4 Beginner Foods to Forage and Cook With

Have you ever wondered what delicious treats you could find in your neighbourhood, if only you knew what you were looking for? Foragers have mastered the art of harvesting freely growing natural produce from their local environment, and it’s easier than you think. 

You’ll never look at your town the same way again after you’ve discovered what amazing foodstuffs are growing literally under your nose! Read to discover four foods you can easily forage and what you can make from them.

Stinging Nettles 

Stinging Nettles

Every child or shorts-wearer’s worst enemy: the stinging nettle. Thankfully, what these pesky weeds lack in handleability they more than make up for in nutrition. The green and plentiful leaves taste similar to spinach and pack high quantities of protein, vitamins A, C, D, iron, and potassium.

Where? You’ll find nettles thriving in damp nitrogen-rich soil along rivers and streams, near forests, and in full-sun to partially-shaded areas.

When? Nettles are at their best when they’re tender, so this means that early to mid-spring is best.

How? Make sure you wear thick gloves when harvesting, then lay them out to allow them to wilt before washing them in hot water to destroy their sting.

Recipes

Dandelion

Dandelions

Our word for this common yellow flower comes from the French dents de lion, which means lion’s tooth. They’re easily recognisable with their radiant yellow flowers and cutesy flyaway seeds. This makes them a fantastic plant for beginner foragers because they’re incredibly easy to find and identify. They’re also a great source of vitamins A, C, K, and E, along with folate, iron, and calcium.

Where? These guys are found everywhere, from meadows to grasslands, wastelands, and gardens.

When? Stalks should be harvested in early spring if you want them to be at their tenderest, but you can harvest them all year round. The roots should be harvested in autumn.

How? With a sharp knife, slice a few inches below the root; this will keep all the leaves together. Cut the flower just above the green base to separate the sweet lower part from the more bitter green base.

Recipes

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

You’ve heard of garlic, you’ve heard of mustard, but garlic mustard? You’ve probably not come across this before. It gets its name from the garlicky smell it emits when bruised or chopped, but garlic mustard bears no relation to garlic and is in fact another offshoot of the mustard family, a lineage that includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, mustard, and watercress.

Where? It’s most common on forest edges and in shaded woodland areas. Often it can be found on roadsides, hedges, alongside paths, and by fences, too.

When? April to June is the best time to harvest.  

How? In February and March, garlic mustard grows as small, short herbs on the floor but during April and May they grow stems with small clusters of tiny white flowers with petals. Compare these with photos online to identify, and if in doubt, crush a couple of leaves in your hand and smell them. If they smell like garlic, you’ve got it. Harvesting is as simple as ripping the plant out of the ground.

Recipes 

Elderflower

Elderflower

The light, floral taste of elderflower is a popular component for making champagne and cordial – perfect to enjoy during the summer months when they flower. Legends say that planting an elder by your home is an effective way to keep devilish spirits at bay. Maybe it’s those dainty white flowers – far too pretty for Satan. Either way, this sweet aromatic flower is a fine choice for foraging.

Where? Elder is widespread in many temperate and subtropical regions, growing in woodland, scrub, wasteland, and along hedgerows.

When? Late May and June.

How? During the flowering period at the end of May keep an eye out for the masses of tiny white flowers amongst the leaves of the tree. These develop into purple elderberries towards the end of the summer. The flowers are best picked when the buds have only recently opened on a warm, dry, and sunny day. Remember to give them a shake to remove any insects before soaking them in cold water and drying. Avoid those that grow by busy roads as they will absorb fumes.

Recipes 

Feeling inspired to become more sustainable? We’re bringing together some of the most inspiring figures in sustainability for the Zero Waste Berlin Festival this September to share ideas and collaborate.

Tickets are currently available to buy here, so make sure you secure your space alongside like-minded professionals, entrepreneurs, and activists on September 17-19. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!