Spring Foraging in the UK, a British Foraging Guide by Sarah Tamsin [guest post]

Spring Foraging in the UK - Dandelion

I feel as if spring has really snuck up on us this year. It’s officially time for people living in Britain (or anywhere temperate in the Northern Hemisphere) to come out of hibernation and start enjoying the extra hours of sunshine. And so, I have written this guide for spring foraging in the UK.

Despite living in a city, spring is palpable. It’s still light at 8pm, the warmth of the afternoon sun is beautiful but there’s enough of a morning chill to still need a scarf.

We’re very lucky in Cardiff, having so many large parks and green spaces to explore. Walking through the grounds of Cardiff Castle, Sophia Gardens or Bute Park, it’s so easy to forget you’re in the middle of a city. It’s difficult to hear the sound of the traffic through the birdsong and trees rustling in the breeze.

One of my favourite things about spring in Wales is that my favourite edible plants are sprouting up everywhere right now. I had no idea about edible plants until about four years ago, when I was introduced to foraging in the UK by a friend of mine.

Spring Foraging in the UK: What is Foraging?

Spring Foraging in the UK
Spring Foraging in the UK

The first time I went along ‘foraging’ with a group of friends I had absolutely no idea what to expect – rummaging through bins? Looking for scraps on the floor? Praying that those colourful berries are not poisonous?

Looking for edible plants growing in the wild has been done for centuries and it’s now growing in popularity recently with the rise of veganism and clean eating. Whether that’s your style or not, spring foraging in the UK offers up some delicious plants, which are fun to go out and collect.

Plus, using edible plants in recipes might just introduce you to some new flavours and put a little variety to your meals! Here are a few of my foraging tips for spring foraging in the UK:

1. Check before you eat

Spring Foraging in the UK - Dandelion
Spring Foraging in the UK – Dandelions are great great in spring salads.

I may have joked earlier about poisonous berries but it goes without saying that not all plants are edible. Even some familiar looking plants, fruits or vegetables have parts which cannot be eaten. There are plenty of books, websites and apps available, but if in doubt don’t put it in your mouth!

2. Don’t pick plants right next to a footpath

Spring Foraging in the UK - Elderflower
Spring Foraging in the UK – Elderflower flavours have grown in popularity. Why not make your own cordial?

Plants such as wild garlic grow low and just think; if you’re picking plants right next to a footpath, then they could have been stepped on, or peed on by a dog (gross), which is also why the next point is so important…

3. Wash before eating

Spring Foraging in the UK - Watercress
Spring Foraging in the UK – Watercress is great raw, but also makes for a delicious soup.

Rinse anything you’ve foraged with cold water before eating. Cooking at high temperatures will kill most bacteria found on raw plant matter, but you should always rinse first.

4. Don’t venture onto private land

Spring Foraging in the UK - Morel Mushroom
Spring Foraging in the UK – Morel mushrooms are tasty, though difficult to find. They grow around elm trees.

Be aware of where you’re walking if you’re ambling around the countryside. Make sure you’re not accidentally ransacking someone’s garden, farm or private property before you start harvesting plants.

It’s also illegal to pick plants from a public park where the plants have clearly been planted and maintained by the local authority. Only if the plants are truly wild should you forage away!

5. Watch out for bites, scratches and stings

Some tasty plants like to grow near pointy or stingy plants which can hurt you. Be careful!

Spring Foraging in the UK - Nettle tea
Spring Foraging in the UK – Nettle Tea

This is nettle tea. Tea made from stinging nettles. No thank you – this is where I draw the line.

6. Don’t over-pick

Spring Foraging in the UK - Sea Kale
Spring Foraging in the UK – Sea kale can be found on pebbly beaches. The flowers are particularly good.

Please, please don’t rob the earth of everything it has! Nature provides this goodness for us to enjoy, but we should be able to enjoy it and be responsible at the same time.

If you spot a plant that you want to forage, please leave some in the ground so nature can replenish what’s been taken. The same goes for fruits and nuts; leave some on the bush or tree for the next person or small animal who would also like some tasty natural treats.

7. Leave no trace

Spring Foraging in the UK - Sweet Violet
Spring Foraging in the UK – Sweet Violet flowers and leaves can be eaten and they spring up as early as February.

As above, be respectful of nature. Don’t drop litter on the floor – use the bin. You could even be extra responsible and collect any litter you see along the way!

Spring Foraging in the UK: Wild Garlic

Spring Foraging in the UK - Wild Garlic
Spring Foraging in the UK – Wild Garlic

This sea of wild garlic appeared in Roath Park, Cardiff in late March.

My absolute favourite plant to cook with is wild garlic. I love making garlic bread with it. It’s absolutely delicious and very easy to make. It’s not a strong garlic taste, in fact it’s very mild when cooked and you can always add more if that’s your thing!

The quickest and most simple way to enjoy wild garlic is by making garlic butter – mix butter, salt and wild garlic together in a bowl and chill until it’s ready.

Spring Foraging in the UK - Garlic Butter
Spring Foraging in the UK – Garlic Butter

Thank for your for guest post! What are your favourite edible plants to forage in the UK? Leave a comment to get involved in the discussion or follow Sarah Tamsin on Twitter or Instagram for more travel, outdoor and Welsh-related goodness!

Spring Foraging in the UK - Tamsin

I’m Tamsin, I live in Wales and I write Life Begins With Travel. As I’m planning to leave Wales in the next few months to travel long-term, I’ve made the effort to spend as much time exploring areas of the country I’ve never been to before.

I live in Cardiff, a medium-sized city and I’m still discovering things I never knew were there, even after 29 years of living here.

Spring Foraging in the UK - dandelions

 

Elderflower cordial recipe and wild garlic butter recipe - Spring Foraging in the UK

20 thoughts on “Spring Foraging in the UK, a British Foraging Guide by Sarah Tamsin [guest post]

  1. This is the first time I learned about foraging! Cool idea and I bet it’s a great activity. How do you check whether something is poisonous before you try to eat it? I guess one should good every plant before deciding to eat:)

    1. Hey Yaneck – yeah, the same for me too and now I feel like Sarah Tamsin has enlightened me! Yeah, be careful to check before you eat. Or get in contact with Sarah – she’s a font of information on this stuff.

  2. I’ve never been foraging before, but I’m very intrigued by it! I do worry about accidentally eating something that’s poisonous, but a book about local foraging or an app would definitely be helpful.

    1. Haha! True. I would definitely just stick to a guide – or yeah, an app is even better. Let me know if you find a good one.

  3. Some great tips here! I have always been keen to forage but have never quite known how to go about it. Thanks for insipiring me to get out there!

    1. Hey Louise, thanks for reading. It’s really interesting, right? I’m definitely going to be looking up more for different seasons and places too.

  4. I have never heard of foraging before, it sounds interesting! I’m not sure if it’s my thing, because I would be worried about eating the wrong thing! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Let’s all do it! Let’s start a movement! I feel like there needs to be more education about which plants/flowers are edible so that we can better make use of what’s in our environment. It’s amazing what is literally on the doorstep or in our gardens…

  5. I loved this! I actually found this super interesting. I’d be interested in learning exactly each plant I can eat. I loved you added some into this post, I didn’t know that about dandelions.

    1. Same, Nichole! Until Sarah Tamsin sent this my way I had no idea, but now I really want to try some. There are plenty of dandelions in my (weedy) garden, so I should try it out.

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