With the weather set to stay fair, for a few days at least, many people will take the opportunity this weekend to head for the hills and reacquaint themselves with nature. Walking boots will be cleaned off, tents dusted down and picnics packed as hikers, campers and foragers all vie for a slice of the good life. But while everyone will be familiar with the first two of these activities, the third may be a bit of a mystery.
If you know what you’re looking for, hundreds of edible items can be found all around us – on country walks, in your local park, even on your street – although you might want to wash before you munch. The trouble is, there are also many poisonous plants, not to mention protected species, making it difficult for novices.
As if to highlight the potential pitfalls, some readers quite rightly pointed out that we crossed the line in a recipe by Mark Hix printed last Saturday, when we erroneously encouraged foragers to find freshwater crayfish. Our native variety is a protected species and it is illegal to intentionally catch them – so please don’t!
But it is legal to collect flowers, fruit, foliage and fungi for personal consumption, as long as it is taken from public areas or with permission. But, delicious as the fresh natural produce is, perhaps just as important to consider is the temptation to strip the ground of everything you can find. As with everything, moderation is the answer.
So if, like me, you feel inspired to venture further into the undergrowth than a small vegetable plot in the corner of your garden, it’s probably best to get hold of an experienced forager or, better still, join an organised tour.