Wild foraging is an amazing art that most of us have long forgotten. Once upon a time we were all foragers and farmers, we all knew how to grow our on food and tend to our animals and adapt to seasonal food availability. The dawn and advent of supermarkets, gave convenience to busy families, but robbed them from their knowledge and independence. The land gives its organic nutrient filled delicacies for free that we can pick with no charge, no plastic wrapping or transportation costs. I will cover some of the more obvious fruits and nuts that you will come across in north Wales on your foraging endeavours, in this article.
Wild foraging in north Wales is so abundant. Once you tune your eyes in to what your looking for you will start seeing the fruits of your choice everywhere. The trick is tree identification and leaf identification. That is the key. This is how I began learning again from scratch, how to identify the trees and their leafs and then you will be ale to identify the fruit.
Why try to identify the trees first you ask? Simple What you will most see at eye level is what? The tree trunk. Often, the leaves and branches are high up out of sight. Granted if you are going wild foraging when the fruits are on the floor, then yes you will see the fruit or seed first, but more often than not, the forests don’t give away their bounty that easy!
It’s the most beautiful things to do with the family, as it gathers you all together among the one thing that unifies us all. Nature. Take a picnic and make an afternoon of it with your loved ones. Foraging in north Wales can be quite an adventure if you plan it right, get good weather and make it fun.
We are currently in spring as I write this, a couple of season early, but its important that you all do your learning ready for autumn months when the fruits are ready for harvest. See our book reference guide list below. Get a few books and begin your journey to learning all things foraging.
Pack a rucksack and a basket and collect a little of each variety to learn, and remember to leave a a fair share for the beasts and inhabitants of the forests.
Here is a list of the most common things you can seek out as a beginner and get your confidence up. Once you have gathered them, your next assignment is to figure out what to do with them! Thats for another article..
One word of warming, we do not endorse going to eat any wild foods without going with a professional who knows what he or she is doing. Explore and gather as you learn and them as you develop your skills branch out into using it too cook.
- Beech Nuts
Once immensely popular amongst British , Beechnuts are not much sought after these days as they are difficult to find with most of the Uk forests gone. The seeds feature a spiky exterior that needs to be scrapped off to find the seeds. These can be sprinkled on risottos and salad. Roasting in the oven will help with the removal of shells. Consumption of large quantities of these nuts can prove to be toxic
- Hawthorn Berries
Also referred to as haws, the leaves of Hawthorn berries are considered to be ‘bread and cheese’ owing to their culinary qualities. Some people consume the leaves as they are edible. The haws cannot be consumed raw owing to the starchy and dry flesh. These taste better when cooked and used in the form of ketchup, vinegar, jellies and jams. The berries, flowers and leaves of hawthorn possess medicinal properties. These can be great for treating conditions such as irregular heartbeat and chest pain.
These are popular for helping combat with harsh winter cold. The seed pods are usually red or orange and found commonly in hedgerows. The fleshy covering of rosehips comprises of hairy seeds. The outer layer is rich in vitamin C and can be used for treating flu, cold as well as vitamin C deficiency. It can also be used in making jams, jellies and syrups that can be poured on pancakes and ice-creams.
Sloes are usually picked up by the end of September. The acidic fruits are used for making a wintry drink referred to as the sloe gin. Picking the first frost is the general rule as it helps in releasing the juices contained. You can also make vinegar, jams and whisky with these berries. The berries are rich in antioxidants that help in fighting free radicals and prevent ageing. These are also rich in vitamin C that helps in stimulating collagen in the skin.
- Wild Raspberry
Spread throughout the UK, wild raspberries possess a sharp flavour. It is quite difficult to distinguish between the cultivated and native populations of these berries. These can be used similar to commercial raspberries in the form of sorbets. The leaves can be used to make herbals teas for their medicinal properties.
- Wild Strawberry
These are smaller is size and have seeds all over the surface. The fruits are quite small when compared to cultivated strawberries which make it quite difficult to pick them. The scented and fragrant flavour can however be hard to resist. These can be eaten by sprinkling cream and sugar on them. These can also be added to puddings. Tea made from the leaves can be used in treating stomach ailments, cold and diarrhoea.
The black bullace is commonly found all over England and is a wild variety of plum. The fruits can be used to make fruit wine, preserves, jams and crumbles. The small oval fruits are usually purple, black or blue and taste acidic until they are completely ripe. These are usually used for stewing and for making fruit wine. Bullace fruit pie was once immensely popular and used to be a common centerpiece in harvest homes during the 19thcentury.
Hazelnuts trees are quite common in hedgerows and woods. These bear nuts that can be roasted to make hazelnut butter. It is advised to collect them while they are still green and young. These can be used in making pralines, liqueur, oil and a lot more. The oil is flavored strongly and can also be used as cooking oil.
- Sweet Chestnut
Sweet chestnuts were introduced to the UK by the Romans. This plant is a member of the family of the flowering plants, Fagaceae. It is native to deciduous woodlands of North Africa, Western Asia and Europe. The seeds can be found at the base of large trees from October to early winter. The nuts can be boiled, roasted and baked to craft different recipes. These can be eaten as they are once cooked and peeled. These can also be used in stuffing, desserts and to make syrups.
Walnut trees can be found easily in urban areas and park lands. These were again introduced to the UK by the Romans. The shells have to be cracked open to obtain the nuts. These can be eaten raw or picked or dried. The nuts that have been dried can be stored for over a year and used in savory and sweet dishes.
- Hairy Bittercress
If you are looking for peppery leaves to add to your winter salad, then you must try hairy bittercress. This is an annual herb featuring rounded leaves. Most gardeners classify it as a weed. However, the flowers and leaves have a tangy, bittery flavor which renders it delicious. The leaves can be picked from the center of this rosette-like plant which can be found amidst vegetable patches and flower beds.
This climbing, creeping plant belongs to the same family as cannabis. All parts of this plant are edible. The seed cones are used majorly for stabilizing and flavoring beer. These possess a zesty and bitter flavor. These are used to make infusions, tinctures and teas. The dried flowers are stuffed inside the pillows and are believed to induce sleep. This perennial creeping vine possesses sedative properties. It has been used as a natural remedy for insomnia for centuries. This herb has a relaxing effect on the nervous system and reduces anxiety and tension throughout the body.
These are obtained from the coniferous evergreen pine tree. The seeds can be dislodged from open pine cones by shaking them. These trees are ideal for winter foraging since both seeds and needles are edibles of various species of pine trees. The tea made from extracting pine needles is rich in vitamin C and is a great remedy for cold. It is also rich in beta-carotene and vitamin A. seeds can either be toasted or roasted and can also be eaten raw.
If we ever get out of lockdown I may run some courses, to take people to learn the basics of hedgerow and wild foraging around Anglesey. If your interested in coming on a foraging foray with me,register here or click the image and ill get back to you with availability as and when we know what is going on in the Uk with things.
There are quite a handful of books in the foraging space and there are a few gems of which I truly love. There a mix of books that I recommend, ones to recognise trees, ones to understand the old ways of self sufficiency and ones for foraging as a whole. The subject is a bit bigger than foraging itself, as the principles go a long way further. If you like the books, they are on our amazon store, we get a 1% commission from any purchase which gives us a tiny bit of the sale. It helps to get us a coffee every now and again! For note- I have each of the books below and more, I won’t recommend anything that I don’t love to you all!
We hope this blog is a little insightful and gives you a little taste as what the autumn months have to offer for foraging here in north Wales. Get some reading done, your identification of trees up and then start finding areas of forests that you can explore. Look for waterways and embankments, a lot of trees grow near water. See our blog on trees of north Wales from a while back here, that should help you a bit..
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Tan Y Tro Nesaf / Until the next time,
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