Tips for foraging
It’s easy to get carried away – be mindful of how you are collecting and the effect your foraging could have.
Age Range: all ages
Duration: less than an hour
Time Of Day: any time
Category: food outdoors
It is important that you look into foraging carefully, to investigate who owns the land, and how and what you are collecting.
Also make sure you have a plan to use or preserve your foraged bounty so it doesn’t go to waste once its collected.
Make sure you have the landowner’s permission to collect on their land.
There may be exceptions to this – I have collected blackberries and dandelions in large parks in Sheffield that are open public spaces – but it is always best to check who owns the land you would like to forage on.
A positive way to approach a landowner would be to offer them something that you plan to make with the bounty of your collections from their land (a pot of jam, a bottle of cordial) and also explain how you will collect sustainably.
How much is too much?
It is important to leave enough plants or fruit in a location, for wildlife to feed on, and to allow nutrients to reabsorb back into the ground.
A general rule of thumb would be to plan to take up to a quarter or a third of what is there as a maximum.
Many plants that are foraged are plentiful. But you may be collecting something in a location where others also collect, so consider what the combined effect could be.
For example in a massive field filled with dandelions, a couple of bags full would not even be a couple of per cent of what was there, and it is unlikely anyone else would be collecting dandelions.
Recently whilst out collecting blackberries it was obvious many people had been collecting there before us. But there was a lot of fruit on the bushes, overripe and falling to the floor, so I could see there was plenty of fruit left to feed the birds, ground-dwelling animals and also to reabsorb into the ground.
If you collect a rare item then probably any is too many.
What to take
Aim not to remove the whole of the plant.
If you take the top of it – the stalks, leaves or flowers – leave the roots.
Ideally leave behind what you are not going to use, allowing nutrients to be absorbed back into the soil for future plants.
How to collect
Wear appropriate clothing – usually long-sleeved tops and trousers to prevent scratches.
Prepare the correct collecting and transportation vessels.
Move around as you pick to prevent too much being taken from one area.
If you’re heading somewhere remote make sure someone knows where you have gone and when you expect to return.
Consider if where you are foraging could be contaminated now or in the past.
Avoid plants growing on previously contaminated land such as industrial sites.
Plants near busy roads can be covered in, and absorb, the traffic pollution.
Plan to use foraged items.
Have a plan of action for using your foraged items. It’s so sad to see lots of items such as blackberries being picked and then put in the fridge and forgotten about, and going all mouldy then onto the compost.
If you are going to cook your harvest, make sure you have the time and other ingredients required for the recipe ready.
If you are going to freeze your foraged produce make room in your freezer in advance so they can go straight in on arrival.