Fresh healthy food – for free!
Hedgerows offer a larder of healthy seasonal food, and you can find some great free foods in your local countryside; blackberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, sloes, elderflower, nettles and dandelions. All can be used in cooking and are delicious when made into juices and smoothies.
Don’t be afraid to over pick as your harvest can be frozen and saved for when you find a recipe you want to try. Clean the produce well and try to pick from the higher branches or bushes where possible.
You may also be able to get apples and pears for free but do make sure they’re not on private land! And don’t be afraid to ask if you can share fruit from neighbours, either for payment or a share of your delicious recipes.
Keep your eyes open when walking in the countryside; it tastes so much better knowing you picked the ingredients rather than buying them from a supermarket.
So what’s good to forage now?
With the autumn nearly upon us, use list to as your guide to the best free foods to forage this September:
Rosehips – Used as a replacement for citrus fruits during the Second World War, they can be made into syrup for flavouring foods. Found in hedgerows, rough grass and scrub – the plants can grow to up to 3m (10ft) high. The leaves grow in pairs of toothed leaflets, the flowers are pink or white, and the fruit is orange-red and oblong shaped. But watch out for thorns and be sure to remove the inner seeds.
Beech nuts – Beechnut leaves are bright green, alternate and oval. The nuts grow with four, three-sided nuts to one husk. The taste is similar to walnut – gather early to avoid competition from squirrels.
Elderberries – Found in woodlands and hedgerows. These small, dark red-black berries grow in clusters and can be added to sweet pies, crumbles or jams.
Raspberries – Raspberries are generally coming to an end in September but if you look now you should be able to find a harvest or two. Make the best of what’s left and freeze to use later in the year!
Giant puffballs – Easy to spot, Puffballs grow straight from the ground with little or no stalk, and can be found in meadows, pastures and under hedges. Pick only if the flesh is pure white. The skin should be white, leathery and smooth and the inner flesh should also be white. They are usually 10-30cm across. Clean and slice then fry, grill or bake – add your favourite herbs and some garlic for a delicious healthy meal.
Wild strawberries – Unlike the garden varieties these are small and can be difficult to find – but the taste in well worth it! They can be found on grassy banks and in open woodland, low on the ground, their leaves are grouped in threes and are toothed and shiny. Add to granola, porridge or cereal for a burst flavour.
Poppies – The flowers will have gone over now so the seed heads will be ready. Tip – put the whole seed head into a paper bag and shake and then take out the heads; the seeds will be left in bag. Use in baking or raw bars and sprinkling on bread, cakes, rolls, porridge or cereals.
Blackberries – Easily found in woodland, hedges, heathland and in hedges on countryside lanes. They have prickly, toothed leaves that turn reddish green in the autumn. Pick the berries when they are a dark purple-black – they freeze well and can be added to desserts or cereal all year round.
Hazelnuts – Ripe for picking when the leaves are just beginning to turn yellow and found in woods and hedgerows. The leaves are roundish, downy and toothed while the nuts are encased in a green, leafy cup.
Hawthorn berries – Found woodland, hedges, scrubland, on heaths and downs. The leaves are glossy green, deeply lobed and found on spiny branches. The round red berries (haws) grow in small bunches and have a nutty taste.
ALWAYS FOLLOW THE FORAGING GUIDE
Some berries and plants may be poisonous, so if you are not 100% certain that your identification is correct – DO NOT EAT IT.
Avoid foraging where agricultural sprays or vehicle pollution may have contaminated produce.
Stick to defined Rights of Way unless you have the permission from the landowner.
Picking nuts, berries, leaves etc. is permitted on Rights of Way, but the uprooting of any wild plants is illegal without the landowner’s permission.
Ensure you leave plenty for wildlife – don’t just stick to one spot!
Try our simple Hedgerow Smoothie Recipe
- 2 apples -juiced
- 2 pears – juiced
- Large handful of Blackberries
- Large handful of Kale
Juice the apples and pears into a jug. Put the blackberries and kale into a blender and pour in the juiced apples and pears. Blend until smooth and enjoy fresh! You can vary the fruits depending on what you find when exploring and foraging. You can use home grown spinach or other greens apart from kale. In addition raspberries, strawberries and blackcurrants could all completely change the flavour of this recipe.
Why not make your own pickling liquor?
To make the liquor warm 1 part vinegar, 2 parts sugar and 3 parts water in a pan until all the sugar is dissolved, stirring all the time. Once you have a clear liquid set it aside to cool a bit.
Add to make it your own with
- mustard seeds
- Pepper corns
- Chili flakes
- Cardamon pods
- Cumin seeds
- Coriander seeds
- Bay leaves
- All spice
- Star Anise
- Cinnamon sticks
A word about Trish Tucker May
Trish Tucker-May, founder of Passion 4 Juice is a nutritional health coach and also a Thermomix consultant.
If you are interested in preparing healthy food for yourself and your family and want help to get the most out of your kitchen. Trish can show you how to serve delicious healthy food from scratch, avoiding nasties and saving you time and money. Get in touch!