Foraging Tips for Beginners

Image ©GallowayWildFoods.com

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, some tasty wild foods have a sinister doppleganger that looks only subtly different to the untrained eye. But don’t be disheartened! There are plenty of very easy wins out there. All you need is a bit of perseverance, and a keen eye!

Here are my top 5 tips for getting into wild foods.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
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

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
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. Try to enjoy the learning process without getting frustrated or taking risks around uncertain identifications. There is always something new to discover!
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
3. Spend time getting to know your local area.

Foraging is about recognising the abundance that is around us all the time, not seeking out rare species. You may be amazed by how many tasty 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! I can eat over 300 different wild foods from within 10 minutes walk of my house throughout the year.
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. Remember that foraging is something you can do while you are doing something else! I needn’t always be a mission in its own right, just stay observant, be curious, and be open to new opportunities.

Foraging starts at home

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
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  to learn more.
The extra 1% is crucial because of the final golden rule of foraging:
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
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.
There are, in general, far less dangerously poisonous species than novice foragers imagine. But it only takes one mistake! It can be very useful to actively seek out poisonous species. Once familiar with them, there is much less to worry about. Beginners should certainly try to get familiar with foxglove (pre-flowering), hemlock water-dropwort and hemlock as soon as possible as they are the most common dangerously poisonous plant species. Fungi foragers should learn the key features of death caps, destroying angels and deadly webcaps.
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
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:

Image ©GallowayWildFoods.com. Do not use this image without express permission.


 

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *