The concept of harvesting wild food has been growing in popularity over the past year or so. So what is it about Foraging that is drawing people in and reigniting their love of nature?
As a foraging guide, I find real joy in taking groups out to meander through different environments on an exploration of plants, trees and fungi. The sense of wonder it sparks in people to discover how the plants that we would generally consider weeds, have amazing nutritional and medicinal qualities and are steeped in magical folklore, is inspiring. For many, foraging conjures a wonderful nostalgia, memories of picking blackberries as a child, walking through garlic scented woodlands with loved ones, or throwing sticky weed at unsuspecting victims. It’s well researched, that being in nature can have a profound effect on our physical and mental wellbeing. Fresh air, gentle exercise and nurturing a sense of connection to the land, are all beneficial aspects of time in nature, but perhaps foraging goes a step further in aiding this connection.
Foraging is a very mindful activity, it's all about slowing down and tuning in to your senses; seeing the differences in leaf shape, taking in the smells, feeling the textures - this sensory exploration is crucial in differentiating between delicious and deadly species. And, of course once you're completely sure you’ve correctly identified your bounty, there’s the enjoyment of taste in all its sweet, bitter, floral, pungent or subtle variations.
As well as improving our wellbeing, foraging can help to build an increased awareness of eating locally and seasonally. Moving away from monocultures and mass production, even in baby steps, is positive. Understanding the abundance of our hedgerows and woodlands encourages biodiversity and ignites a reciprocal relationship with nature when we are mindful about picking responsibly and sustainably. It helps us to reconnect to our land and the knowledge which has been lost in the technological world of today.
Some delicious Spring greens to look out for this month are:
- Hawthorn leaves - coming to life in the hedgerows, deliciously nutty.
- Nettle tops - super nutritious and great in soups or drunk as a tea.
- Wild Garlic - found in damp, shady woodlands. Delicious, nutritious and so versatile!
- Cleavers - AKA sticky weed, makes a wonderful spring tonic drink if infused in water.
- Primroses - beautiful addition to any salad or used as a cake topping.
by Leah Apostolou, Ecowild