Eight surprising wild foods to forage (Plus how to eat a raw stinging nettle!)

8 September, 2017

Oh, my friends! We are home safe and sound back in our yurt in New Zealand. It was the actual snot-face, heave-weeping saddest thing saying goodbye to my family. We had the most wonderful couple of months ever over in England, so many treasured times with my nephews and niece especially. It was such a wrench to leave,  but now that we are home, on our land, it feels like the soul-place we know we ought to be.

Before I move on from that trip completely I wanted to share a bit about the summer foraging we have done because it represents a lot of what our summer over there was like; living in suburbia but still staying connected to the wild around us.

Foraging for wild fruits and leaves is such a precious way of getting to know our natural environment and nurturing a connection with the earth. (Humankind’s connection with the earth is something I feel is a missing link in our well being. When we nourish that relationship I feel like we truly flourish. My book 30 Days of Rewilding goes into this quite a lot if you fancy reading more!

So we all know about blackberries right? Yummy, juicy nuggets of sweet flesh with the occasional tiny worm tucked away inside. But do you know about holly leaved barberries? Stag horn? Purple clover? They are all over the place once you’ve identified them! Not just in England either –  heaps of these can be found all over the world.There are so many delicious free edibles all around us that are jampacked with nutrition!

Oregon Grape / Holly leaved Barberry / Holly grape
These grow all year round in great clusters just like grapes, often in rural hedgerows. They are sour but moreish. Can be used for jams or in puddings with sugar of honey to sweeten.

Quite a common tree, with furry fruit that have a lemony zing. Can be munched but also added into drinks for a lemon flavour.

Wavy Bittercress
One of the many bittercresses you can eat all year round. This one grows abundantly in damp places and makes a lovely peppery addition to salads.

Hawthorn Berries
These grow everywhere and abundantly throughout the summer and autumn. They are the superfood of the wild, an amazing antioxidant and great for your heart. Munch raw as you wander around the countryside or take home and turned into jams or fruit leathers. Don’t eat the seeds though as there is a bit of cyanide in them, like apple seeds.

The end of summer and autumn is also a big time for another superfood, elderberries. Jam packed flavonoid antioxidants, potassium, and Vitamin C, can be eaten raw or turned into jam.

Stinging Nettle
Oh, the most underrated plant ever!!! It is a nutritional powerhouse, packed with as much iron as spinach, but, like, free! Use gloves to gather handfuls and make a gorgeous rich soup or throw into risotto. The heat takes out the sting and it acts just like spinach. You can also eat them raw- see video below for this trick.

Purple Clover
Clover grows left, right and centre and is also an excellent antioxidant. It’s got a subtle taste and can be chucked in tea, smoothies and salads.

Poppy petals
Poppy petals are the beautiful little bonus in this list. They don’t taste of much but grow abundantly in meadows across the UK and look gorgeous in any baking or salads.

I made a little video about them all too which you can check out here. As a little bonus I show you a trick about how to eat a whole, raw stinging nettle leaf!!! It’s an exceptional party trick that everyone will love! (By “party” I mean “picnic” and by “everyone” I mean “that earthy friend you have and small children.”)

Some tips and rules:
It’s not likely that you will be able to make a scrumptious meal out of your foraged finds, but finding ways to add little foraged tidbits into your weekly meals is such a winner. Think about throwing them into your smoothies, salads and jars of ferments. They so often contain nutrients we lack and it is one way to bring to life your connection to nature.

Only take what you need. Where there is masses, such as stinging nettles, go nuts as they wilt down to very small amounts of actual food.

Don’t forage from busy road sides or places that could be contaminated (heavily farmed areas or industrial sites)

Make absolutely certain you know what you are eating.

I was given Alys Fowler’s foraging book for a birthday many moons ago and I reference it whenever I get the chance to galavant amongst a British summer! We take it with us and check each edible by the pictures and descriptions in it. It is such an accessible way to learn about all the wild fruits, leaves and weeds that live in the urban cracks and rural hedgerows.  It’s called the Thrifty Forager and you can buy it through my affiliate peeps The Book Depository here.

Here are a couple of videos featuring the other wild and wonderful ways that we enjoyed the English summer. Would love to hear what season you are in at the moment and what adventures you are having!

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  • Sarah 9 September, 2017 at 3:39 am

    It all sounds so lovely. I’d like to forage more, it’s only really blackberries I am confident picking (there’s loads round here at the moment). My 7 year old made some delicious salads this summer and threw in a few dandelion leaves from the garden though.

    I love the sound of Alys Fowler’s book, though it’s currently out of stock through your link.

    • Lucy 10 September, 2017 at 11:58 am

      Oh rats! Worth finding somewhere if you can 😀 Once you identify a couple of things it is so easy to just toss them in to meals 😀

  • Rose Arnold 11 September, 2017 at 12:41 am

    I’ve been really getting into foraging, great to read your tips.
    I’m not an expert but I thought that Hawthorne seeds were a lot more toxic than apple seeds and perhaps need a stronger warning?
    This blog I trust seems to say that they could kill a child.

    • Lucy 15 September, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      Hey Rose- oh thanks for link, it doesn’t seem to be working atm which is a bummer as I did research the toxicity and everyone seemed to conclude that they were on a par with other cyanide containing seeds (peach / cherry pips/ almonds) ….

      • Wild Will 28 September, 2018 at 10:08 am

        ive eaten lots of hawthorne seeds, ive crunched them up etc. They taste apple seedy, but so so cherries seeds, almonds. I dont think there anything to worry about, unlessi ts youro nly food source…

  • Wild Will 28 September, 2018 at 9:57 am

    hmm, you might want to be careful about the advice you give on the internet. I have never heard of Holly berry, but a quick search on the web tells me you mean oregon grape. the plant you were eating from isnt oregon grape. it looked more like blackthorne (sloe) they are certainly not “the best food ever”. Again with wavy bittercress. it doesnt look like the leaf you held up to the camera. bittercress tastes like “bitter”+ “cress”. think peppery! the leaf you held up looks like ground ivy, which is part of the mint family. The purple clove you talk about is actually Red Clover and its not just the redy/purply one that edible. White clover is also edible. And Elder berries. Yes they are good to eat but the stalk and bark is poisonous so please be careful.