How To Forage In The Woods and Forests
Foraging is a great way to obtain nutritious and healthy foods like fruit, plants and herbs that can be used to make entire meals or simply to add taste. There is nothing fresher than picking your own and the benefits aren’t only the food – it’s getting out in the fresh air, seeing wildlife that may not be present where you live, and getting exercise while foraging.
But unlike foraging in the UK countryside or by the seaside, learning how to forage in the woods has a completely different feel and the shade they provide allows a variety of foods to be found – whether it’s growing on the forest floor or hanging from a tree. It’s important to know the basics until getting familiar with exactly where to find food when you’re just starting to understand how to forage in the woods or forest properly.
Top Tips For Foraging In The Woods
- When picking, ensure that you harvest responsibly. You may find that the food you are foraging is plentiful but only pick what you need and ensure that you leave enough for the wildlife, and for the next time you need to go back there.
- Tread lightly and aim not to cause any damage to the land underfoot and the plants you are picking – nature’s pantry is precious! Follow the footpaths and if you veer into the woods be careful not to trample young saplings.
- Find out where it is safe in the UK to practice how to forage in the woods, and get to know the land and which plants and fruit to pick there. Ensure that you know for certain that you can identify food that is safe to eat.
- Use sharp objects to cut your prunings and to get through branches because messy work can introduce infection into plants so the sharper the better. Clean knives and secateurs tools after each use. This way you will be limiting the transfer of bacteria through cross contamination.
- As a beginner, you might find that grazing fields or campsites with nearby forestry land are a good place to start. These areas are more frequently disturbed and in this way you are less likely to damage the area so the impact you make will be minimal.
- Heavy growth areas are less likely to cause an impact on the environment. Examples are nettle plants which grow in abundance, and also wild blackberries and even dandelions. These types of weed will grow back quickly so you can take your fill without having a negative effect.
- Try not to use plastic containers or bags to store your pickings in and use specialised canvas pouches. This will make sure that your foraged treats remain healthy for longer.
- As a prepper now living off the land, it’s important that you don’t pull out roots – plants need to grow back so only take cuttings and don’t take more than what you need. Unless what you are looking for is actually the root to eat.
What Kind Of Food Can I Find When Foraging In Woodland?
Flowers, nuts, seeds and fruit are all available for the British prepper if you know where to look, and excatly how to forage in the woods across the seasons. See below for some edibles you can pick when they are in season in the UK.
Through January and February, shoots are starting to appear and trees are beginning to bud. If you want to try wild nuts, you can even try acorns which are edible as long as they are ripe. You may still be able to find sweet chestnuts which can be roasted and eaten on their own.
Sloe berries and rosehips are great and can be used in jellies or you can make tea or even try making sloe gin.
Elderflowers can be picked through May to June and best done when the flowers are open, preferably on a sunny dry day. They are great to make cordial, infused tea and even elderflower champagne.
If you are a fan of making soups and pesto then wild garlic tastes fantastic and plants usually grow in abundance on the forest floor during March to July. The plants are a great addition to a nutritious salad too. Cut the plant close to the ground leaving the bulb in its place.
Blackberries are versatile and can be found on the bramble bush, usually found in hedgerows. They are wonderful for making jams which can store for months, jus, sauces and crumbles and you will find them in summer months. They grow almost anywhere because they have strong roots and are hardy. Be careful to wear gloves and cover arms and legs as the bushes are rather feisty and thorny! Pick juicy black ones around July.
Mushrooms and nettles will show themselves around February. Again, with nettles it might sound obvious but it’s important to wear gloves as there’s nothing worse than being stung. Nettles are great in soup and mushrooms offer sustenance in any meal. As we mentioned earlier though, it is easy to select the wrong mushroom and end up poisoning yourself.
Mallow is another key ingredient. The flowers can be eaten as well as the stems and the pink make a superb garnish that not only tastes delicious but brightens up a plate too. You will find them near hedgerows and in sunny pastures.
British Preppers, even beginners, will become attuned to what wild edibles can be picked over time and which months you can find particular foods.
Even for those looking at survival techniques, British foraging is a great way to experience picking different foods, most of which can be found in forestry areas, woodlands and even hedgerows. Stay safe, follow the rules, grab your gear and enjoy foraging in the forest using common sense and etiquette.