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?
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
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
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
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
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!
This is nettle tea. Tea made from stinging nettles. No thank you – this is where I draw the line.
6. Don’t over-pick
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
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
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.
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!
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.