How to forage for fresh food this autumn

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

autumn_foragingAutumn, or Fall as our American cousins call it mostly, is the season for fruits, nuts and fungi on the foraging list.

However, when it comes to fungi, that is to say, mushrooms and the foraging of them for food make sure that you really know what you are looking at and what you intend to pick. If not sure leave well alone. Even with a book or app for you smartphone still does not guarantee that you will be able to safely identify if you have not been taught well.
As one of the latest foodie trends, foraging has become a popular way to find delicious plants, berries and nuts growing wild.
Foraging not only gives access to fresh and seasonal healthy foods, it's also a great way to get outdoors to where our food really comes from – as opposed to the supermarket aisles and plastic packaging where it eventually ends up.

Berries, mushrooms and nuts are amongst the best foods to forage at this time of year, but make sure that you know, with everything, that what you pick is safe to eat. Blackberries and hazelnuts are quite obvious; other things may not be so obvious, such as mushrooms, as already mentioned.

Remember to get permission before foraging on private land and don’t over-forage: birds and animals rely on wild foods on their survival, so leave some for them too.

Please remember that Parks and Open Spaces also are private property and you theoretically need the owner's permission. There is no such thing as “public land” in the UK. The owner in this instance would be the local authority or similar.

Having said this in a large countryside park or open space the rangers or wardens will, more likely, no be concerned if you do a little foraging but remember the code as mentioned above. Only take for yourself and only as much as you need. Do not start commercial foraging as that will be regarded as theft and treated and prosecuted as such.

Ministry of Defense land is another kettle of fish and you do well to inquire first as to whether you may actually enter it and then as to whether foraging is permitted in any way.

When picking any wild food it has to be considered that it may have come into contact with animal feces and urine, such as fox, rats and others and thus everything needs to be thoroughly washed, aside from nuts and berries that are well above the level of reach of those animals.

In many old publicly-owned woods and along roadsides you may also find fruit trees, the ones along the roads often are so-called common trees, which were intended for use by the commoners, and amongst those there will be many old varieties of apples and pears and, even though, due too the age of trees, the fruit often is smaller than those of younger trees they often are much tastier.

When I was a child scrumping the common trees which in those days still were – pardon the pun – common along the roads of the countryside and it was everything old variety apples over pears to plums, including my favorite, the Damson. More than once I overate from those fruits and I suffered for it but, nevertheless, I would repeat that about every year.

The countryside is full of free foods for the taking and foraging was a common occupation for all that lived in the countryside or near it. And not just in autumn, though autumn appears to have been the time when more people would go out and gather wild foods than at any other time of the year.

Those that know what is edible out there for the taking – but we must remember to take not all of it – will always have to eat and it was for that reason that the country people lived better – aside from the fact that most had their gardens too – than did the people in the towns and cities during the Second World War in Britain, for instance.

© 2013