Last month’s Autumn Equinox might have signalled the slow fade of green, but have you ever wondered about the wild food hidden in the hedgerows and why we should be making the most of it?
We recently took a ramble with the brilliant Liz Knight, foraging expert and founder of Forage Fine Foods, to learn about the delights of wild food, booze, and the benefits of adding a little bit more to our plates.
These are just a few juicy bites from our mind-bending foraging day, a sort of brilliant cross between George’s Marvellous Medicine (thankfully without the adverse side effects) and a Famous Five style picnic.
1. We could do with mixing it up. In a world filled with 20,000 edible species of plants, guess how many make up 95% of the Western diet? A couple of hundred? A thousand? Nope. We actually eat around 7-9 of them. That’s it.
2. Fortune flavours the bold. The main reason we don’t tend to eat wild food is fear. So far, so sensible. But every plant actually has a level of toxicity. All of them. Even spinach. It’s a question of respect. With little know-how and confidence, just imagine what a bit more variety might taste like.
3. Eat your weeds, don’t kill them. Only a greedy food lover will appreciate this, and let’s face it, I did. Hang fire on that weedkiller, there is a better way. Not only can weeds like nettles, dandelions and thistles be tasty, they are actually packed with more nutrition than non-organic supermarket food. Bonus point because you don’t even have to leave your garden. I know!
4. Get back in touch with the good stuff. As well as being good for the soul, nature saves you money. Free food. Free. I’ll just leave this here.
5. You could survive an apocalypse. If you can only eat one thing for the rest of time, make it a nettle omelette. It would be insanely boring, and runs contrary to point one, but it doesn’t change the slightly bonkers fact that you could actually live on eggs and nettles in an emergency situation. Brilliant.
6. The superfood secret is out. Have you ever noticed how things branded as superfoods are really cheap? No, me neither. Just like us, foods do have different powers, but if you get things that are as close to growth production as possible they will all be super in their own way. You don’t have to remortgage your house to add superfoods like thistle (omega 3) and hawthorn (anti-oxidants) to your diet.
7. Create your own magic. You know that saying about chopping your own wood warming you more than once? It’s the same deal with foraging wild food. Part of the fun is getting out amongst it. Be childlike and curious. Notice the details and delight in the alchemy. Bring that flavoured happiness back to your kitchen and use it to make stuff. Trust me, you’ll notice the difference.
8. You don’t have to go completely off grid. Obviously, we still need supermarkets. And modern medicine. And wifi. This doesn’t have to be a massive faff. Just add in a little bit of wild here and there. It’s good to know you have options, right?
9. Get up and Autumn. The time is now. There’s the usual things that people love about Autumn, apples, blackberries, elderberries. Then there’s the stuff that foragers love about Autumn, and it’s a whole new world of goodness. As first-time foragers with Liz’s guidance, we found:
- Wood sorrel
- Bullace berries
- Crab apples
What are your favourite foraging finds? As a beginner I’d love to hear your tips, so please share!