This year has been our first offering workshops with guest trainers. We've just finished the last of the foraging workshops with Monica Wilde and we'd like to share some of the tips we've picked up. Foraging is all about appreciating and respecting your local environment, while enjoying what nature has to give! It's a refreshing way to become more aware of your surroundings and contribute to a sustainable diet. Read on to see what tips we've picked up from Monica.
Mushrooms were one of the topics we talked about the most due to the large variety of species in the local woods! Mushrooms come in all shapes and sizes, can have wondrous healing powers and are a very tasty edition to your meals, brewed in broths, chopped up into stews and dehydrated. But they come with a fair warning. Not all mushrooms are edible, so Monica advises that you should approach them with a sense of caution - and respect. There's a big, wide world of fungi out there and you shouldn't pick mushrooms unless you've done your research thoroughly. A little tip we can pass on though: plants usually send out warnings that signal if they're unsafe to eat. A basic rule of thumb: if they've got rusty coloured gills or bright red spots, don't eat them! Wild Food UK have put together an information guide on identifying edible and poisonous mushrooms.
Wild sorrel, nettles and winter cress - all are fantastic additions to your pantry! Whether you're looking to make a refreshing herbal tea or add texture to your meals, nature has a lot of leafy greens to offer throughout the seasons. Take some time to research and get to know the greens in your area. There are lots of varieties out there that are relatives of – or very similar to – the types you find in the supermarket. Here's some information on the benefits of wild greens and the top 10 edibles to look out for.
It's not just strawberries, raspberries and blueberries out there. There are lots of wild berries packed with micronutrients to enjoy, if you know how to look for them! One of the most common and versatile species is the elderberry. Elderberries are typically tart and are regularly used in wines, chutneys, jams and juices. The fruit tends to grow in small clusters and is black, bluish-black, or purple. They're common in woodland areas, but make sure not to mix them up with other berries! Here's some information on wild berries to try, and to avoid.
Now we've talked about what you can pick, let's talk about what you can do with it!
The process of dehydration is an awesome way to preserve your harvest. But how do you do it and what do you use it for? Dehydration does require some equipment. You can either buy a dehydrator online, varying in size to suit your needs, or you can make your own dehydrator. Most foods can be dehydrated, and can be left all year round in a cool place to be enjoyed when ready. You could use it to make a loose leaf tea, dried fruit for a tasty snack or for mushrooms to add to a broth. It's a very easy process that requires little to no intervention, and would make a great project for the family!
Another great way to preserve your harvest is pickling, or fermenting. Fermenting is one of the oldest known preservation techniques known to us, and it's easy to see why! Not only does it make some delicious snacks, it's also very good for your gut. You could brew your own alcohol, pickle some wild garlic or make some kombucha! There are many different ways to ferment your produce, commonly using sugar, vinegar or salt water.
Last but not least, let's talk about cooking! There are thousands of foraging recipes out there, and with a quick internet search, they're all at your fingertips. You could replace all of your condiments with your own homemade versions, or you could include some of your foraging finds in your favourite recipes for the home. One of our favourites that Monica demonstrated was chutneys and jams to put with cheese. With a bit of sugar and some tangy vegetables, it's easy to whip up your own sauces to compliment your meals.
We hope this inspires you to start foraging your own foods and getting to know your local environment. Share some of your finds and new additions to the pantry, and don't forget to tag us so we can see them! @green_aspirations
We've also put together some resources for you to get you started:
Wild Food: A Complete Guide for Foragers by Roger Phillips
Great British Chefs - foraging recipes
Grow Forage Cook Ferment blog - seasonal and sufficient living
Month by Month foraging guides - Woodland Trust