How to start foraging and 5 easy plants to forage

Foraging wild foods and consuming them is one of the best ways to connect with nature and boost your mental wellbeing. For most of us, food comes from the grocery shop. We rarely know much about where it comes from or how it was grown.

But in any given green space, if we open our eyes and consider the land as an opportunity to find food, we will find edible plants growing freely all around us.

Foraging can be dangerous, so to start with, you should refrain from eating. Instead, focus on identifying the different types of wild plants.

Find a guide on field plants and flowers relevant to your local area because different plants grow in specific locations depending on soil and the climate.

Allow yourself some time to get to know the area you will be foraging.

Foraging for food is a slow process. It is an act of search and discovery. It connects us with our roots and ancestors’ instincts.

Tips for foraging wild foods

The most important rule for safe foraging is:

Only forage something if you are perfectly sure of what it is.

Check before you consume wild foods and eat them only if you are sure you are not allergic to them.

If in doubt, it is best to avoid them!

According to Woodland Trust responsible foraging guidelines the are a few things you should be aware of before you set off foraging for wild foods:

  • Make sure that you forage in an area that you are allowed to do so or ask permission.
  • Try not to damage the plants. Uprooting is not permitted.
  • Leave some fruits for the wildlife and other foragers.
  • Foraging is allowed for individual eating only, not for commercial consumption.
  • Equally, be mindful of the wildlife like snakes, bees etc., that may live in the surroundings.
  • Only pick the foods you can identify – if you are unsure, best avoid eating them.
  • Use gloves, long sleeves and protective shoes.
  • Make sure you avoid ‘dog pee height’ areas when you forage along the footpaths.
  • Ideally, you must be a few metres away from the road to avoid the fumes and tires residue that stick on the plants.
  • Beware if you forage near a farm because wild plants are usually considered weeds and are sprayed with nasty chemicals.
  • Don’t pick rare species.
  • Try a small amount first instead of eating a lot just in case what you foraged is not what you think it is!
  • Please don’t leave any rubbish behind.

5 easy plants to forage

The following plants are easy and relatively safe for you to pick.

Stinging nettles

Stinging nettles are widely used for cooking as a vegetable green, juicing, and for making tea.

They make a delicious soup.

Stinging nettles are anti-inflammatory. They provide Vitamins A, C, K, as well as some B vitamins.

Stinging nettles also have minerals, fatty acids, amino acids, polyphenols and pigments – many of which act as antioxidants for your body.

Although they sting, you can use gloves to pick their tender stems. The best season to gather them is Spring, as they are richer in nutrients. Though, they can be a healthier option than any store-bought bag of greens at any time of the year!

nature plant leaf green. How to start foraging and 5 easy plants to forage
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dandelion

Dandelion is a common plant that many people consider a horrible weed. Dandelions are rich in nutrients, iron, calcium, protein, and vitamins A and C.

They are a natural remedy for many health problems such as anaemia, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Early Spring tastes less bitter, but it is good to eat all year round. The yellow flowers and the leaves are edible.

The roots, when roasted, make a nice bitter drink similar to tea and coffee. Dandelion’s flowers can be made into a syrup that tastes like honey!

Dandelion is great raw in salads but can also be cooked or used in baking.

Make sure that the fields you pick up Dandelion from have not been sprayed with chemicals.

Wild mint

You can forage wild mint almost everywhere in the countryside.

Wild mint has been used for centuries as a natural medicine for gastrointestinal ailments and to treat sore throats.

It is an excellent antimicrobial remedy and an antioxidant. It also makes a refreshing tea but can also be added to salads.

green mint photo
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

Wild garlic

Wild garlic grows under tall trees, in fields and hedgerows. It has a distinctive smell, so it is an easy plant to identify.
Both the leaves and flowers are edible.

They make a great addition to fresh salads, in sandwiches, or boiled and mixed with other vegetables into soups. It also makes a delicious wild garlic pesto.

Wild garlic contains plenty of vitamin C, protein and beta-carotene.

Garlic helps absorb zinc, is antiparasitic as well as a natural antibiotic.

Ancient civilizations used garlic to treat asthma, digestive disorders, heart disease, infections, respiratory disorders, tumours, and even intestinal worms.

Today, claims for the health benefits of garlic include:
Lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
An anti-inflammatory effect.
Reduced risk of cancer.
A more robust immune system.

Best rubbed or crashed rather than chopped, it tastes fantastic rubbed on toasted bread for bruschetta.

When foraging for wild garlic, you must be sure you can smell the distinctive garlicky scent. If you can’t smell it, it is because it is a different plant, the ‘lily of the valley’, which is poisonous!

Image by rawedibleplants.blogspot.com/

Daisies

Daisies are a common herb that you can find in open grasslands from January to November. They have been used for centuries as food and their anti-inflammatory effects.

They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, vitamin A and potassium. The roots, leaves and flowers of the daisy plant are all edible.

You can use the flowers and the leaves (although bitter) in salads or soups.

Also, the flowers (dried or fresh) make an excellent herbal tea that helps with blocked sinuses, colds and sore throats.

daisy flower field
Photo by Ishara Kasthuriarachchi on Pexels.com

Berries, fruits and nuts

Blackberries (bramble)

Blackberries are easy to identify in nature and make the perfect introduction to foraging for food.

Towards the end of Summer, until October, when the weather is still mild in England, there is an abundance of wild blackberries inviting us to indulge in their tasty goodness.

Wild blackberries grow almost everywhere. You will see their thorny branches take over hedgerows in busy urban parks, public footpaths and even in domestic gardens.

They are full of vitamin C, Vitamin K1, fibre, Potassium, Manganese, Calcium and protein.

Moreover, they may have a positive effect on heart diseases and diabetes.

The high fibre in blackberries helps reduce cholesterol and promotes healthy gut bacteria.

Blackberries also contain antioxidants such as anthocyanins which have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.

Check out this simple blackberry jam recipe, and you may also want to use its leaves to make tea!

There are also plenty of other berries to forage, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, hawthorn berries and more.

wild blackberry

Apples, crab apples and other fruit trees and nuts

There is always an abundance of free food in the wild, waiting for us to discover.

In many cases, you may find disused orchards of fruit trees which (with permission) you can forage.

Sometimes, even neighbouring houses may have trees overbearing with fruits that are just too many to be consumed by the family. In most cases, the owners would be more than happy for you to collect a bag or two.

In most areas, you can find apple trees, crab apples, bullace (a wild variety of plum), sweet chestnut, hazelnuts, and walnuts.
They are all very rich in nutrients foods, but make sure that you ask a professional and research how to identify and forage them safely.

Foraging tip

One of the best foraging tips you can take away today is learning to identify one plant at a time.

Please do your research, go out, collect it, cook it and enjoy it. You will feel much more confident if you go out foraging one plant at a time rather than trying to identify ten different plant species in one go.

Once you are convinced that you can recognise a specific plant, you can learn about the next one. This knowledge will stay with you forever.


Foraging is all about slowing down, respecting our natural environment and symbiosis with mother earth.

It is the perfect opportunity to spend more time outdoors, and if followed safely, foraging can be a rewarding and meditative process.

Images by ED.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Elena Daniilidou

Elena is an advocate for animal rights, sustainability, and slow living. She aspires to minimise the human impact on the environment - she is an ethical vegan and minimalist.

View all posts by Elena Daniilidou →
%d bloggers like this: