Foraging for food: what can you find in the hedgerows?
We are all used to picking up a plastic punnet of strawberries from the supermarket, but there is an alternative to shop-bought fruit and vegetables. If you get your seasons right and know where to look, foraging your own fresh ingredients is fun, environmentally-friendly and can result in some delicious smoothies. So what should you be looking out for in the hedgerows?
There are a variety of different cherry species growing wild in the UK, and you’ll find them between May and June. Although all are edible, some are more sour and sharp than others – it’s worth a little nibble before you blitz them into your smoothies!
Blackberries are hard to get hold of in the shops, but abundant in the woods and hedgerows around autumn time. Avoid the prickles and you’ll be richly rewarded by a delicious crop, adding colour and flavour to your smoothie blend.
Wild redcurrant hybrids don’t produce as many berries as garden-grown species, but they’re still a tasty addition to your smoothie if you can find them. You’ll spot these bright red berries between June and September.
One of our favourite smoothie ingredients, wild strawberries can often be spotted in woodland between May and August. While they may be smaller than the commercially-grown, shop-bought varieties, they certainly pack more of a punch for flavour!
Bilberries are so delicious, it’s hard not to keep munching away on them as you’re harvesting! These small, dark purple berries are at their best between July and September, so keep an eye out on your ramblings over the summer and you could be in luck.
These small, almost black berries can usually be gathered between August and October, and can’t be found in the supermarket. Growing on the elder tree, you’ll spot them overhead in woodland and hedgerows everywhere, so take some scissors on your walk and snip a few off as you go.
Foraging is a great way to get your hands on some free smoothie ingredients, as well as being sustainable and fun! Keep your eyes peeled on your next stroll and you could find some incredible, flavoursome fruit to add to your next blend.
Foraging Safely and Responsibly
It’s important to be aware of some rules when heading out to forage for while fruit. These rules are to keep you safe, but also to protect the local ecology from harm. In the UK, we must adhere to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which prevents you from digging up plants without the landowners permission, or to forage on protected Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). You must be sure to check the specific laws in your area before you start picking anything. If in any doubt – ask your local authority.
Here are some basic rules to follow;
Be absolutely sure of what you are picking
Probably the most important rule of them all. There are plants and fungi out there that can kill you. There are also fruits and berries which may look very similar, however one may be edible and the other poisonous. Never pick or eat wild plants unless you are 100% sure of its identification. If you are in any doubt, leave it. There are laws protecting rare and endangered species so you could face a fine if you pick one of these by mistake.
Do not trespass
Do not trespass on private property to forage for wild food as you could face prosecution. Always ask permission from the landowner first.
Do not take more than you need
Only pick where there is an abundance of fruit, and leave enough for other people and local wildlife to enjoy. Over-picking can also impact the following year’s crop. The Wild Food UK site has a good rule to not pick more than half of what you find.
Respect your environment
You may need to bring a pair of scissors or a small knife (check your local laws) to help safely harvest fruit without uprooting or causing excessive damage to the plant. Be aware of your surroundings, don’t damage other plants around you as you forage and be sure not to disturb any wildlife.
Do not pick in polluted areas
Avoid picking fruit from areas very close to roads, near industrial estates or near farmland where they may have used large amounts of pesticides/herbicides. Also avoid areas which are used by dog-walkers. Picking and eating fruit from these sorts of areas can put your health at risk.
Thoroughly wash your harvest before consuming
Leading on from the last rule, even if you are foraging deep into the countryside, you never know what has come into contact with the things you are picking. Be sure to properly wash anything you pick before you eat it – specially if you are using it fresh in a smoothie rather than cooking with it.