There are numerous well-being benefits to foraging. Wild plants are not just tasty, they’re also highly nutritious and contain lots of essential vitamins and minerals. Foraged food is ultra-fresh, nutritionally-rich, and completely free. When you’re out foraging you can enjoy a deep connection to nature, learn how different ecosystems work, and get outside in the fresh air for some exercise. All of this is not just great for improving your health but also reduces stress and anxiety levels, on top of which, foraging is a fun activity that you can enjoy with your friends, partner, and kids.
Before you plan your first foraging trip, there are some fundamental manners and rules that you should follow.
1) Accurate identification is key
The very first rule for foraging food is an obvious but crucial one. Never consume anything unless you are 100% sure of its identity and that it’s safe to eat. Some wild plants and mushrooms are poisonous or deadly, particularly certain fungus which are notoriously tricky to identify, so please be cautious and take your time to accurately identify everything you find. If you’re in doubt, it’s best to leave it alone.
2) Always test your new finds
Some people have allergies to lots of things while others don’t. It’s complicated enough already with cultivated food but when it comes to wild food it can be even trickier. The majority of us are brought up in urban environments, eating food from supermarket shelves, and our stomachs may not be familiar with new food. For example, there is a mushroom called Chicken Of The Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) which is edible and very famous for its “chicken-like” texture, but a small minority of people may get mild nausea from it. Shaggy Parasol (Chlorophyllum rhacodes) is another delicious, edible mushroom, but 1 in 25 people may experience gastric upset after eating. I strongly recommend that if you are eating something for the first time, just try a very small amount at first, and wait 24 hours to see if you like it and it likes you!
3. Foraging and the law
Is it legal to forage? Sadly, every country and city may have different laws. All my advice is based on my experiences in England so please make sure you research the laws in your area before you go out to forage.
The Theft Act 1968, for England and Wales states that:
“A person who picks mushrooms growing wild on any land, or who picks flowers, fruit or foliage from a plant growing wild on any land, does not (although not in possession of the land) steal what he picks, unless he does it for reward or for sale or other commercial purpose.”
The Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 also mentions that foraging the 4 Fs (fruit, foliage, flora, and fungus) from common land is acceptable so long as it is for PERSONAL CONSUMPTION ONLY. So, in most cases if you just take a moderate amount for you and your family ONLY then it’s absolutely fine.
In the UK, some places may have by-laws that prohibit foraging by councils, such as the National Trust and government conservation agencies including Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Countryside Council for Wales. You should also stay away from all Sites of Special Scientific Interest. To make sure you don’t get into any trouble, before you start foraging please make sure you research the areas you plan to go to thoroughly and check all the signs and notice board when you enter a park.
I live in London and I can assure you that it’s illegal to forage in Epping Forest and all 8 Royal Parks.
4. Do not pick rare species
While non-commercial foraging is legal in the UK, some rare species are protected by law. Please check out the list here, and if you’re not sure whether your finds are protected by law or not, it’s best to just leave them alone.
5. Respect the nature
Please avoid causing any damage to the areas you forage in and make sure you leave them as you find them. Uprooting plants is harmful to nature, plus, it’s illegal to dig up or remove a plant (including algae, lichens and fungi) from the land in the UK. Respect the animals, trees, plants, mushrooms, surrounding environment, and any other people and their property that you come into contact with. If you want to give back to nature while you forage, take an extra bag and pick up litter during your trip. It’s a good idea that helps the environment and we do it too.
6. How much is too much?
In short – take no more than you plan to consume.
Wild food is essential for the ecosystem; please only collect flowers, leaves, fruits and seeds where they are in abundance. The British Mycological Institute suggest that you should never pick more than 1.7kg of mushrooms on any forage, which is more than enough for personal consumption. Ensure you leave behind plenty for birds and other species to consume; with mushrooms, leave the ‘baby’ mushrooms alone and only take mushrooms that have opened their caps as they need spores to produce the next generation. Be sustainable and look after your mushroom spots so you can continue to enjoy them every year!
7. A final safety notice
Try to collect from clean environments and make sure you always wash plants and seaweed.
When we describe edible mushrooms, this mostly refers to cooked mushrooms unless stated otherwise. Most wild mushrooms can be poisonous if eaten raw.
Foraging is great fun but it requires practice and a lot of research. Never rely on one source when identifying wild plants and mushrooms and don’t consume anything unless you are 100% sure of its identity and edibility. K33kitchen.com is a recipe blog and I am not a mycologist nor a plant expert; if you spot any misinformation on my site, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me – your help is always appreciated. K33kitchen.com does not take legal responsibility or liability for any loss and damage (including damage to property and/or injury to person) for the use of the information on this site.
Here are few useful links that I followed: