The DOs and DON’Ts of Foraging
Robert Fallon • Published February 2016

Here are some key pointers when you’re out for a forager’s bimble!

All plants and fungi have a role to play in the ecosystem. Remember that they can be food, medicine or poison, or a combination. They have their own life cycles and you can best harvest them at certain times through the year, and sometimes only certain parts of the plants.

Some are super foods and delicious, while others can hurt – badly, so treat them with respect and you cant go awry.

Pick a few species and get to know them and what you can do with them, for instance eat raw, cook, pickle, infuse. Get to know there life cycles.

Buy a selection of wild food books, and use them as a study aid, and source of ideas and inspiration.

From a legal point of view you can safely forage if not undertaken for commercial gain. This is effectively anything you can reach and pick from a place of public access or on common land.

On private land one will technically need the landowners permission, and its advisable not to dig or uproot wild plants unless you have permission to do so, or are on your own land.

In short, use common sense and be respectful.

The Do’s

  • Do fully explore your local area and its resources.
  • Do take a field guide with you to identify and increase your knowledge base.
  • Cross-reference anything you are unsure of.
  • Start simple, nettles, elderflower, dandelion, chestnuts etc. Get confident and in the foraging habit.
  • Have fun, get curious and learn!

The Don’ts

  • Take more than you need – rule of thumb take 20%. Leave some for the wildlife and to grow for next year.
  • If you don’t know don’t eat!! By all means pick and try to identify at home, even pick with gloves if needed.
  • Mushrooms! As a general rule of thumb, leave them alone. Do not even touch them. There are many delicious edibles out there, but get informed first, a workshop or guided walk is best. Never rely solely on a book.
  • Don’t pick from the roadsides of busy roads, or dog walk. For water plants be confident there is no agricultural leaching from fields into the watercourse, or other pollutants.

Don’t pick the umbilifa  - the umbrella - family; there are many delicious edibles in this family, but also some harmful ones. Get confident and sure in your identification of the edibles of this family before you try.

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