherry tree is unmistakable, with shiny horizontal stripes called lenticels. The oval, serrated leaves are accompanied by clusters of cherries that transition from green to yellow and red as they ripen.

Harvest wild cherries in mid-late June and early July, but taste a few before collecting a large batch to ensure they’re not bitter. These cherries are perfect for summer puddings, dessert sauces, or sprinkled on breakfast dishes. If picked slightly underripe, cooking can soften them up nicely.

wild food foraging - wild cherry

Left: Cherries can be eaten right off the tree. Centre: Halved, stoned & ready to be used for cooking. Right: Cherry pie, always a favourite.

PARASOL MUSHROOMS

Imagine walking through a meadow and spotting the large, umbrella-shaped parasol mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera). These distinctive mushrooms are easy to identify by their snakeskin-patterned stem and raised brown scales on the cap. As they mature, the cap unfurls, leaving a white collar around the stem. This white collar can be gently detached to then run up and down the stem, a handy identifying feature.

When young they can resemble an old-fashioned microphone, but as the cap opens they take on the form which gives them their name and recognisable profile. They can get large too, up to the size of a dinner plate.

wild food foraging - parasol mushrooms

Left: A young mushroom, before the cap has opened. Centre: Under the gap are creamy white gills. Right: The shape that gives this mushroom its common name, like an umbrella.

The place it’s most common to see these mushrooms is in undisturbed meadows and grassland but you do occasionally see them in open broadleaf woodland as well. The main lookalike to this distinguished mushroom is the Shaggy Parasol (Macrolepiota rhacodes) which is edible but has been known to give some people a mild upset stomach. So, get to know this species too. Our advice to beginners would be to try a little bit of your parasol and see if it leads to any upset. If nothing happens by the following day then you’ve got yourself a very good wild food, one of the best.

Parasol mushrooms are delicious and versatile, suitable for pies, stir-fries, or pasta sauces. They also dry very well for long-term storage, retaining their fragrance and flavour.

wild food foraging - parasol mushrooms

Left: Parasol and partridge stir fry. Centre: A bumper harvest of parasols. Right: This fungi dries and stores well.

NETTLE SEEDS

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) has a bad reputation, it’s probably not your favourite plant. But we’d like to try and change your mind. Nettles are possibly one of the most nutritious plants you can find, and they grow absolutely everywhere.

The most known foraging season is spring when the leaves are at their best – we love them. But nettle is a hidden gem for the summer forager also.  The seeds the nettle produces in July to August, are flavourless but are particularly jam packed with nutrients well worth getting into your diet.

nettle seeds - wild food & foraging

Left: The mature seeds on the female plant. Centre: The dense clusters of seeds are attached to a pendulous stalk. Right: The flowers found on a male plant, not for harvesting.

Nettle seeds are a hidden gem of the foraging world. Female nettles (there are separate male and female plants) produce large, drooping clusters of tiny seeds. Harvest these seeds by cutting the clusters off with scissors and pushing them through a sieve with a spoon to separate the unwanted stalks. This process also removes any remains of those troublesome stings.

Use nettle seeds as a nutrient-rich addition to salads, pasta dishes, yogurt, or breakfast cereals. They are virtually flavourless, making them a versatile superfood that can be sprinkled on almost anything. One of our favourite recipes is Lea’s raw chocolate energy balls which are packed with the seeds to give you a much needed boost to your day.

nettle seeds - wild food & foraging

Left: Seeds ready to be processed. Centre: Italian pasta with ash key capers and nettle seed sprinkles. Right: Chocolate energy balls, packed with nettle seeds.

DISCOVER MORE WILD FOOD

If the idea of foraging for wild food excites you, consider enrolling in our online course, “Your Wild Food Year.” This course offers a wealth of resources to help you become a confident forager, with monthly guides, recipes, videos, and expert advice. You can find out more right here.

“The course is so engaging and fun, I’ve learnt so much. Really awesome and would certainly recommend.” – Claire Roumph

Discover the joy of finding, harvesting and cooking with wild food with the very best each month has to offer. You will learn what to look for, where to look, and what to do with it in the kitchen. You will have videos, photo galleries, recipes and more at your fingertips, all taught by experienced foragers.

There’s also a FREE introductory version of the course to get you started. Begin your journey to discovering, harvesting, and cooking with wild food today. Register for the free wild food course here.

Check out our short video to learn all about our online foraging course Your Wild Food Year.

Happy foraging folks.

Lea & James

foraging & wild food walk in wales

Spring Foraging Walk

Walk the wild food trail & discover foraging

Explore wild plants that you can eat in your local patch. Join us for a guided walk through a range of landscapes on the hunt for the best wild foods that spring has to offer. Gain confidence in foraging and learn how to use these wild plants in your own cooking.

Edible wild plants are often viewed with suspicion and thought to be bitter or tasteless, only to be eaten as a last resort. But to the forager, our woodlands and hedgerows are full of tasty and filling wild food opportunities.

You’ll be taking a half day ramble along the hedgerows and forest on the hunt for “food for free” all set against the backdrop of mixed woodlands and open uplands of Longwood Community Woodland, with 325 acres of wild space to explore. Don’t forget to bring your own basket or bag to grab some wild edibles to take home.

  • Take a guided foraging walk through the woods, meadows & hedgerows
  • Gain confidence in identifying a variety of edible plants
  • Discover medicinal uses for seasonal wild plants
  • Get a copy of our Spring Foragers Guide
  • Learn how to forage with a sustainable approach to the habitat
  • Understand the law and your rights when foraging
  • Discover which wild edibles have poisonous lookalikes

Event details

Date: Sat 4 May  2024

Time: 10am – 1pm

Venue: Long Wood Community Woodland

Cost: £25

spring foraging and wild food walk

Your Tutors: Lea & James Kendall

James is the Head Bushcraft Instructor at Woodland Classroom, having worked in environmental education & conservation for over 10 years. James’ approach to teaching  steers his students toward fostering a deeper connection with nature through understanding the landscape around us; “Bushcraft skills are an effective way to do this as we learn how to make use of natural materials and live lightly with the land, whilst also connecting with our own ancient past by seeing the land through the eyes of our ancestors.”

Lea is a qualified Counsellor and Mindfulness in a Woodland Setting practitioner. She is a firm believer in the power of nature to be therapeutic for everyone. Lea is an active forager, passionate about how we can use common plants for both food and medicine. She enjoys making her own tinctures and medicinal remedies for treating common ailments.

james and lea kendall - outdoor education tutors

Skills you will learn

Over the course of the programme you will learn a range of skills, including…

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Reading the Landscape

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Hedgerow Medicine

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Tree & Plant identification

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Hedgerow Foraging

Book now

This walk costs £25 per person and is open to adult learners aged 16 years and over. You can read our Event Terms & Conditions here.

Spring Foraging Walk

Walk the wild food trail & discover foraging

Explore wild plants that you can eat in your local patch. Join us for a guided walk through a range of landscapes on the hunt for the best wild foods that spring has to offer. Gain confidence in foraging and learn how to use these wild plants in your own cooking.

Edible wild plants are often viewed with suspicion and thought to be bitter or tasteless, only to be eaten as a last resort. But to the forager, our woodlands and hedgerows are full of tasty and filling wild food opportunities.

You’ll be taking a half day ramble along the hedgerows on the hunt for “food for free” all set against the backdrop of mixed woodlands, wetlands and open meadows of Park In The Past, with 120 acres of wild space to explore. Don’t forget to bring your own basket or bag to grab some wild edibles to take home.

  • Take a guided foraging walk through the woods, meadows & hedgerows
  • Gain confidence in identifying a variety of edible plants
  • Discover medicinal uses for seasonal wild plants
  • Enjoy a wild tea taster
  • Learn how to forage with a sustainable approach to the habitat
  • Understand the law and your rights when foraging

Event details

Date: Sun 28 April, 2024

Time: 10am – 1pm

Venue: Park in the Past

Cost: £30

spring foraging and wild food walk

Your Tutor: James Kendall

James is the Head Bushcraft Instructor at Woodland Classroom, having worked in outdoor education & conservation for over 10 years. James’ approach to teaching steers students toward fostering a deeper connection with nature through understanding the landscape around us; “Bushcraft skills are an effective way to do this as we learn how to make use of natural materials and live lightly with the land, whilst also connecting with our own ancient past by seeing the land through the eyes of our ancestors.”

In 2017 James received the Bushcraft Competency Certificate awarded through the Institute for Outdoor Learning after 2 years of teaching experience and practical study. He is also a member of the IOL Bushcraft Professional Practise Group. The group aims to promote best practice in the growing industry of bushcraft activity providers.

james kendall - bushcraft & foraging tutor

Skills you will learn

Over the course of the programme you will learn a range of skills, including…

null

Reading the Landscape

null

Hedgerow Medicine

null

Tree & Plant identification

null

Hedgerow Foraging

Book now

This walk costs £30 per person and is open to adult learners aged 16 years and over. You can read our Event Terms & Conditions here.

medicinal mushrooms workshop

The Transformative Power Of Medicinal Mushrooms (Online Workshop)

Uncover the Amazing World of Medicinal Mushrooms & Their Power To Heal

Join one of the world-leading authorities on this fascinating subject as we rediscover ancient knowledge about how medicinal mushrooms can be used to improve our health, boost our immune system and feed our bodies microflora.

This is a subject that is fast growing and our guest tutor Christopher Hobbs is at the forefront of this movement. He is the author of Medicinal Mushrooms: The Essential Guide which has been described as; “Nothing less than a masterpiece. The authoritative resource on medicinal mushrooms for anyone seeking to enhance physical and mental health.”

Medicinal mushrooms can boost immunity, fight cancer, improve memory, stop infection and expand your consciousness. Anyone can learn to forage them and use them at home for a host of health benefits. The good news, they are growing in the woods all around us.

You will learn how to identify medicinal mushrooms growing wild, how to harvest them and how you can use them at home.

The workshop is aimed at anyone who wants to find natural solutions to improving their own health and wellbeing as well as those already interested in wild food foraging.

A ticket costs just £11 per household. These events are selling out quickly, so grab your place whilst you can 🙂 Everyone has loved these workshops so far and they’ve been really popular.

YOUR WORKSHOP INCLUDES:

* How Mushrooms Can Boost Your Health

* Identifying Medicinal Mushrooms in the Wild

* Top Mushrooms in Depth

* Cooking with Medicinal Mushrooms

* Special Guest Tutor: Christopher Hobbs, author of Medicinal Mushrooms: The Essential Guide

* Q&A Session: put your questions to Dr. Hobbs

The workshop will last 1hr 30 mins and will be hosted via Zoom.

If you cannot make the workshop on the night, we can send you a recording of it afterwards.

Our online foraging workshops started in the first lockdown and have continued to be a hit ever since, as people want to learn how to make tasty meals from the wild plants around them. Each month we host online workshops with a whole host of nature-based subjects including foraging, tree lore, woodcraft skills and wild medicine.

HOW TO BOOK – VERY IMPORTANT!

The cost is £11 per household. So, feel free to cram as many family members around the screen as you can 🙂

Once you have your ticket, we will follow up with an email on the day of for you to register for the Zoom meeting, following which you will receive the Zoom meeting link and entry password. So, look out for that.

Please note, tickets are non-refundable.

Event details

Date: Nov 22, 2022

Time: 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Venue: Zoom Meeting

Cost: £11

christopher hobbs guest tutor

Your Tutor: Dr. Christopher Hobbs

We are excited to be welcoming a leading authority on this fascinating subject to lead this special workshop for you. Dr. Christopher Hobbs is a fourth-generation, internationally renowned herbalist, licensed acupuncturist, author, clinician, botanist, mycologist, and research scientist with over 35 years of experience with herbal medicine.

He is the author of Medicinal Mushrooms: The Essential Guide, and has written over 20 books on herbal medicine.

Christopher has a doctorate from UC Berkeley in phylogenetics, evolutionary biology and phytochemistry. He is also a founding member of the American Herbalists Guild.

You can find out more about Dr. Hobbs great work right here: https://www.christopherhobbs.com/

James and Lea from Woodland Classroom will also be on hand to host proceedings and field your questions throughout the workshop.

Dr. Christopher Hobbs
the transformative power of medicinal mushrooms

Skills you will learn

During this workshop you will learn a range of skills, including…

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Nature Connection

null

Hedgerow Medicine

null

Ancestral Skills

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Hedgerow Foraging

Book now

This workshop costs just £11 per household and is open to anyone. Children are welcome to attend with their families, though please note the content will be taught at an adult level. You can read our Event Terms & Conditions here.

The Perfect Wild Mushroom For Beginner Foragers: Parasols

There is something magical about the idea of going out to the countryside and finding wild mushrooms to cook with. It scratches an ancient itch in our hunter-gather brains. If you’re looking to get into this addictive hobby then the Parasol Mushroom (Macrolepiota procera) is a great beginners fungi for anyone wanting to start wild mushroom foraging.

My name is James, I teach Bushcraft and Foraging in North Wales. I am the co-creator of Your Wild Food Year, an online course for anyone wanting to gain confidence in identifying, harvesting and cooking with wild foods. In this article I will introduce you to this commonly found edible fungi. You will learn how to identify it, where and when to find it, how to cook with it and what poisonous lookalikes you will need to avoid. Let’s dive in.

how to identify parasol mushrooms - wild food & foraging

Where & When Can you Find Them

We have found good specimens as early as late July but it’s most often seen from late August and through September.

You’re most likely to find it in meadows and unimproved grassland. I’ve also found it at the edges of ancient woodland. The three locations I see it often are all National Trust estates, so that points to land that has been consistently managed over a long period.

At what growth stage should you harvest them? Well you can pick them when they’re not yet fully opened. But if doing this be sure you’re not confusing them for the Shaggy Parasol (more on that below). Basically if the specimen looks like it’s in good condition you’re good to go. Ensure you fungi is free of mold, sliminess on the gills and the cap is not starting to wilt. One word of caution, you do often get the odd maggot or two inside the cap, which you only find when you’ve taken them home and started to chop them up. These are more typically found in older specimens. If there’s just one or two, I pick them out and use the mushroom anyway. What you do is down to personal preference.

how to identify parasol mushrooms - wild food & foraging

how to identify parasol mushrooms - wild food & foraging

How To Identify Parasol Mushrooms

Well, true to its name it resembles a parasol umbrella. You’ll find a distinctive brown ‘nipple’ raised in the centre of the cap. The cream-white cap meanwhile is also patterned with light brown scales. Something that is important (you’ll see why later) is the typical size of the cap. When fully open they can grow to 15-35cm across diameter, so they get seriously big! You’re getting a lot of food from your forage here.

Looking underneath the cap you will find gills rather than pores. These are cream-white in colour. The flesh of the mushroom doesn’t discolour when bruised, it stays cream-white.

The stem (otherwise known as a stipe) is again cream-white in colour and looks like it’s covered in a snakeskin pattern. It can grow quite tall, reaching up to 25cm in height. You will also typically find a ring surrounding the stem. If handled carefully this can be separated from the stem and then it runs up and down freely. Another good way to identify this fungi.

You shouldn’t forget to use your nose when learning to identify wild mushrooms. Some fungi have really distinctive aromas, like Dryad’s Saddle which smells surprisingly like melon. Parasols have a pleasant mushroom-like smell which some say reminds them of warm milk.

how to identify parasol mushrooms - wild food & foraging

how to identify parasol mushrooms - wild food & foraging

How To Use Parasol Mushrooms In Cooking

Parasols have a nice, firm texture and a pleasant mushroom flavour. They do dry well, retaining their smell and flavour. So, we often slice up any excess mushrooms and pop them in our dehydrator. This means you can enjoy them right through the winter in your cooking.

Some people prefer just eating the caps but you can eat the stem, in fact some experts say there’s more goodness to be found in the stem of fungi than the cap. The flesh is not as soft as the cap though, so some folks use these for making a mushroom stock.

Like most mushrooms they go great in an omelette, in a quiche, stir fry or added to a stew. Try deep-frying them in breadcrumbs and serving with lemon and garlic mayo. The sheer size of the cap makes them an excellent replacement for the a large field mushroom in your cooked breakfast. Lovely stuff all round!

wild mushroom and nettle tart

We made this tasty wild mushroom and nettle tart, cooked in our dutch oven over the campfire.

 

Caution: Beware The Shaggy Parasol

As with any foraging of wild mushrooms, you need to widen your knowledge beyond just the species you’re looking for, or think you’re looking at. As the old saying goes; “There are old foragers and bold foragers, but there are no old, bold foragers.” Heed these wise words folks.

If you’re going out looking for Parasols then you need to be aware of the closely related and similar looking Shaggy Parasol (Macrolepiota rhacodes). This is not a poisonous species, however with around 20% of people it’s been known to give them a bit of an upset stomach.  It’s found in similar habitats and at the same time of year. Let’s learn more about the differences between the two fungi.

As the name suggests it is shaggier in appearance. Also the base of the stem is typically more bulbous than with the Parasol. It also doesn’t grow as large as the Parasol, the cap only getting to around 8-15cm in diameter and the stem reaching 12-18cm height. So a good way to avoid Shaggy Parasols would be to only pick fungi that are larger than this.

Remember that the flesh of the Parasol doesn’t bruise when handled? With the Shaggy Parasol this isn’t the case. The gills will bruise red and the flesh will turn an orange/red when you cut it.

This fungi also has a ring around the stem, but unlike the Parasol, this ring will not separate from the stem. So there’s another method of differentiating between the two.

shaggy parasol - wild mushroom foraging

Shaggy Parasol (Macrolepiota rhacodes). It can give some people an upset stomach. Image by Canva.

So, can you eat this mushroom? Well yes, but as I’ve said it can disagree with some people. So good practise is to try just a little bit and leave it 48 hrs to see if your stomach is happy. If so, tuck in. Be aware though if you are going to eat the Shaggy Parasol, it must be cooked first.

One last fungi to mention here are the Dapperlings (Lepiota spp.) They are poisonous so need to be avoided. How could they be confused with Parasols though? Well they have a distinctive brown spot in the centre of the cap too. However, the saving grace is that they do grow much smaller than the Parasols. As a general rule, avoid picking any Parasols whose cap is less than 12cm in diameter.

Hopefully this has not put you off heading out the door for your first Parasol mushroom. If anything I hope it will make the thrill of the hunt even more enjoyable and the reward of positively identifying your Parasol all the more satisfying.

dapperling - a poisonous wild mushroom

Stinking Dapperling (Lepiota cristata). A common member of this poisonous group. Note how much smaller it is than the Parasols when fully opened out. Get to know them. Image by Canva.

 

Discover More Wild Food

If all this talk of wild food and foraging has whetted your appetite then you can take your learning further with us either outdoors or online.

You can immerse yourself in the world of foraging through our outdoor courses hosted in beautiful National Trust estate woodlands in North-East Wales. Or if that’s too far afield for you we also host regular online workshops, live through Zoom where we focus on wild foods of the season and give you delicious recipe ideas, foraging tips and expertise from special guest speakers. If this all sounds interesting, check out what’s coming up on our Events page right here.

I think you’ll also be interested in our flagship online foraging course called Your Wild Food Year. When you enrol on this course you will go from clueless to confident on your journey to enjoying foraged plants, fungi, fruits and more with this detailed guide to identifying and cooking with the best wild edibles of Great Britain & Ireland.

Discover the joy of finding, harvesting and cooking with wild food with the very best each month has to offer. You will learn what to look for, where to look, and what to do with it in the kitchen. You will have videos, photo galleries, recipes and more at your fingertips, all taught by experienced foragers. Discover over 70 wild foods!

Crucially, you’ll also learn when to look. As each month we bring you the edible fungi, flowers, fruits and foliage which are in season from January to December.

There is even a FREE TASTER version of the course so you can try before you buy and see if the larger course is something that’s a good fit for you. So, start your journey to becoming a confident wild food forager today. Find out more right here.

“I’d always loved the idea of foraging for wild mushrooms but was too scared to try it. This course has shown me which species I can pick with confidence. The wild fungi hot spots I’ve discovered in my local area are now my closely guarded secret 😉 Thanks Lea and James.” Matt Corcoran

Your Wild Food Year - online foraging course

Until next time, stay safe and remember to always be 100% sure you have correctly identified a wild edible before consuming it. Good luck with your own foraging journey.

James

11 easy wild garlic recipes - blog

11 Easy Wild Garlic Recipes

Spring has sprung and with it comes one of the edible plants for the forager, wild garlic (Allium ursinum). Most people who have dabbled in foraging will know wild garlic (or ramsons) as a great plant to start with as it’s simple to recognise and use in cooking. It’s one of our absolute favourite wild foods. Not only because it tastes great but because it’s so versatile. So, it’s a shame that the main recipe you see online again and again is wild garlic pesto. There’s so much more to it than that, as you’ll see. We’ve done the trial and error, so you don’t have to and in this blog we have made a list of our top 11 recipes for you to try at home. And yes, pesto is included below too.

If you prefer to watch rather than read, you should have a look at our video 11 Easy Wild Garlic Recipes here, where we go into even more detail on ingredients, quantities and methods. We also put together a spicy Indian banquet bursting with wild garlic flavour. Check it out!

Every part of this plant is edible; leaves, stem, flower and bulb. So with that in mind there’s a bunch of ways we can use the plant. As a general rule, if you’re cooking wild garlic you want to treat it like spinach, don’t over cook it but throw it into a dish near the end so it doesn’t wilt too much and lose it’s flavour and goodness. Now, on with the recipes…

 

Recipe 1: Sandwich, Toastie or Wrap

Let’s start with something simple, if you haven’t got the time to make a whole meal why not incorporate the goodness of wild garlic into something as easy as a cheese sandwich, toastie or wrap. This way you get all of the benefits without any of the faff. Why not use it as a replacement for lettuce or spinach for a fresh garlicky addition. Don’t use too much – it’s pokey stuff!

wild garlic recipe - toastie

Recipe 2: Wild Green Mayonnaise

This is a super easy way to incorporate all your essential greens into your diet by adding them to a spread. Mayonnaise is a favourite, and I can then add it to sandwiches or use it as a healthy dip. Just shred the wild garlic and stir it into your dip of choice. If you want to push the boat out why not add a few more wild greens; garlic mustard, hairy bittercress, chickweed, nettle (blanch the leaves first) and cleavers are all in season now and are just as good for you! 

 

Recipe 3: Wild Spring Salad

This is another easy recipe to incorporate wild garlic into. If you’re a fan of salads and making them interesting and delicious, why not add some shredded wild garlic? I’ve found that all parts of the plant can be used in the salad to add some interesting flavours and textures. The stems have a real crunch to them and make a substitute for beansprouts. You could substitute lettuce with wild garlic leaves, but you might find you want to bulk it out a little with some shop-bought leaves, or later in the season why not use the wild garlic seeds (lightly toasted) to add a sharp pep of garlic to your salads. 

This is another great recipe to experiment with your wild greens, why not add some cleavers, nettle, ground elder or ground ivy. You could also add some fresh edible wildflowers like primrose, gorse or dog violet to give your salad a pop of colour. 

wild garlic recipe - mayonnaise & salad

 

Recipe 4: Wild Garlic Bread

This is a great way to get some wild food into your kids. Most children love garlic bread and this is a classic recipe that is just so moreish it could quickly become your favourite wild garlic recipe. It’s also unbelievably easy; chop up the leaves fine and mix with butter. Next, simply cut some horizontal slices into a bake-at-home baguette and add a dollop of the garlic butter to each gap. Stick it in the oven as per the pack instructions and you’re done. This of course goes great with Italian food.

wild garlic recipe - garlic bread

Recipe 5: Wild Garlic Pesto

This recipe needs the least description or introduction as you’ll find recipes for this all over the web. It’s such a classic and one of the easiest recipe there is. In a nutshell you replace the basil in your standard pesto recipe with wild garlic to make a subtle garlicky pesto that can be used in a range of ways. Mixed into pasta is the most obvious use but you could spread a little onto a cheese toastie, mix it into a rice dish or as a filling in a pastry. We’ve made our own pestos that bit more wild by replacing the pine nuts for chopped hazelnuts.

wild garlic recipe - pesto

 

Recipe 6: Wild Garlic Kimchi

We think this beats pesto hands down any day. This recipe is one of our favourites of the year, so much so that we even have a whole separate video on how to make this. You can check out that video below and also learn about the fantastic health benefits of eating kimchi. Kimchi is a Korean side dish, traditionally of fermented vegetables with ginger and chilli and is incredibly good for gut health. We’ve substituted the radish and cabbage for wild garlic leaves. 

Fermenting is a fantastic way of preserving and extending the season for wild foods into the whole year. Not only this but the process of preserving our foods is something our ancestors would have practised regularly in order to have the food they would’ve needed to survive winter, it’s an essential skill and connects us with our predecessors and their way of life. It’s often the case that we can put little thought into what we eat, but fermenting foods helps us foster a deeper connection with the earth and importantly, our food. I would highly recommend trying this if you want to enjoy wild garlic beyond spring. A jar of this stuff doesn’t last long in our household.

The reason kimchi is so good for us is that it creates live, healthy bacteria which goes into our gut and aids in digestion, boosting the immune system and overall health of the body. The bacteria encourages everything to function as it should. In order to ensure there is no harmful bacteria fermenting in the kimchi it’s important to sterilise your equipment before you start, this can be done in a hot wash in the dishwasher, but you’ll need a more thorough sterilisation of the jar you’ll be fermenting in.

For this dish you will need a generous helping of wild garlic as it will reduce down quite a lot. If you want the full recipe and step-by-step instructions on how to make this fantastic dish check out our video tutorial here.

 

Recipe 7: Pasta Sauce

This is another really easy way to incorporate healthy greens into your diet with minimal prep time. We’ve made a tomato based sauce, but you can incorporate wild garlic into any pasta dish you want, and with any combination of vegetables, there’s a lot of creative freedom with this recipe. We’ve also chosen to make a batch of this sauce and jar it for later use, which means we pre-cooked the vegetables we added, but you can make enough just for one portion of pasta and simply add it all to a pan. Once left in the fridge this sauce should last for a week or so.

We added fried onions, chopped basil and sun dried tomatoes alongside the garlic to a base of chopped tomatoes, stirred all together and jarred. Alternatively, you could make a pea pesto and stir in your garlic leaves, broccoli, peas and fennel for a vibrant green sauce, or mushroom and garlic leaves with a splash of cream for a warming mushroom sauce. Bear in mind that any dairy products used will mean the sauce won’t keep as long. 

If you pre-make your sauce and add it to the pasta once it has cooked, stir it in for only a couple of minutes, if the wild garlic leaves are cooked for too long they will lose all their structure and goodness. Similarly, if you’re cooking a sauce from scratch, add the garlic leaves last thing so they’ve just wilted.

Recipe 8: Baked Hummus

Just like regular shop bought hummus, this dip goes really well on toast or with some vegetable sticks, but this recipe adds the beautiful taste of wild garlic too. We bake this hummus to soften the sharpness of the raw wild garlic but if you don’t mind strong garlic flavours with your hummus why not give it a go without cooking it. Again, this recipe is very simple, just add some shredded wild garlic leaves into your favourite hummus recipe and bake. 

Baking it also gives the top layer a really lovely crust that adds some lovely texture. As well as adding wild garlic we’ve made this really unique by drizzling a little oil and adding some hazelnuts before baking to really make a showstopper of a dip. If you’re extremely organised you might have foraged and stored your own hazelnuts last autumn but if not (which is most of us) the shop bought ones will do instead. 

 

Recipe 9: Wild Garlic & Elf Cup Stuffed Pepper

These stuffed peppers can be eaten as a side but really they take centre stage, they’re visually very vibrant and beautiful. We use couscous as the main filling and as well as wild garlic we take advantage of another seasonal delight; the scarlet elf cap mushroom (Sarcoscypha austriaca). 

We pre-cooked the couscous and made a batch of the filling so we can make as many stuffed peppers as we want. Just remember when you’re cutting your pepper you want to remove a circle around the stalk and scrape out the seeds without damaging the structure, then simply add your filling and roast in a pan. 

You can switch the filling up as well, why not use rice instead of couscous, or add a little wild garlic pesto and mozzarella for a lovely cheesy filling. 

wild garlic recipe - stuffed pepper & saag aloo

 

Recipe 10: Wild Saag Aloo

This is one of our favourite additions to the Indian feast we prepared, its delicious and the wild garlic really enhances the flavour of all the spices. We swap out the spinach you would typically put in this dish for the wild garlic, so you do need quite a lot as it will reduce as it cooks. Equally this would work very well using nettle instead of spinach. You can get the full recipe and method by watching the video.

As a side dish this goes really well with our other Indian themed recipes; the chicken tikka parcels, stuffed peppers and pakoras. If you want this as more of a main attraction why not have this on some naan bread with mango chutney. Let us know how you get on with this dish.

 

Recipe 11: Chicken Tikka Parcels

This one is a little different, using the wild garlic in a new way. This is a really interesting way to incorporate wild garlic into a meal; wrap garlic leaves around strips of chicken to make a parcel that can be fried in a pan, cooked on a bbq or roasted directly on hot coals over an open fire.

Marinade diced chicken in tikka paste with a little oil. Next pick the largest wild garlic leaves you can find wrap several layers around a few chunks of chicken. The wrapped leaves can be pinned into place with cocktail sticks but if you want to be authentically wild you can whittle a pointed end onto foraged sticks as a makeshift skewer. Once cooked, any burnt outer leaves can be peeled away, leaving a succulent garlicky parcel which surrounds the juicy chicken. If you prefer you can substitute chicken breasts for a vegetarian alternative. 

The fantastic thing about this dish is that you can use any combination of spices to make it fit with a range of cuisines, the tikka curry powder we use in this recipe makes it a perfect addition to a foraged Indian feast. You could also try making a herb mix of rosemary, oregano, thyme and basil to make a side for an Italian dish or turmeric, cumin and nutmeg as part of a mezze platter.

For anyone who loves simple, outdoor cooking, using the leaves in this way eliminates the need for a pan or grill. The leaves and skewers used are all biodegradable of course and any waste can go back to the woods. This recipe really feels like a connection to our ancestors and how they would’ve cooked, it’s simple and connects us to our roots, so give it a go.

 

Discover More Wild Food

If all this talk of foraging has your mouth watering then you can find more inspiration from us with more good wild food stuff including; blogs, videos, outdoor courses and online courses too. If you haven’t checked out our YouTube channel already, be sure to do that here.

You can immerse yourself in the world of foraging through our outdoor courses hosted in beautiful National Trust estate woodlands in North-East Wales. Or if that’s too far afield for you we also host regular online workshops, live through Zoom where we focus on wild foods of the season and give you delicious recipe ideas, foraging tips, and expertise from special guest speakers. If this all sounds interesting, check out what’s coming up on our Events page right here.

Another way to get instant access to a whole backlog of wild food & foraging videos, recipes and pre-recorded workshops is to join our Tribe over on Patreon. In return for supporting our mission, our patrons get access to loads of exclusive resources. You can join the Tribe from as little as the price of a cup of dandelion coffee, just £3.60 per month. Find out about all the benefits right here.

 

Until next time, good luck with your own foraging journey.

 

James & Lea 

make boozy berry chocolates for christmas

Wild Boozy Berry Chocolates

So, you’ve made your sloe gin and your blackberry brandy back in the autumn and you’re now ready to bottle up the drinks to give as gifts for Christmas. But wait! Don’t throw away those berries. You could make divine festive chocolates that will leave you wanting more.

In this article we will show you two easy-to-make and indulgent recipes for our Wild Boozy Berry Chocolates which make great use of your spirit-soaked hedgerow fruits. This is one of our favourite recipes of the whole year.

These chocolates will be the talk of any Christmas gathering with friends or will make a perfect surprise flourish to round off Christmas dinner. You could even wash them down with a tot of blackberry brandy or elderberry vodka. Just remember, they’re not for kids 😉

make your own christmas chocolates wild food & foraging

Above: The brandy-soaked berries in these chocolates are complimented by the orange zest and cinnamon. We added some edible gold spray for a final flourish.

Making Hedgerow Spirits

As outdoor educators, 2020 saw us locked down, unable to run many of our woodland courses and forced to stay close to home for the majority of the year, consequently we have been exploring our local green spaces and (like so many people) really getting further into the fascinating world of wild food and foraging. We have been preserving wild greens, cooking up foraged meals and discovering so many edible plants all around us like never before.

In the spring we were enjoying wild garlic pesto and nettle soup, in the summer it was dandelion honey and elderflower cordial. Autumn has bought us an abundance of berries and one wild food recipe that most people have heard of is sloe gin. It’s a foragers classic and if you’ve never made it for yourself, do give it a go. It’s so simple. If you want a recommend method for making this yourself, head over to the River Cottage website for a simple how-to.

The possibilities of hedgerow spirits go way beyond simply sloe gin though. We have made all sorts of recipes, using vodka, brandy, gin and whiskey. Any of the autumn berries can be used, and any mix, depending on what you have available or an experiment of different flavours together. All of these autumn foraged fruits work well; sloe, bullace, damson, haws, blackberries, rosehips and elderberries. 

making hedgerow spirits - wild food & foraging

Above: The sloe gin and blackberry brandy is all bottled up, but we have some boozy berries left over. Don’t get rid of them just yet.

Waste Not, Want Not

Many people would chuck the alcohol-soaked fruits away once it’s time to strain out their hedgerow spirits, but this would be a BIG mistake. We used a whole host of hedgerow berries in our chocolates which has been gathered since summer; wild cherries, blackberries, wild raspberries, wild strawberry, sloe, bilberries, redcurrant and bullace. But you can use whatever fruits you have soaked in alcohol already.

Don’t use elderberries in your chocolates as the seeds can give you an upset stomach if eaten without cooking first. Be sure also to remove any large stones from fruits such as sloe, bullace and cherry too.

Any of the spirits will work for this recipe, but we love brandy-soaked fruit the best with chocolate. Rum would also be a good option.

wild food & foraging: autumn fruits

Above: Use any of these autumn fruits in your hedgerow spirits and chocolates. Sloe, elderberry, rosehip, blackberry, hawthorn and bilberry.

Recipe 1: Boozy Berry, Fruit & Nut Chocolates

Boozy fruit – stones removed from the flesh, as needed

Hazelnuts – Roughly chopped

70% Dark Chocolate – use good quality chocolate, you won’t regret it

Icing sugar – for decoration

 

Recipe 2: Boozy Berry, Orange & Cinnamon Chocolates

Boozy fruit – again, remove the stones where you need to

Grated orange zest

Cinnamon powder (to taste)

70% Dark Chocolate – use the good stuff

Edible Gold Glitter Spray – for decoration

 

Method

  1. Cut the flesh from your boozy fruit and discard any stones or inedible pips. Set the fruit aside in a bowl for now.
  2. Bring a small pan of water to the boil and rest another bowl over the pan to create a double-boiler. Break up the chocolate and slowly melt it in the dry pan.
  3. Take a clean ice-cube tray and fill each section halfway with the other ingredients; either fruit, orange zest and cinnamon or fruit and hazelnuts.
  4. Next, gently pour the melted chocolate into each section of the ice tray until the ingredients are well covered.
  5. Place the tray in the fridge for 1-2 hours to allow them to set.
  6. Push chocolates out of the tray and for a little sparkle you can either dust some icing sugar over them or give them a splash of edible gold spray.
  7. Lastly, eat them and be merry!
boozy berry chocolates

Above: These boozy chocolates contain not only brandy-soaked hedgerow berries but also hazelnuts, for an indulgent Christmas treat.

Discover More Wild Food

If all this talk of wild food and foraging has whetted your appetite then you can take your learning further with us through the range of courses we offer.

You can immerse yourself in the world of foraging through our outdoor courses hosted in beautiful National Trust estate woodlands in North-East Wales. Or if that’s too far afield for you we also host regular online workshops, live through Zoom where we focus on wild foods of the season and give you delicious recipe ideas, foraging tips and expertise from special guest speakers. If this all sounds interesting, check out what’s coming up on our Events page right here.

Another way to get instant access to a whole backlog of wild food & foraging videos, recipes and recorded workshops is to join our Tribe over on Patreon. In return for supporting our mission, our patrons get access loads of exclusive resources. You can join the Tribe from as little as £3.60 per month. Find out about all the benefits right here.

Until next time, good luck with your own foraging journey.

Lea

how to forage sea buckthorn - wild food

How To Forage Sea Buckthorn – Nature’s Superfood

Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is one of our littlest known but most beautiful trees. Not only do they give a stunning display of colour, the berries sure do pack a tropical punch. The juice has to be one of the most memorable and refreshing flavours in the wold of UK wild food. When they fruit, the combination of the bright orange berries against the silvery green leaves make them look almost Mediterranean. So, if you want to feel like you’re kicking back on a sunny beach with a tropical drink in the depths of winter, we’ll give you the closest thing with some delicious sea buckthorn recipes. It’s a a wild food that’s well worth getting to know.

Getting these berries off the tree can be a little troublesome. You might have guessed from the name of this tree that there’s thorns to deal with. I’m here to help though and I’ve included a video which shows the easiest ways I’ve found to harvest the berries. You’ll get tips and tricks to filtering out leaf debris, so give it a watch. These are tried and tested methods so you can see how well each works for yourself.

If you’ve watched the video you might be thinking; “that seems like a lot of work for some fruit juice.” But the nutritional benefit of these little gems is unbelievable! They truly are a superfood. They contain high levels of vitamin C, around 5 times more than oranges, high levels of antioxidants as well as omega 3 and 6. Importantly they contain A, B, C and E vitamins including B12. Scientific trials have found that sea buckthorn is effective in treating tumours, lung diseases and gastric distress. They also help reduce inflammation and can treat heart diseases and improve blood vessel function, so get drinking it!

how to identify sea buckthorn

Above: This female sea buckthorn was found in an old sand & gravel quarry, far from the coast.

Where & When Can I Find Sea Buckthorn

Finding one of these amazing trees is not always the easiest thing. They are not nationally common, but could be locally common in your area. Generally, sea buckthorn is restricted to coastal areas or particularly gravelly soil so if you’re near a beach make sure to have a scout around as they have been purposely planted in many areas to help stabilise sand dunes. With that in mind they can also sometimes be found planted up in retail parks and roadside verges where they provide that stabilisation for the ground but also quick ground cover. Keep your eyes peeled.

Sea buckthorn is a deciduous shrub that has silvery-green leaves similar in appearance to rosemary. The leaves also remind us of a smaller version of willow leaves. The shrub also grows thick spines along the branches which is a good indicator of the species into the winter when the leaves fall. 

The dense clusters of bright orange berries are a dead giveaway to positive identification. Look for a silvery sheen close up on the berry skins too. The berries begin to fruit around August and September but it’s best to leave them till they’ve all turned from green to orange. As you’ll see from my video, early to mid autumn is the best time of year to harvest the berries as they are more firm and will get damaged less when picking. The later in the season you go, the more delicate the berries become. You can still harvest them into late autumn/early winter but it will be a messier job as the juice gets everywhere.

This tree is dioecious, which means it has separate male and female trees. Only the females produce the berries. So, don’t be surprised if you come across a specimen in the right season but with no berries. Look around the surrounding area for a female in fruit.

sea buckthorn wild food & foraging recipes

Above: Notice the leaves grow in a whorl around the whole twig. They have a silvery sheen to them.

How do I Process Sea Buckthorn

As the name suggests the sea buckthorn is a spiny shrub so a thick pair of gloves is helpful for one of the methods of collecting the berries. When the berries are ripe they tend to burst very easily, which does make collecting them a little tricky, but we’ve got some proven methods to remove the berries that we’ve tried so you don’t have to.

The first method, which I prefer, involves cutting off the tips of branches which are heavy with berries. Although this can seem quite destructive, this is a tree which grows back fast, so you can cut with confidence. It’s good practise to always take only what you need and leave what you can for wildlife.

  • Pop the cut branches in a bag.
  • When you’re home, put the branches on a tea towel outdoors, in a place where creepy crawlies can escape.
  • Later, place the berry-heavy bunches in a double layered bin bag and leaving in the freezer for a couple of days.
  • Once the berries have fully frozen remove the bin bag and beat it with a stick, this will separate them from the branch without bursting them.
  • Lastly you’ll need to separate the whole berries from any other debris that has been loosened in the bag. Watch the video for tips on how to do this effectively.

The second method is a little messier but is a quick way of collecting the juice of the berries. This method is best done later in the season when the berries are at their ripest. 

  • Put a clean food bucket under the branch you want to collect the juice from.
  • Wearing a thick pair of rubber gloves, squeeze along the branch in a downward motion, toward the tip. This squishes the berries as you go and avoids you getting spiked. The juice runs into the bucket below.
  • When you get home, the juice will need straining as lots of leaf and branch debris will probably fall into the bucket during the collection process. 

With either of these methods, make sure you’re not wearing anything you would mind getting berry juice on or even wear an apron.

foraging for sea buckthorn

Above: Using the “bag & freezer” method to separate the berries.

how to process sea buckthorn berries

Above: Processing the juice from the berries. I used a potato ricer.

What Can I Make with Sea Buckthorn

Sea buckthorn has a notoriously tart taste so I would recommend sweetening it before eating, unless you like an intense sharp and sour hit – I dare you to give it a try raw. If you want to get an idea of the kind of sharp citrusy flavour the processed juice of the berry gives then pick one straight from the tree, it’s very refreshing… if a little tart. The recipe I made was a sweet sea buckthorn juice and it was a very refreshing and very healthy addition to my breakfast. 

For this recipe you can get away with using the squeeze method as mentioned above, as all you really need is the juice. Make sure you strain the juice through a sieve or muslin cloth if you want to be super thorough. You will need:

  • Sea buckthorn juice
  • Runny honey to taste
  • A sterilised container with a lid for storage

In a saucepan, heat the juice and honey together on a low heat. Stir well to make sure the honey melts into the juice. When the juice is as sweet as you want, take the pan off the heat and leave to cool before bottling in a sterilised jar. 

As well as complimenting your morning eggs you could try adding the juice to some sparkling white wine to make sea bucks fizz, or with lemonade to make a refreshing cordial. You could also consider using sea buckthorn for jam, or you could reduce the juice by cooking it for longer and adding sugar to make a sea buckthorn syrup. In Northern Europe, it’s popular as an accompaniment to fish as it is similar in sharpness to lemon.

Making a fruit leather would be a good way of preserving the goodness of the berries right through the year. To do this; gently simmer the juice down to a thick syrup, combine it with hawthorn berry pulp which has been similarly boiled down, spread the mixture thinly onto greaseproof paper and then dry it over several hours gently in a dehydrator, on an oven on a low heat with the door slightly ajar to allow airflow. The purpose of the hawthorn berries (called haws) is to provide a binding quality to the leather, as on its own the buckthorn juice may struggle to hold together. The haws also have their own major health benefits. A fruit leather not only preserves the vitamins but hold the taste too.

sea buckthorn wild food & foraging recipes

Above: The juice or berries can be used to make a range of tangy foods like jam, sauce, cordial or fruit leather.

Discover More Wild Food

If all this talk of wild food and foraging has whetted your appetite then you can take your learning further with us through the range of courses we offer.

You can immerse yourself in the world of foraging through our outdoor courses hosted in beautiful National Trust estate woodlands in North-East Wales. Or if that’s too far afield for you we also host regular online workshops, live through Zoom where we focus on wild foods of the season and give you delicious recipe ideas, foraging tips and expertise from special guest speakers. If this all sounds interesting, check out what’s coming up on our Events page right here.

Another way to get instant access to a whole backlog of wild food & foraging videos, recipes and recorded workshops is to join our Tribe over on Patreon. In return for supporting our mission, our patrons get access loads of exclusive resources. You can join the Tribe from as little as £3.60 per month. Find out about all the benefits right here.

Until next time, good luck with your own foraging journey.

James

how to pick wild rosehips - foraging and wildcraft

The Best Way To Eat Rosehips

If you’re not eating rosehips already, you need to start. Not only are they really good for you, but they taste amazing… like a burst of tropical fruit. They are also very common and easy to identify. So, what’s stopping you?

I really look forward to the season for rosehips, they are one of my favourite wild foods. The bright red scattering of rosehips in our hedgerows is one of the biggest indicators that winter is settling in. These vibrant fruits stand out to our eyes and that bright colour could mislead you into thinking that you should stay away from them, but the rosehip can make some delicious winter recipes to keep you going through the colder months.

I made this short video to show you the best way to eat rosehips raw, right off the branch. They make a great ‘pick-me-up’ on a country walk. There’s a couple of essential tips you need to know, so check it out…

Where & When To Find Rosehips

Rosehips grow on wild rose bushes. In the UK there are two species which you can forage from; the dog rose (Rosa canina) and the field rose (Rosa arvensis). Dog rose is found in most parts of the UK, unlike the field rose which is only found in England and Wales. Both species can be eaten so it’s not particularly important to know the difference between the two. These plants are climbers, trailing their way through hedgerows with their stems covered in thorns.

The rosehips themselves are easy to identify as oval fruits which develop behind the summer flower, turning from green to red as they ripen. In the summer the petals for both wild roses are large, being pink to white in colour with a yellow stamen. They have a beautiful fragrance, as you’d expect from a rose.

The best spots for finding rosehips is hedgerows and woodland edges, where the hips can ripen with plenty of sunshine. Scrubland and brownfield sites are also good places to look.

It’s from September that the hips begin to ripen enough to be harvested. They should only be eaten once they are fully red, don’t eat them if they’re still a bit green. There isn’t a particular firmness they are best at; they can be harvested when squishy or hard so don’t worry if you don’t get them right at the beginning of the season. What is important though is that you’re only eating the red flesh. The hairy, yellow seeds in the centre of the hip need to be removed before they can be eaten. These hairs are very fine and can lodge in your throat, being very uncomfortable to digest.

If you haven’t watched our video above already, do check it out so you can learn how to easily remove the flesh from the hairy seeds. Another method can be used back in the kitchen, whilst processing the hips back at home using a muslin cloth (see our method for rosehip syrup below) but if you’re out in the field after a quick hot of that tropical taste then here’s what you need to do:

  • Look for the softer squishy ones with a wrinkled skin. These are found more so at the back end of autumn.
  • To remove the hip cleanly, and avoid being spiked, twist is away from you and toward the stalk. This will usually give a clean break.
  • Hold the rosehip between both thumbs and index fingers equally, with the stalk side facing you.
  • Squeeze the hip with even pressure. A ‘red worm’ of pulp should rise from the hole.
  • Eat the tasty red flesh, discard the squeezed hip.
how to forage rosehips

Above Left: Rosehips looking perfectly ripe on the branch. Above Right: These hips are softer and more wrinkled. Perfect for the squeezing method as explained in the video.

How To Make Rosehip Syrup

A more traditional use for them would be rosehip syrup, which was a common sight in the household during the second world war. Due to the UK’s inability to import fruit from other countries, the public were recommended to collect and make their own rosehip syrup to prevent scurvy; two tablespoons of rosehip syrup would more than provide you with your daily dose of vitamin C.  As well as being very good for you, the syrup is deliciously sweet and goes really well drizzled on top of hot sponges, pancakes, and other desserts or you could try adding a little to some lemonade to make a cordial. Below is a recipe for rosehip syrup so you can make your own.

To make a litre of syrup you need: 

  • 1 kilogram of rosehips
  • 3 litres of water
  • 450g of sugar (or honey)

Method:

  1. Remove any leaves and the green ends of the rosehips, then chop them by hand or in a food processor and add to a saucepan with the water. 
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes before straining with a muslin into a clean bowl. Once the juice has been strained, re-strain in a clean muslin cloth. This ensures that all the hairs inside that cause irritation have been removed. 
  3. In a new saucepan add the sugar and simmer together until it has dissolved and the liquid has thickened. 
  4. Transfer to a sterilised jar and keep in a cool place. 

As well as being delicious on pancakes and packed with vitamin C, rosehips also have a fantastic range of health benefits. Amazingly, rosehips contain 2000mg per 100g, compared with the equivalent weight of orange with just 50mg! This little fruit can boost heart health by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Rosehips also have anti-inflammatory properties and there is some evidence it can reduce pain and stiffness in joints with osteoarthritis, possibly due to the high level of antioxidants they contain. Cold pressed rosehip oil can also help protect against ultraviolet light, pollution, and cigarette smoke as well as increasing skin elasticity. They also contain high levels of fibre, vitamin A, calcium, and potassium.

I’ve also used them to make a cup of rosehip tea. To try this yourself; halve ten hips and scrape out the seeds and hairs. Cover the hips in boiling water and leave to infuse for a few minutes. You could add a little honey or sugar to sweeten your tea, but rosehips contain their own natural sweetness, so adding sugar is not essential, just see how you like it.

You could always try slicing and drying the hips to make a longer-lasting tea ingredient. If you don’t have a dehydrator, put the halved hips on a parchment covered baking tray and cook on a very low heat with the door slightly open for a few hours to remove the moisture. Rosehips can also be used to make a sweet jam to go on toast or on plain yoghurt. We added halved rosehips to a hedgerow crumble for a burst of colour and flavour amongst the apples and blackberries.

how to make rosehip syrup

Above Left: Rosehip syrup. Above Right: Fruit leather with rosehips, crab apple and hawthorn.

Can I Eat My Garden Roses?

This is a fair question, so let’s look into it. As far as I have researched, all roses are edible. You might well be familiar with the Japanese Rose (Rosa rugosa) which is a common sight in suburban areas and retail centre car parks. The rosehips on this plant are much larger, being more rounded. They also ripen earlier than our native roses. The summer petals on this plant are a beautiful cerise pink colour. Both the petals and hips are edible, as with our wild roses. However I have found that these hips, being larger, are more susceptible to harbouring maggots, especially when they start to soften. So, I would recommend halving them to have a good look inside before using them for any cooking.

Something else you need to be aware of with foraging garden roses, including the Japanese Rose, is that they may have been sprayed with pesticide or plant food, not something you want to add to your diet. So, unless you know the garden or gardener well, it’s best to avoid Mr Jones’ prize roses from across the road. With any foraging it’s important to take a wider view and think about where you’re picking from and what forces those plants are subjected to. As always; if in doubt, leave it out.

foraging for japanese rosehips

Above: Japanese Rose (Rosa rugosa) with striking pink flowers in summer and hips as large as cherry tomatoes.

Discover More Wild Foods

Along with my partner, James, I host foraging and wild food walks and courses in North-East Wales at two beautiful National Trust estate grounds. Coming on a course is a great way to learn a variety of commonly growing plants and fungi we can use in our own cooking and also for hedgerow medicine. If you’d like to see what courses we have coming up, then head to our Events page.

 

I hope this blog has inspired you to try foraging rosehips yourself.

Lea

ten trees you can eat - wild food & foraging

Ten Trees You Can Eat

When you’re walking in the woods have you ever wondered which trees you could eat? Of course, I mean the tree’s berries, nuts, leaves and fruit. Chewing on wood is strictly for beavers only. Trees are a great source of wild food and in this article we’re going to take a look at ten of the best native and common British trees which you can forage from as well as giving you some inspiring recipe ideas using these natural ingredients.

Before we get going with the list, if you’re someone who loves trees but struggles to know what you’re looking at on your country walk, you could start building your tree identification skills today by signing up to our free online course, titled Kickstart Your Tree ID Skills. You’d be joining thousands of other students who want to know more about the trees around them. You can enroll for free right here.

Now, on with the top ten list, starting in no particular order with…

 

1. Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa)

Sweet chestnuts are something you typically associate with Christmas (cue Bing Crosby singing here) but in the UK you can forage for your own chestnuts around the middle of October. These really are a top nut and I don’t think we utilise them enough outside of the festive season, there are so many tasty recipes you can use them in. Our home-grown wild nuts tend to be on the smaller side compared to other parts of Europe, as in this country they are at the edge of their natural range. Shop-bought chestnuts tend to be grown in warmer climes such as Italy, Spain, and Croatia.

sweet chestnut tree foraging

Above: Sweet Chestnuts are not just for Christmas. Try roasting them in their shells in the embers of a campfire. Yum!

The casing of the sweet chestnut is easily recognisable by the long, densely packed spikes, and if you’ve ever been curious enough to pick one up you know how delicately they need to be handled to avoid being speared. You can tell when the chestnuts are ripe because the casing will be large and green, heading towards a lighter brown colour. They will also begin to split open as they ripen, and you can often see the shell of the chestnut through the cracks in the casing. The nuts grow in threes inside the spiked case. The shells are, as you would expect, a chestnut brown colour, topped with a white tuft of hairs. When foraging for these nuts make sure you use thick gloves to pry them open.

Taking a step back to look at the whole tree; another indicator you’re looking at sweet chestnut is the trunk itself. On mature trees deep fissures develop that tend to twist and spiral up the trunk. This is a more obvious distinction going into autumn when the tree begins to lose its leaves.

When it comes to cooking with sweet chestnuts the most traditional use is roasting. Firstly, pierce the shell with a knife to prevent them popping and roast them in an oven at 200°c for 30 minutes. My favourite way to cook them is more simple, and connects us with our ancestors; roasting the nut (in their shells) directly in the embers of a campfire. Once cooked, leave to cool for a few minutes then peel the shells off and eat. Other tasty uses for chestnuts are in stuffing, added into brownies or cheesecakes. They add a fantastic sweet nutty taste to anything you add them to, so alternatively you could try pairing them with something salty like a soy sauce glaze, as well as to supplement your sweet dishes.

 

2. Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

Often called the “queen of British trees” Beech are one of our most magnificent trees. They can grow up to, and sometimes exceed 40 meters height. There’s a beech tree in my village that’s so large you can see it from about a mile away, it’s loved by everyone and has such a magnificent canopy, it’s not hard to see why. You often find these trees on very chalky areas, and they can be identified by their grey-brown bark and iconic nuts that grow in October, with spiky basing that splits open to reveal the smooth pyramid shaped nuts. 

beech nuts - tree foraging

Above: Beech nuts are small but worth the effort. A great snack whilst out on a stroll. Inset: Young leaves make a tangy addition to salads in spring.

As well as being beautiful beech trees have two seasons in the year when parts can be harvested for food. Firstly, around May when new leaves emerge they can be eaten straight off the twig or put into salads or sandwiches. They have a tangy, almost acidic flavour. You’re looking for the lighter green slightly hairy leaves, before they darken in colour and develop an unpalatable, waxy surface. 

In October, it’s the beech nuts which drop to the ground and can be collected for our table. The casing (called mast) splits open and will often drop off the tree with the nuts inside meaning it’s relatively easy to collect them, although you may have to rummage around on the ground a little to find the nuts under the leaf litter. Inside the mast can be up to 3 nuts each in their own triangular brown shell.

Beech nuts are a good source of protein, contain lots of healthy oils and taste a little like hazelnuts making them amazing for both sweet and savoury dishes. It’s advised that you don’t eat too many raw as they contains tannins which can cause an upset stomach, although not everyone has a negative reaction to raw beech nuts but it’s best to be cautious. They’re small though, so collecting that many would be quite a feat. Cooking or soaking removes this toxin and makes them safe to eat en masse, so try toasting them to add to salads or using as a cake topping as an alternative to hazelnuts. I like them best as a snack on the go whilst walking.

 

3. Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)

Blackthorns are a favourite of many as they give us the fruit used to make sloe gin. Around autumn there’s excitement in the foraging community as everyone rushes to make their annual batch of sloe gin ready to replace the previous years which will inevitably be either drunk or given as a Christmas present. A friend proudly declared that this Christmas he’ll be opening a bottle he made five years ago! 

sloes and blackthorn - tree foraging

Above: Everyone has heard of sloe gin, but did you know you can use the gin soaked sloes to make boozy chocolates. We dare you to try it.

The blackthorn tree can be identified by their almost black branches (hence the name) and large thorns which can cause a nasty infection if spiked so be very careful when harvesting your sloes, some thick gloves are recommended! In March the blackthorn is the first tree to make its presence known as it erupts en masse in our hedgerows with a show of white blossom. The flowers make for an incredibly beautiful contrast to the black spines. Blackthorn is a tough old tree with a habit of spreading quickly into open space, making it an unwelcome guest with landowners who like things tidy. It follows that with this tough, thorny tree, that seems to be telling us to “look but don’t touch” it would bear such sour fruits that when eaten raw don’t exactly endear themselves to us. They are worth collecting though as alcohol transforms their flavour.

The blackthorn is part of the plum family so this gives us a clue that there’s some good stuff to be had from the fruits. From September onward the sloes take on a dark blue colour as they ripen. The classic recipe, sloe gin, is made using fresh sloes, pricked with a fork, packed into a jar with gin and sugar. Shake this every day to help the sugar dissolve and then after at least a month (longer is better) strain off the berries and bottle the liquid, ready for a Christmas gift or to go on the sdhelf and left for a year before drinking. Also, did you know that the leaves can also be infused with alcohol and are at their best around June and July.

Interestingly sloe stones have been found at many archaeological sites which suggests our ancestors valued this fruit highly as well; it’s lovely to think that the blackthorn has connected us to our ancestors for thousands of years. Try boiling your sloes down to turn them into a jam or syrup, they’re naturally a little tart so it’s best to have a sweet aspect to each recipe such as reducing with sugar or treacle to make a delicious tart filling. If making sloe gin or other alcohol infusion is something you want to give a go, remember this top tip; try saving your soaked sloes to coat in chocolate. This makes for a perfect present for friends and family at Christmas time.

 

4. Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

I don’t know about you, but I always see the arrival of Hawthorns as the official start of autumn. The iconic red berry a sight you’re likely familiar with as they grow in abundance along roadsides and in hedgerows. Hawthorn trees are one of our most common trees as they can thrive almost anywhere and are popular in hedges as they make a thorny stock-proof barrier which has vigorous regrowth when cut back. Head out to your local green space, you might be surprised by how many hawthorn trees you can find.

hawthorn - tree foraging

Above: They might not taste like much on their own but as a cooking ingredient they work very well. We made spicy hawthorn relish.

Hawthorns in Autumn are easy to identify, with large bunches of deep red oval berries, known as haws. They can be seen from September onward and can persist on the tree right through winter after the leaves have fallen. One of the earliest identifiers for this tree in our calendar year can be seen in early spring when the bright green leaves with between 3-5 jagged lobes, looking somewhat similar to parsley, explode in our hedgerows after the white blossom of blackthorn. In April and May look for a show of beautiful flowers blooming from this tree. They resemble cherry blossom, with a strong scent of almonds, 5 small white petals and pink stamens. 

Back in autumn with the berries; you could eat a single haw and be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about as there’s not much taste to them. But that couldn’t be more wrong, this is such a versatile food source that not enough people know about. Where the haws shine is as an ingredient rather than a food on its own. Haws contain a single stone which needs to be removed before they can be eaten. This can be a time consuming process, but the reward is worth it. These berries can be used to make everything from jam, ketchup, relish and even wine; boiling and straining can be a quicker way of removing the stones than individually de-stoning each fruit. Although they’re fairly plain in flavour they have a similar texture to avocados, making them an eco-friendly substitute to use in guacamole.

As well as making some delicious foods, the haws are incredibly good for you. They can increase the blood flow to the heart, helping prevent heart attacks as well as reducing irregular heartbeats. This isn’t a new discovery either, haws have been used to treat heart conditions as early as the 17th century. If you are on heart medication, seek advice form a professional herbalist before eating them.

 

5. Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)

Sea buckthorn is incredibly beautiful when the tree is fruiting; with gorgeous bunches of bright orange berries surrounded by silvery green leaves that heavily resemble rosemary. The fruit of this tree is citrusy but does require some sweetening as it has a naturally sharp almost bitter flavour, similar to the acidity of a grapefruit. In terms of flavour, this is about as tropical as it gets for native tree foraging. If you don’t mind a bit of work and being spiked by thorns, then you’re in for a treat that packs a mighty punch.

sea buckthorn - tree foraging

Above: If you want a juice that packs a serious punch for both taste and health, try Sea Buckthorn.

Unfortunately, the sea buckthorn isn’t very common and is normally only found near the coastline or in very gravely areas. However, you might find it along roadsides and in retail parks or industrial estates, where it can be planted as cover. If you discover one of these trees locally make a note of it and be sure to give it a visit when it’s fruiting! These beautiful berries come into fruit around September to early October and are best picked after all the berries on the tree turn from green to orange as it’s when they’re at their most ripe. The tricky part of collecting the berries of the sea buckthorn is how prone they are to bursting when picking, meaning you could get juice on your clothes so make sure you’re not wearing your favourite white shirt when collecting these.

There are two main ways you can collect the berries; if you’re not too bothered about the whole berry and are happy with just the juice, which is the best part in my opinion, you can use some very thick rubber gloves to squeeze down a branch to collect the juice into a bucket. This will need straining once you get home to remove any bits of leaf or debris that you’ll also find in your bucket. This is the fastest way to collect the juice, but works best when the berries are a little softer later in the season. Another method is to snip off twigs that have berry clusters. Take them home and leave them outside on a towel or some tissue to allow any creepy crawlies to escape before putting them in a bin liner and bunging them in the freezer overnight. Once the berries are frozen beat the bag to dislodge them from the branch and then pick out the branches and leaves. This is my preferred method.

You can strain the berries to make a nutritious fruit juice, although some sweetening is recommended, try adding honey as a healthier alternative to sugar. To make a cordial, reduce the juice by simmering and add sugar. Dilute with water and serve with ice, or use neat added to sparkling wine to make a sea bucks fizz! As well as being delicious, sea buckthorn hailed as a superfood, being packed with vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, B and C and is proven to preventing tumours, ulcers and detoxify the liver.

 

6. Elder (Sambucus nigra)

Whenever I think of summer elderflower cordial always springs to mind. Its subtle sweetness reminds me of hot breezy days. The elder tree has got to be in the top ten wild foods of the UK as it provides two delicacies for us to enjoy. The flowers which bloom in June and the berries which ripen around August to September. If you have a shrub in your garden I would recommend not taking all the flowers as you’ll then be stuck without any berries later on. Leave some to mature and you get to enjoy both harvests.

elderberry - tree foraging

Above: Elderberries are packed full of good things. Our favourite recipe is Elderberry Elixir, made with honey, brandy and warming spices.

Whilst elderberries are easily recognisable, the spray of creamy-white summer flowers are easy to mistake for other similar looking trees. Make sure you’re not accidentally picking flowers from a Rowan or Wayfaring tree as they look similar when in bloom. Get to know the whole tree. The leaves of the elder are jagged around the edge and typically have five large leaflets on each leaf. The flowers themselves are very small and grow in dense bunches that tend to grow upwards in fairly uniform, flat formation. The stems will droop down when the flowers turn into the berries. 

Elderflower cordial is an obvious classic recipe for the elder but there are so many more ways you can use the flowers. Try infusing them into Turkish delight or sorbets for a sweet treat or using them to flavour panna cotta or yoghurt. Don’t feel limited by traditional uses for elderflower cordial either, use the cordial to flavour cakes and tray bakes or add to sparkling wine. 

Come the autumn, the berries are well worth your attention. Not only does their juice taste great but they’re good for our health too, making an excellent immune system booster. Be sure to use any freshly picked berries quickly as they don’t tend to last for very long once they’ve been picked. Try cooking them to make jam, using them to make a coulis for a pudding topping, or mixing with honey and spices to make a warming elderberry elixir – this is our personal favourite. The deep purple syrup is very striking when drizzled on cheesecake. Some more unusual uses for elderberries are to make vinegar and fruit leather.

Do be aware that the seeds in the berries contain a small amount of cyanide, so you don’t want to eat the berries raw, they must be cooked. We remove the seeds and flesh by straining the cooked berries through a muslin cloth.

 

7. Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Hazel, as you can probably guess, gives us the hazelnut; something so commonly used in modern processed foods you may forget that you can forage for them yourself. How does the idea of making your own hazelnut chocolate spread sound? When identifying a hazel, you’re more likely to find one in shrub form rather than a full tree, with several stems sprouting from the base rather than one single trunk. In summer the leaves are large and round with a serrated edge. At the tips of the yellow-brown branches you’ll also see large green buds. When searching for a hazelnuts the best place to look is hedgerows and woodland edges. The nuts tend not to grow as well in deeper woodland as they get shaded out by taller trees.

hazelnuts - tree foraging

Above: Make your own nutty chocolate spread from hazelnuts, if you can beat the squirrels to them.

The best time of year for hazelnuts is the back end of August and into September. When you find them they might appear fairly green. These are unripe but can still be eaten. They are best when the shells have turned nut brown. They tend to grow in clusters and the nuts will have a frilly green bract around them, almost making them look like they’re wearing hats. Ripe nuts will fall from the tree but make sure you crack open the casing of a few nuts before you collect loads as often  the tree will discard any nuts that haven’t been successful to focus on growing others. Nobody wants to go home to find they’ve actually been carrying empty shells.

The other issue to content with is the Grey Squirrel who will harvest all the nuts from your favourite hazel tree before they ripen. Aside from the obvious solution to this problem (squirrel pie anyone?) you could try netting a small tree (easier said than done) or look for a tree in an urban space where squirrels aren’t present. This is where I’ve had the most success myself.

Hazelnuts give us so many possibilities. They make a nutritious addition to cakes and bakes. They compliment chocolate really nicely so you could try incorporating them into a batch of cookies which are sure to go down a treat. For something more low-key you could always sprinkle chopped hazelnuts onto a bowl of muesli or porridge for a healthy breakfast to kickstart your day with plenty of energy. Possibly a more unusual way of using the nuts would be to blend them into some homemade green pesto for extra crunch and depth of flavour, you could even try toasting them first. 

The good news is that these delicious nuts are really good for you as well, supporting a healthy heart and helping to reduce cholesterol. They’re also full of vitamin E which helps maintain a healthy immune system, so there’s no need to feel bad about snacking on this treat. 

 

8. Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) 

Otherwise known as Mountain Ash, this tree grows not only in high places, as it’s name suggests, but can also be found in hedgerows, scrubland and urban spaces. When flowering, rowan is easily mistaken for the elderflower as they have similar sized white flowers sitting on a flat bed, called an umbel. Once these flowers mature to fruit though the difference becomes very obvious. Rowan produces striking red berries instead of the purple-black of elder. The berries are also larger and persist on the tree long after the elderberries have dried up. Another similar feature are the leaves. Rowan has more leaflets per leaf than elder. Anywhere between 11 – 17 leaflets, opposed to elder typical 5-7.

rowan berries - tree foraging

Above: The most famous recipe for these berries is Rowan Jelly, which includes Crab Apple. It goes great with game.

It’s these juicy red berries that we’re looking to forage. You can find them on the tree as early as late July. September onwards is the main season though. Don’t be tempted to eat these berries right off the tree as they need to be cooked before they’re edible, otherwise they can cause severe indigestion due to the ascorbic acid they contain. The most traditional recipe for this unusual berry is rowan berry jelly, often paired here with crab apples as the pectin tends to thicken the jelly and make sure it sets properly.The crabs are also sweetening the jelly.

To make a jelly add equal quantities of chopped apple and rowan to a pan and simmer in water for 20 minutes. Strain in a muslin cloth over a bowl for at least 4 hours, allowing the juice to drip into the bowl, if you squeeze the mix then the jam will be cloudy. Harvest the liquid and for every 600ml of fluid, add 450g sugar and the juice of one lemon and boil again for 10 minutes. You can test when it’s ready by putting a spoonful on a chilled plate; if the jelly wrinkles when you squidge it with your finger its ready to be put into a sterilised jar. This jelly is perfect to accompany meats or even something like cheesecake to add a tart splash of colour to your pate. 

Interestingly, rowan berry flour is used in Russian baking, which gives bread a slight tang and adds a lot of nutrition. Rowan berries can also be added into chutneys, soups, and ketchups to add a depth of flavour, although it is worth adding a source of sweetness to counteract the tartness they naturally have. This is one berry that I’ve not actually gotten round to cooking with myself at the time of writing, but the jelly recipe is one that has persisted through time so it must be worthwhile. Let me know how you get on.

 

9. Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris)


Crab apples are a bit tricky, as the sourness of these wild fruits tends to catch people off guard. I still remember the shock of biting into one and finding out just how sour they were for the first time! Fortunately, there are still numerous ways you can use the crab apple and sweeten it to make it more digestible.

crab apple - tree foraging

Above: From these humble beginnings, all our cultivated apples came. The crab apple deserves some respect.

Unlike cooking apples, the crab apple is small, often only reaching around 3cm in diameter. This may be why they are so tart, as the flavour is concentrated in a smaller fruit. Crab apple trees are often found in hedgerows, woodland clearings and around farmland. The leaves are ovular with a finely toothed margin. The apples can be stored for several months before they become unusable, keep them somewhere cool and dry and you can always come back to them when your other foraging projects are done.

Like the rowan, crab apple is often used in jellies to offset the sharpness of flavour and I would follow a similar recipe to the rowan berry jelly above. There are many more ways to use them though. They can be sliced and dehydrated in an oven to make dried apple slices, which tend to be a lot sweeter and make a delicious snack on walks or part of a healthy breakfast when mixed with yoghurt and nuts. They can also be used as an ingredient in fruit leather which is always very popular with kids. For grown ups, how about this liqueur? Add layers of sliced crab apples to a jar, sprinkling sugar in between each layer and then covering with vodka. Leave for a year before draining; a long time I know but you should have a bottle ready for the following Christmas.

Other ideas for the crab apple include juicing them, crab apple butter, adding them to pickles or chutneys, or in a mixed fruit pie or crumble. Their tartness adds an unexpected bite to sweet puddings, so give it a go.

 

10. Guelder-Rose (Viburnum opulus)

The guelder-rose  was previously known as swamp elder, which to me is a more appropriate name as it describes this shrubby tree much better. Native to the UK the guelder-rose can be identified in the summer by its serrated three lobed leaves, which are similar looking to maple leaves, and are slightly hairy on the underside. Similar again to the elder and rowan the guelder-rose has umbels of white flowers that bloom around May to July. Look closer and you’ll see that a cluster of larger petalled flowers are surrounded by a ring of smaller flowers. Very striking indeed. In autumn these flowers mature to small shiny red berries, similar in appearance to cranberries which sometimes gives it the nickname European cranberry bush.

guelder rose - tree foraging

Above: A less well known wild food, these berries make a tasty, tangy jam which goes great on toast.

When searching for this berry look in damp places along riversides, scrubland, and hedgerows; it tends to have a habit of spreading if left unattended. When preparing the berries make sure they’re cooked before eating them as they can be slightly toxic if eaten raw, so don’t eat them straight off the tree. The berries need to be prepared in a similar way to rowan, as they are also fairly bitter. They do work well in jellies and jams. Try adding them with rowan berries and crab apples for a tangy addition to toast and porridge or add a dollop to your Sunday roast. Often it’s best to wait for the first frost of the year before collecting the berries as it tends to sweeten them, but you could always pop them in the freezer for the same effect if you can’t wait. I made jam and although when cooking the aroma wasn’t all that appetising, the resulting jam was very good.

As well as being used as a source of food the bark of the tree has been used for hundreds of years to soothe menstrual cramps as the bark has sedative and antispasmodic properties. This is probably due to the chemical viopudial, a compound that lowers blood pressure relaxes smooth muscle, which also means it’s useful in alleviating hiccups and stomach aches. However, it is worth saying that there have been no medical trials to confirm these properties or in what quantities it should be consumed, so I wouldn’t advise just peeling off bits of bark to use, especially if you’re not confident on your identification. Seek the advice of a professional herbalist if you want to take this further.

 

Where Can You Find These Trees?

Now this all sounds good on paper but how you do go about recognising these tree species and finding the right habitats where they grow?

I have created a FREE online Tree Identification course called Kickstart Your Tree ID Skills, which you can enroll on today and start improving your skills so you can find these wild foods for yourself. The course will also show you how to identify trees at other times of the year; winter, spring and summer. Here you will learn about buds, flowers, leaves, bark and other useful identifying signs so you can really get to know our native trees all year round. Sound good to you? Register for free right here.

free tree identification course

Sign up to our free course today and watch videos, download cheat sheets and access photo galleries.

You can also download a copy of my FREE Autumn Tree Guide which you can view on your phone whilst out and about. It features many of the species in this blog with quality pictures of the fruits, berries and nuts. You can grab your copy of that guide right here.

So, there’s my list, not so much a definitive top ten, as there are a couple of omissions here of native trees which produce some fantastic wild foods at times of the year other than autumn. Perhaps I’ll make that absolute top ten list later down the line. Certainly birch sap syrup, wych elm seeds wild cherries are all worth a mention.

I hope you found this article inspiring and I’d love to hear if you make anything with the wild foods featured. If you want more good stuff from us you could subscribe to our YouTube Channel where we post videos about trees, wild food and nature connection.

Happy foraging,

James

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