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Wild Food Foraging and Camp Cooking

Posted by laura on November 19 2013.

Wild Food Foraging - Blackberrying

I have become a bit of a wild food foraging nut of late, I am by no means an expert; about 10 years ago my wife and I bought a VW camper van, meaning we did more and more camping. This lead to more and more camp cooking, which in turn led me to get excited about the ingredients.

Wild Food Foraging –  I believe that camp cooking should be as much about great ingredients as cooking at home

My interest stems from many aspects of my life. I studied marine and environmental biology at University, which forced me to look at the world with a biologists’ mind, in particular looking a little closer at the natural world, and more recently become a keen gardener and taking on an allotment. The latter has really affected my interest in wild food and also made identifying plants that much easier, especially as a few of the more common salad plants are well known as weeds to gardeners.

Wild Food Foraging – Plant Identification

Words of warning, and there really are a few words of warning that need to be heeded. Firstly, plant identification can be an issue as there are many really tasty wild plants that have an imposter that looks very similar, but in fact is either not palatable or worse still, poisonous. For that reason, whilst I may mention many plants in my ramblings I shall only focus on plants that are very easy to identify. And even then, this blog is not a plant identification guide. You should never collect wild plants without such a guide. Identification guides include physical attributes, habitat and time of year that they can be found, all will help you make a positive identification.

Wild Food Foraging – Words of Warning

Just to make things even more confusing, many of the most dangerous families of plants are mostly known to us through a couple of edibles we know well. For example the family Solanacae we know for producing tomatoes and potatoes, is actually a family full of poisonous plants, including deadly night shade. Another familiar plant group Apiaceae (formerly known as Umbelliferae) which includes edible favourites; carrots, parsnips and parsley, also includes one of the most deadly wild plants, Hemlock, known for is use in Socrates trail and death.

Wild Food Foraging – Research the Area

Again further reading is a must as not only is there the wildlife and countryside act to consider there is also the countryside and rights of way act, as well as local byelaws. Additionally, land may be set as a national park or a site of special scientific interest, which dependant on its reason for being so, may have additional limitations. In essence, research both the area you will be foraging and the species you are looking for in order to have considered all the factors.

Wild Food Foraging – Consider the Environment

Even if there are no laws to consider, environmental issues are usually close to the heart of the average forager, in fact the laws related to foraging are often related to the environmental issues that foragers may worry about anyway. Overall it’s a simple process of thinking about what to leave behind for nature, and of course your next visit. Don’t dig up a whole plant if you only need a few leaves or flowers, or don’t take all the crop from a single area; taking only about 10% of what you find ensures the plants continued survival. After all you may wish to share this treasured spot with future generation, I know I am looking forward to collecting blackberries with my soon to be born daughter.

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