It’s now October 2019. The years tend to fly by as we get older. Life has become a little more stressful. Each of us are juggling busy lives that often conspire to sever our connection with the natural world. It often feels like there is a constant conflict between our commitments to our family and work life, leaving little left for our own mental well being.
Many of us now work disconnected from the natural world. Our homes and offices have air conditioning and central heating with artificial light further separating us from the daily rhythm’s of life. Each day is filled with deadlines and a constant pressure to meet the aspirations of those around us.
While few people would be willing or able to divorce themselves from the bustle of modern life, we often feel the call of the wild. We snatch a few minutes in the park watching the birds searching for food. We savour a few moments walking along the canal to work or watching the majestic Oak swaying in the wind through the office window. Counting the days to our annual holiday.
Whatever our age we seek a connection with the world around us. Children know the joy of exploring the local patch of woodland, or the innocent fun of playing Pooh Sticks etc.
Only as we grow older if not wiser do we often need an excuse to experience the joy in life’s simple pleasures.
Every one of us at some time has walked a path laden with Brambles and enjoyed that deliciously cool taste of a free treat. Not matter where we live within the UK there are hidden locations where we can find a few of nature’s edibles. A free feast that not only supplements our mass produced diet but helps close the gap between this modern era and the foot steps of our ancestors reconnecting us with nature.
Foraging for wild foods is becoming an increasingly popular past time and it a fantastic way to introduce our children to the great outdoors. Taking a short walk looking for a few berries or nuts forces us to slow down and take our first steps towards a more meditative mindful state.
Whilst looking for a few foraged leaves to boost a salad we become more aware of the world around us. We notice the lady bird hunting. We hear the blackbird calling. The scents and smells of the earth impact on our awareness. No longer are we apart from the world around us. We are now walking more softly and quietly, careful not to damage the beauty of the moment.
Our ancestors have survived for Millennia as hunter gatherers and later as farmers and only in more modern times have we been able to sustain large urban populations. Its no wonder that we all deep within us feel the call of the wild.
Many people are often reluctant to go foraging for fear of making a mistake that could prove disastrous for them and their family. Whilst it is never wrong to be cautious we often do not attempt to learn a new skill through fear of failure. For many people even in Western Europe foraging daily is still a vibrant part of their food culture. My advice would be to start slowly. Purchase a few guide books with a combination of plant drawings and photographs.
Book a course with a good local school.
Children love to forage and explore their surroundings. Taking your children out tracking and looking for wild edibles with ensure they grow with a great understanding their environment and be physically and mentally healthier. What could be healthier than spending time in the great outdoors collecting chestnuts for roasting? Much better than spending hours alone staring at a screen.
Safe Foraging Tips.
- Always seek landowner’s permission.
- Always follow the country code.
- Leave no trace.
- If in doubt leave it out.
- Wear proper clothing for the conditions. Old clothes are a good idea.
- Select your location carefully. A patch of wild berries growing on a busy road junction wouldn’t be my first choice for a top foraging spot. Pollution from vehicles and our pets is always a consideration.
- Bring gloves: Foraging is supposed to be fun. Stinging Nettles hurt.
- Adults should keep a close eye on little ones and remind them not to sample anything without checking first.
- Bring a container for your treasure. A basket or a cloth bag is a great choice. A large tupperware tub can be very useful for soft fruits like Mulberrys as they do stain everything.
Remember that you should only take enough of any crop for your immediate needs. Always leave plenty for the wild life to enjoy. It is best practice to forage far and wide taking a little here and there leaving no trace.
Whilst Foraging for wild foods is great fun for young and old mistakes can hurt. Some wild edibles resemble plants that are very toxic. Do not consume anything that you are not 100 percent certain in your identification.
There are no safe edibility tests. Despite what you may read on the internet.
Toxic plants do not necessarily taste bad. Life is rarely that simple.
You do not need to become an expert over night. Start with those plants you already know. Then add one or two more species at a time. Once you begin to learn the patterns and shapes of plants, identification becomes easier with practice. However it never hurts to consult a guide book or a more experienced friend.