Reconnaissance mission: Know your foraging grounds!

The following article was kindly written by Woodlore Field Staff member Sarah Day

Rowan Berries
Rowan Berries

“Foraging for wild foods is not like just walking round a supermarket. The availability of foods and materials changes with the cycles of the year. We’re used to being able to eat strawberries at Christmas and have fresh apples all year round. If you’re foraging, it simply doesn’t work that way.

Rose hips

Rose hips

A few days late and you may miss out- that’s why it pays to know your local area. Some of the spring greens may have toughened up and gone to seed, but you can still make a mental note of where they are for next year. 

This time of year there is food to be had, but the delectable fruits and nuts that will be ready in a couple of months are still unripe and unappetisingly sour. When they ripen however, the race is on; you’re up against the elements (a few days of rain or an early frost can really spoil the blackberries) the wildlife (grey squirrels like to eat beechnuts and hazelnuts before they’re even ripe!) and potentially other foragers, not to mention the local council- many a prime hedgerow harvest falls victim to the autumn round of hedge trimming (philistines!). 

Bullace

Bullace

Even if you live in a town, there are many possibilities, you may even be lucky enough to find some escaped cultivated varieties of wild favourites, apple trees are surprisingly common along old railways- probably due to generations of passengers throwing apple cores out of train windows!

Pears

Pears

Wherever you live, now is the time to do some serious reconnaissance; not all bramble patches yield good fruit, but those that do will already be showing. Elderberries, rowan, rosehips, haws, sloes and other wild plumbs, hazelnuts, walnuts, acorns and apples are already well on their way. All you need to do having found the best patches is wait… and maybe start salivating over recipe books!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re looking to do some foraging of your own, the Jonas Swedish Berry Picker is a useful tool to have. It is a modern version of the tool that Ray used in his Wild Food series a few years back, and is perfect for the harvesting of small berries such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, gooseberries, lingonberries and many others.

Haws (Hawthorn)

Haws (Hawthorn)

5 thoughts on “Reconnaissance mission: Know your foraging grounds!

  1. Paul Adamson

    Old railway lines are great like you say. Nice walks to be had as many have been converted to green-ways linking villages, in Derbyshire. Alongside one the other day there were most of the food varieties mentioned in the article within a couple of miles, as the edges were planted and improved with many native species. There was even the domesticated apple tree 🙂 I’ll be off collecting some of each this year to practice the very pleasant act of cooking and eating wild food!

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  2. Alison Delaney

    Yeah, it doesn’t take long to build up a good local mental map of where to find your favourite free food. If you go out for walks regularly, it’s no bother keeping an eye on how things are ripening. I tend to put a quick note on the calendar at the beginning of each year too, to remind me what’s available in each month.

    Winner of ‘Comment of the Week’

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  3. ste carey

    very useful thanks sarah! found plenty of Hawthorne in hedgerows but cannot find many with berries on yet.
    never seen a wild pear tree in a British forest before, i used to have one in my garden when i was a boy.

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  4. sarah day

    Hi,
    the pips do contain cyanide, but as for why it doesnt affect them I’m not sure- possibly they dont acually crunch the pips up so the cyanide isnt released? That seems to be the case with badgers- this time of year their latrine pits are filled with really runny faeces that is absolutely full of cherry pips- often they seem to be intact. Maybe its the same with hedgehogs? Or perhaps being smaller they just eat around the pips?

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  5. Rik White

    Hi
    The Cherries are already ripe, and thankfully a lot of them, which gives me a fighting chance against the birds. Last weeks rains have made them juicy and along with the winds, some have fallen, much to the hedghogs delight.
    I’ve always assumed that the pips contain cyanide, why does it not seem to affect the hedgehogs, or does it???

    Winner of ‘Comment of the Week’

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