Foraging is a very very excellent way to tune in to the seasons and interact with your surroundings. There are so many wonderful plants I could have included in this list, but here are a few of my favourite foraging finds.. so, go forth and gather!
The seasons definitely blend in terms of when to forage, but I have tried to split my findings into vague seasonal categories of Spring, Summer & Autumn
First up Spring,
Three Cornered Leek (Allium triquetrum)
It was on a coastal walk in Devon on my 24th birthday that I was first presented with a three cornered leek. We took some home, cut up the stalks and added them to some roasted vegetables, which we then dressed with the flowers. Glorious! The bulbs, flowers and stems are edible. Quite similar vibe to wild garlic.
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
New nettle growth begins in early spring. It is best to pick the young leaves at the top of the plant from late February to early June. They can be steamed and eaten as such, or used to make nettle soup. Nettle beer or tea, also very much an option. Certainly diverse if nothing else, and nettles are also rich in iron, Vitamin A & Vitamin D making them an excellent and abundant choice for various culinary experimentations.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
All parts of the dandelion are edible, and can be eaten both raw and cooked.
The young leaves are the best, as the darker leaves become more bitter. (Tip: to make the flavour a bit mellower, blanche the leaves in cold water for a couple of hours)
Dandelion flowers can be fermented to make dandelion beer
The buds can be pickled, as an alternative to capers
Dandelion roots can be roasted and ground to make dandelion coffee
Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)
Found in an abundant supply among the woodlands of England & Wales. Leaves appear from February and are best picked before the flowers have died. The leaves can be used in wild garlic pestos, or great infused in oils.
Other Spring finds of note: Nettle, Cleavers, Sweet Violet
Pineapple Weed (Matricaria discoidea)
Also known as wild chamomile, the flower heads are best picked young and are great for making tea!
Also a great snippet via the Woodland Trust for your fact arsenal:
“Pineapple weed is not native to the UK and was first recorded in the wild in Britain as an escape from Kew Gardens in 1871. It became one of the fastest spreading plants in the 20th century.”
Elderflower (Sambucus nigra)
Early summer is when elder trees start to flower. Pick the flowers to make cordials, wines and champagnes. Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) can also effectively be used in all the same ways as elderflower, and tends to flower a little later, so the season of flowery tasting wines continues.
And then come to the elderberries! They appear late into the summer and into the autumn, excellent for syrups and such
Tried & Tested Elderflower Cordial (with the addition of oranges if your feeling fruity) :
Other summer finds: Dog Rose Petals
The fruits of the autumn are a great way to prepare some delights for winter. Think cordials, jams, warming drinks etc.
Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus)
Found among the hedgerows from around July, blackberries are prolific and just really quite excellent. Other classic additions to hedgerow jam include: blackberries, elderberries, sloes, damsons, wild plums, haws, rosehips.
Damsons (Prunus domestica)
Damson vodka is really really great. Damsons become ripe at the perfect time to be picked and made for a winter drink. All you need are the damsons themselves, sugar and vodka (takes a couple of months to be ready once you have made the concoction itself)
Other Autumn Finds: Elderberries, Hawthorn, Chestnuts, Sloes, Hazelnuts, Damsons
This is but a section of an endless list of plants to forage around the UK!
Foraging - A practical guide to finding and preparing free wild food - John Lewis-Stempel
Wild Food - A complete guide for foragers - Roger Phillips
The Handmade Apothecary - Vicky Chown & Kim Walker
A few additions I feel compelled to include:
Stay away from roadside areas, as the plants may suffer chemical damage
Check land ownership
Make sure to use a good foraging identification guide!
I have a series of prints from this project currently up on my shop!