Collecting ‘food for free’ is the sexy way to go now but it wasn’t too long ago that people who collected wild foods were considered to be hippyish crackpots. However, there’s so much interest in foraging, survival, and fresh and local ingredients that those of us who get out there and actually ‘do’ it are beginning to appear normal!
Our ancestors had it all worked out. They had no choice of course, and with none of our modern supermarket conveniences to rely on, their lives had to follow the seasons. After the shortage of fresh foods in winter they would look forward to the nourishing green shoots that would give a natural boost to their immune systems in the spring and they would preserve as much as possible for the winter.
They also didn’t have the internet to check out recipes…but you do, so be brave and experiment, and whilst I’m not encouraging you to wreak havoc in the great outdoors by thrashing around wholesale on farmers’ land, through woodlands, or taking pot-shots at pheasants or bunnies, there is a whole new food-world out there that can supplement your diet.
If you’re a virgin forager and intend to spend some serious time rootling around the hedgerows then there are a few obvious but sensible ‘rules’. Never eat anything that you are unsure of, buy at least two plant identification books with clear photos (not drawings), pick from lane verges where there is little traffic and certainly from above and beyond dog pee level… Never take all the plants from one area, and never, but NEVER dig them up. There are helpful websites with countryside ‘rules’, which also list plants that are illegal to pick.
For more information see Wild Plants and the Law.