Foraging for food is one of my all time favourite things. I mean, who doesn’t like fresh food for free? But it is not just that. Foraging is fantastic on so many levels.
1. Going Seasonal
Here at Pumpjack & Piddlewick we are all about seasonal foods. It is an incredible luxury to be able to buy fruits, nuts and veg out of season, and personally it is something I try not to do. (Unless it honestly does not grow in my climate – though I have never tried to grow bananas).
But eating out of season also means less taste. It is simply fact. For out of season fruit or veg to come to you means it had to travel a long way. This means it had to be picked early, before ripeness, so it will be ripe, or almost ripe, when it arrives at the store. Which leads me to…
Foraging has taught me what food should really taste like. Foraged foods are super, super tasty. That is because foraging is all about eating foods when they are at their prime. They are still in situ, until you pick them, so they have had the opportunity to ripen fully meaning they will be bursting with flavour. If you ever have tasted a tomato ripened in your garden or a sun kissed blackberry, you know exactly what I mean.
Because foraging is all about picking or collecting when it is in season, you are getting the optimum flavour that can be achieved. That’s why many of the great restaurants, if they don’t grow it in their own gardens, know their local professional foragers. (Yes, there is such a thing.)
3. Educational (yet fun)
Most of us know at least one fruit, nut or veg that we would recognise if we wanted to forage. Blackberries, for example, maybe even wild strawberries. But what about elderberries or sloes? Hazelnuts or walnuts? Wild garlic or wild asparagus? Would you recognise them, know when to pick them, let alone what to do with them?
Once you become entranced by the world of foraging, this culinary world simply opens up to you. And there is so much to learn and so much bounty to pick!
Note – It is not that you need to learn it all at once. Personally, I like to learn one fruit or veg at a time, say per year, at the time of picking. I find it easier to recognise when I can actually go and find it. Two years ago I discovered wild asparagus. Last year it was was rose hips. This year I am concentrating on nettles.
4. Discover new places
As the world of foraging opens itself to you and you wish to search out what is in season, you will discover new areas around where you live. Many foods you can forage you may stumble upon by accident, simply going out on a walk. Wild garlic can easily be detected by its scent (surprise, surprise), but others you may need to do a little research and reconnaissance to find.
In example, wild asparagus likes grassy areas, often in shade. Wild strawberries like sunny banks, often by roadsides. By deciding what you wish to forage for, you may discover whole new areas around you, even possibly right near you, as foraging gives you not only a reason but a different perspective.
5. (Sorry) It’s Healthy
Foraging is a really good excuse to be outdoors. You get to soak up some of that vitamin D, breathe in fresh air, and all that. It also means you will probably be walking. I have never met a foraged item I didn’t have to walk to. Generally foraged foods will be found in fields, woods or along hedges. For most of us this means a little travel to get near the spot and a little walking to find the food.
Foraged foods are also healthy foods, with no additives. Of course, this does depend on what you do with them. One could argue that Sloe Gin is not the healthiest thing you might make from sloes. But overall, and especially those you can quaff right then and there, they are good for you. And that my friends, is a good thing in my food making book.
6. Feel Good Factor
Foraging makes you feel good. Not just healthy good, as mentioned above, but good in yourself. Why? Because you are being good to yourself. Taking the time to find out what or where to forage. Taking time to actually forage. And best of all there is such a sense of simple accomplishment when your basket is laden and you head home.
Then, you have the satisfaction of making something from your foraged food. (If you haven’t already quaffed it.) But, best of all, you have the satisfaction of knowing you sourced the food yourself. And you will be surprised to find how good that makes you feel. I can tell you.
7. Quality Time / Me Time
Foraging can be a group, couple or individual effort. And any of those are fine. My personal favourite is to forage on my own as I adore the thinking time foraging gives me. I just love the peace and quiet that comes with the search and collecting. In fact that’s how I came up with the idea for this blog post! But, if you prefer, it can also be a social time. Grab a friend or 3 and enjoy the camaraderie, share the knowledge and become detectives together.
Foraging with a partner, family or good friend allows you to talk without interruptions (except when you suddenly find what you are looking for. Eureka!). A chance to wander in thoughts and discussions. A chance to share the excitement of the find. I can still remember finding blackberry bushes lush with fruit on family outings when I was a child. Memories are made from foraged foods. Honest.
And, I think I mentioned, FREE!
8. Foraging is Free
Yup, there is no cost except time. And we’ve already learned that time spent foraging is educational, social, and productive. So what’s not to like. Now no more excuses. Get out there and forage.
If you would like to know more about foraging, particularly what to forage when check out some of my other foraging blog posts below. To make sure you don’t miss any new posts, sign up below, after the comments section, to have it delivered direct to you by email.
Now I hear more blackberries calling – ‘Pick me! Pick me!’
Some additional posts on foraged foods, recipes, and simple musings:
Nuts about Hazelnuts
Spring is here! Time to forage for wild violets
Dandelions – Love or Hate Relationship?
What to do with Walnuts – Foraging & Recipes
Of Note – two things to note when foraging. First, make sure that the area you are foraging from has not been sprayed with any pesticides. When in doubt, don’t forage. And second, make sure you are actually foraging and not stealing.
What is the difference? Stealing is taking from someone who has deliberately grown something on their land. Just because a walnut tree overhangs their fence on to a public road or path, does not mean it can be foraged. Get permission first when a plant or tree is on privately owned land. You may even make a new friend (reason number 9?), let alone find a future regular source of foraging.