Top tips for safe foraging and ideas for where to go
Autumn is awesome for food and drink in the Wye Valley & Forest of Dean, and September’s British Food Fortnight (BFF) will serve up delicious dishes and drinks to whet the appetite indoors and outdoors.
To celebrate BFF between 22 September and 7 October go for a forage in the forest or fields where bountiful food sources are abundant with mushrooms, nuts, berries to name a few, while the rivers Severn and Wye land nets full of fresh fish and eels.
Following a stroll to fill your boots take the tasty, fresh produce home and cook, but beware, knowing what is safe to eat is essential for foraging trips. For example, the Honeysuckle flower may taste of honey, but the Honeysuckle seeds are poisonous.
To help a novice forager Yvette Farrell at Harts Barn Cookery School offers eight tips:
- Only go with an approved Forager
If you decide to forage with an expert, check their credentials, to avoid getting the wrong advice. Check the Tourism Association website for accredited foragers and regular events and classes throughout the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean.
- Don’t look for specific things
Foraging is all about discovering what there is to eat rather than going to look for it. Go out into the woods and fields with an open mind as well as a big basket.
- Know your land
It may seem obvious but make sure you know the land you are foraging on is open to the public. Or ask permission of the land owner – maybe offer to share your finds with them.
- Avoid roadsides
Although easy to get to, hedgerows and verges next to roads have a greater risk of pollution and contamination from vehicles and other road users, so don’t risk it. You should also avoid foraging on known dog walking routes for similar reasons.
- Pick what you need
When you have found what you are looking for, don’t over pick. Take what you need and allow the food source to remain sustainable. If you pick seeds from a hedgerow then scatter a few to help the plants thrive? Don’t forget that wildlife also relies on the food you are foraging, so be nice and share.
- Foraging is seasonal
Don’t expect your food sources to be available all year round. Much of the produce we forage is seasonal, but that mean you can create different recipes throughout the year from different trips. The Forest of Dean has an abundance of wild garlic in the spring, and sweet blackberries in the autumn, but you can find nettles to cook with all year round.
- Forage at home
Your garden may be a larder full of edible wild plants and flowers. Ground Elder, the bane of many a gardener, can be used in cooking while nettles make tasty teas and soups. Remember a weed is simply a plant in the wrong place.
- Cook what you collect
Once you have gathered your foraged food, make sure you cook with it – don’t let it go to waste.
Where to try or learn foraging
Join an escorted foraging trip to find seasonal produce, then enjoy cooking it afterwards at Harts Barn Cookery School. Or book a foraging weekend at Tudor Farmhouse, where what you find during the day is prepared for you by its chef at night.
If gin is your thing then try a botanical gin workshop through Penheim Glamping, which includes a hunt with forager and gin maker, Adele Nozedar, who helps find wild ingredients to flavour a personalised gin. Under Adele’s guidance guests will serve up a cocktail using fresh-picked ingredients and create an own-blend jar to take home.
Try foraging as a family at the Forest Showcase Food Festival this October. Hire a local forager for a walk through Speech House woods, where you and your children will learn how to identify and gather a range of wild foods including spices, seeds, nuts, berries fruit and more – turning what grows in your garden and in the wild into store cupboard ingredients.
Maureen McAllister, executive director of Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism said: “The Wye Valley and Forest of Dean is a natural supermarket of wild food from hedgerows, forests, fields and rivers. For British Food Fortnight, get outside because it’s so satisfying to gather food and cook it yourself. If you fancy being spoilt, join an organised foraging trip or visit one of dozens of restaurants, pubs and cafes that offer freshly picked seasonal produce.”
For more information on visiting the Forest of Dean and foraging trips or courses see www.wyedeantourism.co.uk