Sunny days are on the horizon, and as we take our daily walks, we can see daffodils, crocus, and violets blooming as Spring arrives on our doorsteps.
We talked about foraging back in Autumn, and while it's still a little chilly outside, February is the perfect time for starting your foraging habits and planting new life.
We’re so lucky to have Sam from The Loess Life giving us her top tips for foraging in Spring. Sam is a talented, trained nutritionist and founder of The Loess Life which focuses on foods that are sustainable for our bodies and the environment.
Aside from the free food element, foraging allows us to eat and live sustainably (as long as we do it properly - rules below). By eating locally and eating fresh, you're limiting your carbon footprint - no transport or machinery required to get your food (especially if you can walk or cycle to your foraging spot!).
Foraging Golden Rules:
There are golden rules to follow when foraging that keeps you safe, preserves the countryside and its eco-system that also feed on the landscape.
The Golden Rules.
1. "When in doubt, leave it out." Some plants and mushrooms are poisonous; if you aren't 100% sure they're safe, leave them where they are.
2. "The 30% Rule." The wild, delicious food isn't just for you - they support natural wildlife. Never take more than 30% of what you find, and never pick more than you need.
3. "Never forage near a road." Not only is it not as safe to walk along, but pollution from the road seeps into the vegetation.
4. "Always ask." Always get the landowners permission to forage and pick from their land.
5. "Leave only footprints." Take your rubbish home - don't be that person…
The Woodland Trust has full foraging guidelines so that you can forage safely and legally.
What to Forage in February
February is the start of the foraging season, so options are limited, but depending on what you're looking for, there's a lot to do and plant for future foraging expeditions. Here are a few of our choices picks, but these are by no means an exhaustive list. We recommend looking at The Woodland Trust's monthly foraging posts for more information.
Wild garlic is delicious and a perfect addition to your kitchen staples - is there anything like home-made garlic bread made with foraged garlic??
Where it grows: You'll find wild garlic growing in dense clusters on the damp woodland floor and along hedgerows that are shaded from sunlight. You'll see wild garlic throughout England and Wales (less in Scotland).
When to pick: You'll find wild garlic as early as February, and it is best picked before the flowers have died (usually late April/ early May).
How to use: You can use both the flowers and leaves of wild garlic, and it is identifiable but its distinctive smells.
You can add the leaves to soups, sauces, omelettes, or add blend with olive oil for a gorgeous wild garlic pesto.
It also works well to make Garlic Butter which can then be added to bread, kievs or melted into a baked potato. Yum!
Sam tells us that wild garlic is one of her faves:
‘Wild garlic is a personal favourite, you'll know this plant from tearing a leaf and smelling it - it has the most wonderful garlicy aroma! Found in shady woodland, when you stumble across a patch you'll notice it everywhere around you! Use these leaves to add a subtle garlicy flavour to pasta, stews and scrambled eggs, else dry them in the oven on low heat for a couple of hours to ensure you have dried garlic magic through the rest of the year (if it lasts that long!).’
Sorrel is an excellent alternative to spinach and can be easily foraged.
Where it grows: The great thing about sorrel is that it is widespread in the UK, and you can generally find it in any grass environment, especially meadows.
When to pick: You can find sorrel all-year-round, but it does struggle after harsh winters or arid summers.
How to use: Sorrel has a beautiful lemony taste which makes it an excellent addition in salads, a garnish or as a complementing tone in stews and hearty Spring soups.
There are lots of variations of sorrel - you can learn more about Sorrel at Wild Food UK.
Nettles are excellent - they're a versatile ingredient and are full of vitamin A and D.
Where it grows: Everywhere! Nettles grow widely across the UK but be sure not to pick near roadsides (plantlife near roads absorb the toxic fumes) or near pesticide-ridden areas. Also, as a general tip, if you're looking for nettles, take gloves to avoid being stung.
When to pick: New growth in nettles appears in February.
How to use: You want to use the leaves on the plant's tip as these are the most flavourful. Their flavour is quite like cabbage or spinach and works really well in soups and curries. We love this easy recipe for Nettle Soup from River Cottage.
Sam gives us the lowdown on nettles:
‘Nettles are, again, very easily identifiable, the best part to pick are the young top leaves. Use gloves so you don't hurt yourself whilst collecting. Nettles are high in Vitamins A and D - and also pack an iron-rich punch. I'd use this to make a tea (try with your dandelions) - which you can also chill and serve over ice!’
Dandelions are popular thanks to their association with herbal medicine and are probably best known for their diuretic effect.
Where it grows: East to find everywhere! Young leaves from the rosette centre are the best for use as the outer, darker leaves are a bit too bitter.
When to pick: The first dandelions appear in February (yay!)
How to use: You can use every part of the dandelion, either raw or cooked. Add young leaves as a taste to sandwiches and salads.
The flowers work well in risottos, omelettes and even wine!
The roots are perfect in stir-frys and, when ground, make excellent dandelion coffee.
Have a look at some Delicious Dandelion Dishes here.
Sam tells us how amazing dandelion is:
‘Dandelion is super easy to identify and a great gateway plant to start your foraging journey. You can eat the whole plant whether raw or cooked, consider using the leaves as a supplement to a salad, or wilted down and mixed with spinach in a sauce. The flowers make a pretty topping to any dish you want to jazz up - and you can also dry them and use them as a tea.’
Let's Talk Mushrooms
We haven't mentioned mushrooms, but there are mushrooms available to forage in February. Mushrooms are a tricky topic; they're perfect for foraging as long as you know what you're looking for.
If you're a fun-guy looking for a mushroom, make sure you know what is safe and what isn't. If you aren't sure, apply the first golden rule - "When in doubt, leave it out."
The Woodland Trust has a great starter guide of Poisonous Mushrooms to help you navigate this section of foraging.
Punnet of Plums
If you’re gifting for your foraging friend, why not gift with our Punnet of Plums eco-friendly wrapping paper? Our recyclable gift wrap is also vegan, FSC approved and made from entirely recycled materials.
Shop Punnet of Plums here.
You can also follow the wonderful Sam and The Loess Life on Facebook.