The world around us from its winter’s slumber. Spring is in full force adding colour to the grey days. Now is the perfect time to tempt your sleeping taste buds to a feast from our past, allowing our dormant hunter-gather to reappear with a spot of foraging.
Foraging has become increasingly popular over the past few years with programs like River Cottage and Countryfile featuring the hunt for food in our hedgerows. Organisations like the National Trust have also set up events to show their visitors what to look out for with guided walks and leaflets.
Even if you live in the middle of a city, you will still be able to find things to forage…
The best places to look for herbs in an urban area are railway stations. The entrances and exits aren’t usually kept and you can find many of the herbs just growing freely. Along the edges of allotments is another great place or at the entrance of parks where the council hasn’t tidied.
Spring is a great time to get out and forage. From March we are coming out of the fresh leafy greens and as we go into June, the flowers are appearing”
Top hedgerow picks for foraging this Spring:
Found on waste ground, in gardens and along hedgerows. The ideal time to pick March-early June when the plants are young before they flower. Use in a tea to detox and to help with hayfever. To cook, wilt in boiling water, drain and squeeze out and chop up. Can be used in stews, curries, risotto, pizza and pies.
Cleavers (Sticky buds)
Found in gardens, woods, hedgerows. Use the young stems which are about 10 cm long and with 1-2 leaves. Makes a freat detox tea as well as a side vegetable dish when steamed and buttered. It can also be added to scrambled eggs, spaghetti and soups.
Found wherever there is grass. Use the young leaves as they are less bitter. Has a bitter taste, like chicory. Another great detox tea plus a tasty addition to salads or use the flower buds in a fritter.
Found in hedgerows. Marigolds can be used both internally and externally. When made into a cream it can be used to heal external wounds. When made into a tea, it will heal internal wounds like stomach ulcers and can be stirred into soups and risottos.
Found in woods, hedgerows, and wasteland. Use only the flowers or berries as the rest is poisonous. Can be made into many things including cordial, wine and vinegar. Great for hay fever, runny noses, and wet coughs. Also ideal for inhalation using a hot water bowl.
Heartsease (Viola tri-colour)
Found in woods, wasteland, cornfields, and gardens. Use internally as a tea and externally in cream to relieve hot dry skin conditions such as eczema. They can also be used in spring salads, made into syrups and crystalised to decorate cakes and puddings.
Here’s a word of warning to add. Although foraging, if done properly can add immense benefits to our health, you really need to know what you are looking for. I advise new foragers to head out with a herb identification book and photograph anything they find before picking and sharing it with a herb identification group on Facebook like the Herb, Plant and Foraging identification workgroup.