As part of our ongoing Reconnect project, we’re on a mission to connect with individuals who share our passion for the outdoors. Those who embrace nature in one way or another. Grasping the abundance of what Mother Earth offers with both hands, and all with all senses.
This week chef and food sustainability advocate Xanthe Gladstone shares her guide for springtime foraging with us. Xanthe’s mission is to educate people about the positive effects that the right food choices can have on ourselves and our environment.
Spring is a fantastic time to go foraging. I always pine for Spring more than any other season. The darkness of winter can seem to go on forever and Spring brings hope and light.
There is nothing like going out for a walk in early March to see everything come to life again, the trees blossoming and the greenery growing back. Wild Spring vegetables are also a very important part of our “awakening” after winter as they help to detoxify our bodies after the long hard winter. They are mostly bitter vegetables, which are specifically very good for our livers.
These wild plants are also a good place, to begin with foraging, as they are mostly quite easily identifiable. However, please always be 100% sure you know what a plant is before you even think about eating it. I have outlined my five favourite things to forage at this team of the year for you to enjoy in your neck of the woods.
1. Wild Garlic
Found near water, on marshy soil. Follow the smell!
I always see the time that wild garlic starts to appear like the end of winter and the beginning of greener, warmer, and lighter times. It’s such a wonderful edible wild plant that can be used in so many different ways. You can use the leaves and also the bulbs later in the season. Try pickling the bulbs for the most delicious and tangy flavour. With the leaves, try making pesto, adding them to soup, or just adding them to your daily greens!
Found in abundance anywhere in the grass, around trees, walls, and fences. Make sure you pack gloves when you’re going out to forage nettles, they’re called “stinging nettles” for a reason.
I absolutely love nettles, I think that they are quite underrated. When nettles are cooked, they really act like a more interesting and nutritious version of spinach. There is nothing like a good nettle soup with a dollop of creme fraiche on it. Nettles are also well known to be good for our skin, so if you are having problems in that area consider drying the leaves to make tea. Careful when you are picking them, but once they are cooked,
Found in abundance anywhere in the grass, around trees, walls, and fences. You might’ve known these as sticky willy once upon a time, easily recognisable as they will stick to anything they can.
On a warm Spring day, there is nothing like a cold bottle of water infused with cleavers and lemon. Bitter herbs are abundant in Spring because they are supposed to help cleanse our bodies after a long winter. They don’t taste amazing to cook with, but they’re so refreshing in a drink and you can kind of feel how good for you they are.
Found in abundance anywhere in the grass. Dandelions are recognisable by their bright yellow flowers and their leaves shaped like rocket leaves.
All parts of the dandelion plant are edible and extremely good for you. You can use the leaves in salads, the flowers to make tea (they dry nicely too), and the root to make a detoxifying drink. They are also incredibly good for liver function, full of antioxidants, and help fight inflammation.
5. Gorse Flowers
Found mainly on clay soil, commons and heathland. You can identify gorse by its bright yellow flowers
Gorse flowers have a delicious coconutty taste to them which is why people love them so much. I think the beautiful colours of the flowers is also why people are attracted to them. Try adding them to your home-brewed kombucha for a second ferment or making a gorse ice-cream, or if you really like them, just eat them as a snack!
I hope this is a good place to start for you and your foraging. I absolutely love foraging and think it’s important we make use of the beautiful abundance of wild edible plants that are on our doorstep. With all edible plants that you are foraging, make sure you are sure you know what you are eating before you eat it. Happy hunting!