Our new writer Hannah Raven gives us a step by step guide to urban foraging.
In times of austerity it’s natural to look for new, fun ways to be frugal. Foraging for food is growing ever-popular, with specialist groups popping up across the country – particularly (and surprisingly) in city centres.
Don’t be put off by the concrete jungle. UK cities are renowned for their green spaces and even if you live in the middle of a metropolis, a park, wood or country trail won’t be far away. Check your local council website for open spaces – they make a perfect start point. You can also explore river and canal banks, particularly for brambles.
Channel your inner Bear Grylls with my top tips for food foraging in the city:
1. If you’re a beginner, join a group to learn the ropes. Check out Time Out’s guide to the capital’s best foraging meetings. Mushroom specialist site fungitobewith.org also runs events and trips around London.
2. Sign up to abundance.com – a special group of urban harvesters who pick fruit from private land that would otherwise go to waste, and make a small donation to the land owner.
3. If you go it alone, it is important you know what to be wary of. Download a picture guide like this one from Wild Food School to help identify what to pick.
4. Avoid dreaded ‘get-off-my-land’ moments by getting wise to the legal side. Check out BBC’s guide on where it’s safe to pick.
5. Check what is in season and plan recipes to make the most of your harvest. Late May – June is elderflower season and the perfect time to make your own cordial, wine and champagne.
6. Plan your day carefully. The best time to pick herbs, for example, is early morning once the dew has dried. If foraging on hedgerows or road-sides choose a time when roads are quiet.
7. Collect recipes to make the most of the foods available in your area. Visit wildmanwildfood.co.uk for some unusual wild food recipes.
9. Lastly, talk to people. You are bound to bump in to like-minded folk at London’s foraging hotspots like Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park or Wimbledon Common, and it’s likely they’ll be happy to share some foraging secrets.