Foraging Tips

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The huge diversity of wild plants and fungi can be very daunting to the novice forager. The form of plants can vary greatly between seasons and even individual plants within a species can look different depending on where they are growing. Fungi can be even more bewildering as they can turn from immature buttons to festering carcasses almost overnight. Worse still, many tasty wild foods have a sinister doppleganger that is only subtly different. But don’t be disheartened! All you need is a bit of perseverance, a keen eye and a bit of luck!
Here are my top 5 tips for getting into wild foods.
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1. Get a good guide book and get out there!

Food for Free by Richard Maybe is a great starter book that will give you a feel for the range of wild foods that are available. It is NOT however, suitable for identifying potentially poisonous species and you will need more specialised plant and fungi field guides for accurate identification. Carry them with you whenever there is any chance of stumbling on something interesting – you will never gain any confidence by just leafing through pages at home. You can’t come to any harm by just looking at plants and fungi – and even deadly species can’t harm you by touch!

You can’t have too many guide books

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2. Don’t be too ambitious.

Start off trying to identify just a few species that don’t have any sinister lookalikes such as wood sorrel, wild garlic, chanterelles, hedgehog mushrooms and sloes. This will build up your identification skills and you will start to gain confidence with trickier species. If you only learn 3 new species per year, you will know 30 in 10 years time! Check out my wild food guide and “In Season Now” feature for tips on what to look for. Don’t fool yourself into thinking there are short cuts to becoming a proficient forager – I have been doing it for 25 years and am constantly delighted by how much there is to still discover. This is great because I learn something new every time I go out.
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3. Spend time getting to know your local area.

You may be amazed by how many edible species actually grow as weeds around your house, and that wood you have walked the dog in for years may yield all manner of tasty things if you really look! Also plants can look very different between seasons and mushrooms can spring up and rot away in a week – so it pays to be consistent. Taking an interest in all you come across, edible or not, will hone your identification skills.

Foraging starts at home

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4. Go out with an expert

Nothing gives you more confidence than to see somebody pick and eat that mushroom that you were 99% sure was a chanterelle.
Please see my pages on foraging tuition, guided forays and past events to learn more.
The extra 1% is crucial because of the final golden rule of foraging:
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5.  NEVER EAT ANY WILD FOOD WITHOUT FIRST BEING 100% SURE OF ITS IDENTITY – you could kill yourself if you can’t recognise poisonous species.
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There are lots of tips on mushroom foraging in this video we made at one of my guided fungi forays:

You can view more foraging videos here
Related pages:

 

2 Responses to “Foraging Tips”

  1. Karen McCafferty Says:

    Hi I am looking to come on one of your foraging days preferably in August 2014 – Could you send me some details please Thank you
    Karen

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