The Roadkill Chef: First, catch your squirrel

Fergus Drennan is a professional forager best known for his BBC programme, The Roadkill Chef. From April, he plans to live entirely on wild food for a whole year

"When I started foraging, I found the best thing to do was get a really good book on native wild plants. An excellent one is Roger Phillips's Wild Flowers of Britain. I'd go to a typical habitat and pick one of every plant I could find, go home and work through the book identifying them. Then I'd check a wild food book to see if it was edible, and find out whether I could eat it raw or needed to cook it.

There are plenty of patches of so-called waste ground in urban areas. All year round, you can find rosehip, cow parsley, alexanders roots, dock leaves, hawthorn, blackberries, burdock roots, elder, spring nettles, goose grass or hairy bittercress. All of those are typical, but it's easiest to start with things that are traditionally in common usage such as rosehips, blackberries and nettles. If you don't like nettles, you probably won't like any wild food. They're very versatile – you can use them for soups, sauces, jellies, syrups and sorbets.

Mulberries are very common. Come July or August they litter the ground in most city parks. You can just gorge on them. They're not a commercial fruit because they don't transport. Once you've picked them, they squish and you have to eat them there and then. Figs are also quite common in London. Last summer I found absolutely huge figs in a couple of parks. Dandelions are another classic, and Spear Thistle is good as well, with a nice, mild flavour, although it does make you fart a bit.

As for roadkill meat, when it's frosty, pheasants could be lying by the side of the road for a week or more and they'd still be fine to eat, as long as they looked plump and healthy and were just knocked down dead rather than splattered. After all, you would hang a lot of meats anyway, to tenderise them.

I'm eating lots of spring salads at the moment, and wild mushrooms in pasta and risotto. There are some good mushrooms around at the moment, such as Field Blewits and Jelly Ear mushrooms. Jelly Ear you can eat raw or cooked, Field Blewits you need to cook. You should definitely have a good fungus guide with you if you're picking mushrooms.

Also in season is wild garlic, which you can find in damp woodlands, particularly old, well-established woodlands. You can find garlic mustard and sorrel around there, too. Gorse blossom is very nice and has a coconut scent to it. And quince blossom has a lovely pink-to-red blossom, with a hint of almond in the taste.

It's useful to take a knife and a little trowel. But mostly I just use my bare hands, and a bag to put things in. Polythene bags can be quite good, particularly when it's hot. If you have a bit of water with you, you can put a bit on to the leaves, then shake it up in the bag if it's going to be a couple of hours before you get home. There's nothing worse than picking a lot of things and then getting home to find they've wilted and can't be revived.

Suggested Topics
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas