• The Naked Forager Kilkee

No such thing as a free lunch?

Updated: Jan 21

Reaping what you have not sown


Ok, perhaps you have to work a teeny tiny bit for a foraged lunch, because you have to go out and find it. But I challenge anyone to spend a spring morning strolling by the riverbank or an autumn day collecting chestnuts in the park and not feel more relaxed, closer to nature and generally smug. Hardly work at all!

At least, it’s not work for those of us lucky enough to be able to experience the joy of collecting wild foods without it being a necessity. I’ll address this in another post, but it seems to me that along with a growing number of people using food banks, there are increasing numbers of people foraging for wild foods in order to supplement their diet due to financial hardship.

Anyway, as I mentioned, that’s for another post.


If you’re lucky enough, you may be able to pop out into the garden and collect enough ingredients for lunch without having to go to the effort of growing anything in a vegetable patch or green house. A bunch of baby dock leaves and nettle tops is enough to give you the base for a delicious “Saints and Sinners Sop” [RECIPE LINK] Simple dandelion leaves are an abundant and frugal alternative to a bag of Roquette from the supermarket, and who can forget the simple pleasure of blackberry picking?



Look a little further and you’ll find a staggering array of wild foods, ready for you to take home and enjoy, completely free! Some require a little preparation and some, like Bilberries, can be enjoyed straight away, or “out of hand” as they say in the foraging world, which you may find yourself becoming part of if you’re not careful.

And that world extends far beyond picking berries. Once you get interested in edible plants and fungi, you’ll find yourself becoming enthralled with their medicinal uses too, and their significance in bush craft, a wonderful umbrella term for traditional skills, survival skills and communing with nature. At least, that’s what happened to me.

It’s a wonderful world out there, and the wild parts are getting smaller. Good job then, that tiny bits of it spring up in the most unlikely of places. Cracks in pavements, railway embankments, untidy (and tidy!) gardens, housing estate plantations, parks and waste grounds are all good spots for the urban forager to glean a bounty. Of course, one must take into account several things when foraging. Let’s assume you have positively identified the plant you are about to pick and are confident about how to prepare it safely. That’s the number 1 rule.


Then the location needs to be free of pollution, pesticides and herbicides, and safe to forage in. It’s not always obvious if land has been treated or if the soil is heavily polluted, for example. Industrial estates or waste grounds are especially worth checking out before hand. Permission is of course needed too, and it’s important to obey the local laws. In some places it’s illegal to uproot a wild plant, and certain species are protected.

Taking all this into account, there’s a lot of fun to be had with wild foods, whether you’re in a country farmhouse or a high rise in Croydon.

I recommend starting with what you know…which is probably more than you think. Dandelions, Blackberries, Crab apples, Daisies and Nettles spring to mind.

Consider taking a foraging walk with a local guide. Really nothing beats learning from an expert. Libraries, community centres and gardening centre are places you might find them advertised. Social media is a good place to join in wild food and bushcraft communities and connect with what’s on in your area. Often these guided walks end with bringing some wild ingredients back to a kitchen and creating some sort of tasty dish with them, so it’s a great way to learn and meet people with similar interests.

And, of course, my growing collection of blog posts will, quite randomly, give you details of what’s in season at the moment.



You’ll save yourself some money on shopping bills and gym membership, become super zen and serene, and rewild all your friends too.

So there you have it. Set forth and get wild in the window boxes, the parks, the hedgerows and the beaches!


And remember my foraging motto;


Enjoy

Respect

Share

Wear Wellies


At least that’s my motto for today. Tomorrow it might be something else.




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