Hedgerows, fields, forests and even your back garden can be fantastic places to forage for wild foods. As well as commonly foraged foods such as blackberries and sloes, there are lots of common plants and fungi that many people don’t realise are edible, and can be used to create delicious dishes, sauces, soups and preserves.
Make sure that, when you’re foraging, you follow a few key rules – make sure you have the landowner’s permission to forage, don’t pick too much and be sure of what you’re picking so you don’t consume rare or poisonous species.
Discover some of the best wild foods to go foraging for.
Honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum, is a British native climber and one of the easiest to track down; it’s often grown in gardens for the sweetly scented blooms. The flowers of this species can be used to flavour teas, chilled water, cocktails and preserves like jam. Look for the blooms throughout summer in hedgerows.
Damsons and bullaces
Damsons and bullaces are the fruits of the wild plum species Prunus insititia, sometimes called Prunus domestica subsp. insititia. The difference between them is that damsons (pictured) are oval-shaped and slightly sweeter in flavour, while bullaces are rounder, ripen later in the year and can also be yellow or green. Look for the fruits in hedgerows from August to October. They’re rather bitter when raw, but can be used to make tasty jams, gin and fruit leather.
Moisture-loving meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) flowers in midsummer and can usually be spotted growing in ditches, fens, damp meadows and next to rivers and streams. All parts of the plant are edible, but the foliage and flowers have a light almond scent, and can be used to infuse cordials, sorbets, wines and vinegars.
It might not look like much, but chickweed is a delicious and nutritious annual plant commonly found growing in gardens and wild spaces. Add the leaves to stir fries and salads. Look out for it year round, as it can be evergreen and flower in winter.
Blackberries are one of the easiest wild foods to come by and there are lots of different culinary uses for them. There are few places you can’t find them growing, and the berries ripen from midsummer to September. Check out some of the delicious recipes using blackberries from our friends at Olive Magazine.
These residents of acidic heathlands have tasty, deep-blue berries that appear in late summer and early autumn that are almost identical to blueberries. Bilberry flowers (pictured) aren’t edible, but the berries can be eaten and used just as you would with blueberries, with yoghurt, in desserts and to make liqueurs.
This perennial wildflower is a resident of damp, sunny meadows, usually on soils that are slightly acidic. In addition to being brilliant for pollinators, red clover flowers can be used to make tea, while the delicately flavoured foliage can be added to salads and soups. Here it’s growing with ox-eye daisies, another meadow plant with edible flowers – try pickling the flower buds or frying the flowers in tempura batter.
Hazelnuts, Corylus avellana, are small native trees with nuts that start appearing in late summer. You can spot them in hedgerows and woods. They can be picked when brown and mature or young and green. However, while green they can be eaten raw and are less likely to have been taken by squirrels. Discover hazelnut recipes from the team at Olive Magazine. Other nuts to look out for include sweet chestnuts and walnuts.
When it comes into leaf in spring, wild garlic carpets woodland floors and fills the air with a delicious aroma. The bulbs, foliage and flowers are edible, and can be used in salads, stews, soups and wild garlic pesto. Despite the name, the flavour is milder than garlic you’d find in shops. Here it’s crept into a garden.
This list wouldn’t be complete without mushrooms, but exercise caution when picking them, as there are many poisonous species. Try looking for wild mushrooms that aren’t easily confused for anything else, like field mushrooms (Agaricus campestris), chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius) and penny bun or porcini (Boletus edulis). Ideally, take a good mushroom field guide out with you. If in any doubt about the species you find don’t eat them. Discover lots of mushroom recipes to follow from our friends at Olive Magazine.
When foraging for mushrooms, don’t pick those that are still immature and haven’t fully opened yet. Instead, go for those that have opened and will have most likely released their spores.