Usually with an upsurge in foraging comes a sting in the tail. An increase in the number of poisoning.
Delighted that so many folk are getting out and finding the plants local to them that are edible and the nutritional and medicinal aspects makes me happy.
With lockdown there has been a spike of interest and with that an increase in poisonings. So I feel the need to reiterate one simple rule of foraging.
Do not pick or eat anything you do not 110% know what it is. Don’t even nibble on them. In the UK we have some poisonous plants that can make you very ill or kill you with a nibble.
We have safe plants such as wild garlic, nettle and dandelion as we go through the season we are now coming into the carrot family time and that is where the danger lies. This family contains some of the UK’s deadliest plants. Sweet Cicely is delicious and is wonderful added to traditional recipes such as rhubarb crumble. But if you mistake it for Hemlock your serving up a deadly dish that will kill you.
Learning to forage takes time to learn. The art of learning through the seasons and seeing the plants year after year is when you really learn the plants around you. All plants have different parts that are used at different times of the year. If you eat too much wild garlic you will get stomach ache. Only the tops of nettles are used before they flower as the post flowering leaves contain microscopic calcium carbonate that can damage delicate tissues like your kidneys. Yes you would have to eat a lot of post flowering leaves to do this. There are good reasons for these rules. If you eat a lot of dandelion leaves you will pee a lot and with enough give yourself the runs. The rules seem like a killjoy but they are not they are there to keep you safe and healthy.
Folk need to be patient and methodical in their learning. Our natural larder is amazing and when you can identify the plants correctly you open up a whole new world and in no way am I discouraging you from learning this wonderful art. But please exercise caution and sensible rules to keep yourself safe.
Internet learning is fraught with so many pitfalls it is not worth doing unless from a reputable source. More than ever we are seeing so much misinformation and rabbit hole moments trying to find information on the internet and not just around foraging. As much as we like to be independent learners some subjects we need guidance on. This is true of foraging. I have read so much misinformation online about plants over the years it is scary.
Please contact your local forager about identification. You may have to wait and not get an instant answer as foragers are very busy right now. Better than poisoning yourself.
Get some decent foraging books. There are plenty on the market now. I have a posted the books I trust on a previous post on here.
As for apps that seem like a good idea they are often wrong and when you start out you should not take their ‘word’ for it. Check in a book, email/what’s app your local forager. A few apps are linked to live botanists and these although take longer than the other apps are more reliable.
Find your local forager at https://foragers-association.org/Home
Foraging for the most part is not instant gratification. It is slow and detailed. These are not negative virtues. Learning over time gives you more confidence and an awareness of your local environment.
Please please follow the rule of not picking or eating anything you do not 110% know what it is. Not even a nibble. Check, check and recheck. Thanks.