As summer sweeps into view and the hedgerows become heavy with goods, why not get out there and do some foraging? Foraging is a sustainable, cheap and fun way to get fresh produce bursting with flavour and goodness. It goes without saying but always double-check what you are foraging for to make sure it’s not poisonous! Also, be respectful of the amount that you forage… take a few from different areas to make sure you are not being greedy and leaving some for animals and regrowth. Below are a few things you can forage for that can be made into delicious dishes and drinks:
We are coming to the end of the wild garlic season but it’s not too late to get out there and find some of your own. Hampstead Heath in London is still chock full of wild garlic that can be easily harvested by taking some scissors and chopping off the amount you want. I would recommend using wild garlic in pestos, to swirl through cold soups and to make fresh pasta sauce. Check out a pesto recipe below…
Wild garlic pesto
150g wild garlic
100g good olive oil
zest of one lemon
50 g pine nuts
Wash the wild garlic and roughly chop, then put into a blender and blitz all the ingredients (bar the oil) into a rough paste. Then add the oil slowly until you have reached your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
An absolute corker when transformed into cordials or into light and crispy fritters! Elderflower grows abundantly and takes the form of small hedgerow trees with dark green leaves and creamy white flowers in the centre. The flowers smell divine on warmer days! To forage you just need some scissors to remove the flower heads where they meet the main stem (if using in recipes you want none of the green stem). Pop your findings in a sustainable cloth bag that you can reuse for your other foraging finds. Check out an elderflower gin recipe below…
This makes the most delicious base for a cocktail! Just use elderflower gin in your gin and tonic for a twist on the classic
Bottle of gin
6 heads of elderflower
2tbsp white sugar
lemon rind ( optional )
Wash your elderflower, then pop in an empty glass bottle, add sugar and lemon rind, then pour in the gin and give everything a good shake. Leave for at least a week then give it a taste… if you are happy then strain off the debris to be left with your own homemade elderflower gin!
I always keep an eye out for these guys, they are much smaller than their bigger counterparts but they make up for it in flavour. A hot spot for wild strawberries is in wooded areas, but it is very important to conserve them as they are normally over-picked. So if you find strawberries only pick a few and enjoy them with a sprinkling of sugar and a dash of cream, if you’re feeling luxurious!
My favourite mushroom to forage for, these little orange treats poke through mossy and moist ground so are usually found in wooded areas. We always find ours in the woods in Scotland after a good bout of rain! Now it is VERY important to check that the mushrooms you are picking are the real deal… Chanterelles look like little orange trumpets, however, always double-check what you are picking is safe to eat – do this by researching and asking the right people as you really don’t want to mess with poisonous mushrooms! Here are a few websites and books to help your research: Collins fungi guide , https://www.itv.com/news/2014-10-03/10-ways-to-safely-forage-for-wild-mushrooms-in-the-uk/.
Chantarelle’s on toast
2 big handfuls of mushrooms
clove of garlic
Make sure you wash your mushrooms properly as there is normally a lot of dirt and insects found in between the gills! Finely chop your garlic and add to a hot pan with a tablespoon of butter. Cook your mushrooms till they are just a bit crispy (they produce a lot of water), and to finish stir through freshly cut parsley. Serve on your favourite buttered toast!
It’s amazing to know that there are so many things we can pick and eat that are grown naturally without packaging and air miles. I hope you enjoy finding all these treats! Just a reminder to always be respectful of the rules of foraging, if you an unsure of the rules, or how many things to take, do your research online. It is important to conserve and protect for wildlife and regrowth. Remember to see it as a treat that is precious, not treating the hedgerow like you would the aisle of a supermarket!