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For someone who has never done it before, what is the best way to start learning how to forage in the UK?

Do you require anything specific to start doing this?

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Foraging is actually really easy in the UK, there are plenty of easy start plants and berries you can look for.

Do you require anything specific to start doing this?

Realistically, no not at all, as some plants you can forage in your own back garden. However, it's a good idea to get yourself a decent reference book - we brought the Collins pocket guide called 'Food For Free', which has plenty of information in... but with the internet and good signal you can reference a lot of plants on your phone. The biggest requirement is usually land-owners permission, you don't want to go scrumping (To steal fruit from another persons property) on someone's property if you do not have their OK to do so - but often fruit goes to waste so it might be easier to get permission than you think. Regardless of permission, we still call it scrumping! Equipment wise, a basket or bag and a pair of gloves should do.

What is the best way to start learning how to forage in the UK?

Simply put:

  • Nettles,
  • Dandelions,
  • Blackberries,
  • Elderflower

These are the most easily recognisable plants in the UK - you might need gloves to get the blackberries and nettles - but you can also make some decent dishes with these ingredients too.

Nettles leaves can be blanched and eaten, or used in a soup. Dandelions can also be cleaned and blanched, they're a pretty good filler in a salad, tasting akin to rocket leaves (sharp, with a bit of a peppery taste) however it can be bitter if picked at the wrong time of year, the younger the plant the better.

The dandelion root can also be cleaned, baked and crumbled into a sort of coffee/tea - I have tried this but, honestly, it's an acquired taste. It's used in 'detoxes' but also it was used during both World Wars as a tea substitute.

Everyone loves a Blackberry! Easy to recognise and doesn't take much imagination to come up with something to eat them with... like ice cream... The only real factor here is to try and find some off the main roads, so they're not covered in pollutants from vehicles. And wash them carefully, checking for bugs - you're not the only person to like them!

Elderflower flowers make a great wine / champagne, if you've the time to make them, but you can also fry them in flour to make elderflower fritters. The berries are also edible, making this plant a good forage twice in the same year!

The idea here is to get familiar with a FEW plants and regularly take an interest in them, even if you're not foraging. We grew from the above list into a multitude of interesting plants we can recognise, and pick, on our regular walks. One such being Sloes. If you're not comfortable picking it, don't pick it, but take a photo and research it.

AVOID: Mushrooms, if you're going to pick them to reference later, handle them little and don't eat them - it's best to get a guide for these if you really want to pick them to eat.

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    Add raspberries and wild strawberries (June/July) bilberries (August in forest and moorland) to blackberries (Sept well into October, if you're in Scotland. ) Also mint, and a little wood sorrel (WARNING - not much, because oxalic acid!) to the salads. – Brian Drummond Dec 8 '15 at 14:49
  • You'd be hard pressed to find wild strawberries my way because the birds will have them first but true, raspberries and strawberries are very easy to recognise plants... But surprisingly not as common as blackberries. – Aravona Dec 8 '15 at 15:00

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