Foraging. Everyone’s at it. And almost every foodie pub menu features foraged leaves, wild garlic or flower garnishes. But for a DIY forager, how do you know what you can and can’t eat? And what you need to do to stay on the right side of the law? We joined Claire Potter on an Edible City foraging walk, part if Chelsea Fringe, to find out.
Meeting behind Sainsbury’s in Hove, the walk kicked off with a brief overview on foraging and the dos and dont’s. All common sense rules that respect others’ property and the plants themselves.
In short, you’re ok on public property and National Trust land, but always ask permission before you begin gathering salad leaves or picking berries on private land. As to what you can forage, remember the four Fs of foraging: flowers, fungi, foliage and fruit are all ok. So long as you don’t damage the plant that is.
Interestingly, foraged produced shouldn’t be used for commercial gain. So think carefully before selling on foraged elderflower jams, wild garlic pesto or hawthorn ketchup.
Within a few hundred meters of the supermarket carpark we were given a beginners guide to the leaves, berries and flowers that grown in abundance across Britain. First the elderflower, whose flowers and berries can be made into cordials, sugar syrups and wine. Next we were given an intro to the field rose, AKA dog rose. The petals from this pretty white, wild rose can be used raw to add colour to salads or combined with vinegar to make a flavoured dressing.
Deeper into the hedge row, Claire highlighted the wonders of garlic mustard, sometimes known as hedge garlic or Jack in the hedge. Biting into a leave we discovered it tastes like a combination of mustard and garlic, just as it says on the tin, making it perfect for salads, green pestos or simply wilting and eating like spinach.
Looking up we met the hawthorn tree, whose flower can be used like the elder’s to make cordials, wines and flavoured sugars. While Claire recommended we stayed away from ‘bread & cheese’ – a combo of the elder bud rolled in a leave munched by the children of yesteryears – she suggested making the most of the berries. Hawthorn ketchup, a labour of love made from the berries, was highlighted as a favourite, and apple and hawthorn leather – puréed, then baked fruit – a winner for kids.
The walk continued taking in Cleavers, or sticky willies as they’re known in Scotland, which taste like asparagus, plantable leaves, dandelions, blackberries, nettles and the beautifully colourful Japanese rose – shocking pink and perfect in salads.
An hour after we started, the walk ended with a picnic of foraged treats: lashings of nettle cordial, cheese scones with pesto made from foraged herbs, rosehip drizzle cake and elder and garlic mustard quiche.
Claire’s top foraging tips
– pick shoots early when they’re tender
– and berries late when they’re sweet
– always pick above the ‘pee line’ so foraged produce is clean
– pick what you know – get a good book and be clear about what you’re foraging
– remember the x4 Fs that are ok to forage: flowers, fungi, foliage and fruit