The definition for foraging is the acquisition of food by hunting, fishing, or the gathering of plant matter. At Hen and Hammock we are not great hunters or fishermen but we do love to gather a bit of plant matter. Below are some of the most useful and abundant plants you can forage for in your backyard, nearby park or woodland or even your neighbours hedgerow.
You will fine Dandelions in grassy areas during spring. They are high in potassium, calcium and vitamins A and C, the greens are good in salads while the blossoms can be used in fritters and the buds pickled like capers - you can also make dandelion wine.
Wild garlic is widespread and abundant across much of the UK and is easily harvestable throughout the year. It helps to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It’s also wards off garden pests and diseases, and the juice can be used a household disinfectant. The leaves add flavour to salads, stir-fry, stews or soups. It has a similar yet milder taste to its cultivated cousin.
With its long, pointy-ended leaves, wild sorrel has a distinctive citric flavour due to its oxalic acid levels. It's great with fish and chicken or in salads, good for the skin and grows in grassy or earthy areas.
You will find wild mushrooms in parks and woodlands, due to their diveristy there are always some in season but autumn is peak mushroom foragig time. Grill them, stuff them, add them to soups, stir-fries and pies. Just make sure you pick the right mushrooms.
Rose Hips come into season in autumn and are high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Use them in jams, jellies, crumbles or pies.
The flowers of the Elder, which blossom in May, have cleansing properties and the berries which arrive in autumn boost immunity. Both are good in cordials, wines and desserts.
Chickweed grows in abundance all year. It is restorative, cooling and high in potassium, calcium and vitamins A and C. It has a sweet grassy flavour and is can be used as a garnish for fish or in salads.
Forage for nuts in the autumn, keeping them dry and warm once picked. They are a rich source of protein and energy but keep in mind that nuts are relied on by many birds and animals, so don’t take the lot. Use them in nut roasts, nut breads,salads and stir-fries. Ground nuts can be pressed through a fine muslin bag to extract the oil, which can then be used for frying and dressing salads.
Picked from spring to autumn, Red Clover is rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium and phytoestrogens, which may lower cancer risk.
Nettles have a bad rep thanks to the painful welts they cause but just throw on some gardening gloves when you go foraging because they are definitly worth the effort. They are packed with minerals and more vitamin C than oranges. You will find them in gardens, woodlands, pastures and orchards. They should be harvested before the flowers appear in early spring and only the youngest leaves should be chosen as the mature leaves can damage the kidneys. Nettles can be used to make tea, soup, beer and even haggis. Boiling will get rid of the sting.
Make the most of these inky berries which grow readily during the Summer as they are rich in vitamin C. You can preserve them in jars to last you all year.