Some may say this is not ‘proper’ foraging but these plants are freely available in many gardens and parks so that is fine by me! The plants in The Garden Forager really are the sort of thing that will be familiar to many people.
Common flowers like lavender, calendula, fuschia, lilac and dahlia feature in here as well as many shrubs and ornamental plants. Over 40 plants are mentioned in all including sedum, pyracantha, berberis, hosta, Japanese quince and many more.
The thing I love most about these books is the beautiful pictures by Lizzie Harper. Each one is hand drawn in black and white and then key identifying features are highlighted in colour. This makes it easy to identify things with confidence and each plant has at least one, and often several, recipes for you to try.
If you are new to foraging and want to find wild food close to home this is a great book to start with.
I quite understand many people have issues with Amazon and prefer to shop elsewhere. If so, have a look at Alibris which is like Amazon but nicer and full of independent booksellers.
Writer and forager Andy Hamilton talks about Wild Booze in this BBC Food Programme on Radio 4 and leads a journey hunting for plants to make incredible drinks, and encourages us to looks again at the wild world all around us.
Andy Hamilton is a keen forager and maker of wild booze. See more about him on his website The Other Andy Hamilton. His book Booze for Free is brilliant and full of simple (and mainly alcoholic) recipes to try.
Not just a free lunch! Foraging in the 21st century is an opportunity for urban exploration, to fight the scourge of stained sidewalks, and to reconnect with the botanical origins of food.
Our map of urban edibles is not the first of its kind, but we aspire to be the world’s most comprehensive. While our users explore, edit, and add locations of their own, we comb the internet for any pre-existing knowledge, hoping to unite the mapping efforts of foragers, foresters, and freegans everywhere. The imported datasets range from small neighborhood foraging maps to vast professionally-compiled tree inventories. This so far amounts to 745 different types of edibles (most, but not all, are plant species) distributed over 611,390 locations. Beyond the cultivated and commonplace to the exotic flavors of foreign plants and the long-forgotten culinary uses of native plants, foraging in your neighborhood is a journey through time and across cultures.
Join us in celebrating the local and edible! The map is open for anyone to edit, the entire database can be downloaded with just one click, and our code is open-source. If you pick more than you can use or are overwhelmed by the bumper crop from your private trees, we encourage you to donate the surplus produce to charity or your neighbors with the help of local food redistribution programs.
Click on the map and zoom in to see what goodies are in your area.. if there isn’t much then sign up and start pinning!
There are some other cities with well established edbile maps. Edible York have an edible map of the city and it also has areas of guerilla planting as well as wild food. Urban Edibles is another site which has been mapping the city of Portland, Oregon for a long time.
I am often asked about best wild food and foraging books and the basic answer is.. there are loads out there and most people end up with quite a collection. If you do decide to delve into the world of foraging you’ll probably end up with a few favourites you use a lot. See Forage Kent blog for another take on foraging books.. we only have one in common!
Depending on your interests or where you live you may also want some more specialised foraging books. I love making simple medicinal lotions and potions so Hedgerow Medicine is one of my favourites. I live miles from the sea but if you are close by you might want to invest in the excellent Edible Seashore from the lovely River Cottage folk.
One of the huge problems with wild food books is that some are good for identifying things, some have great recipes but there are very few that do both. So.. I suggest you have a rummage in a charity shop or get a couple second hand to get you started.
A common problem with both wild food and herb books is that the plants are often listed under their latin names, the common names will always be in the index but it can be quite off-putting if you aren’t really sure what you are looking for.
Food For Free by Richard Mabey is a great basic book for identifying things and has been around for over 40 years in various editions. We have a normal size and a pocket size one which is handy for foraging trips. I also suggest you get a good herb book. These often have much better photos which makes identifying plants clearer. Many herb books also have recipes, simple medicines, dyes and even things like hand creams so have a nose and see what you like the look of.
A recent addition to my bookshelf is The Hedgerow Handbook: Recipes, Remedies and Rituals which I absolutely love. A bit of mythology, some interesting recipes, plants listed by their common names which are all great .. but the best part is the wonderful plant pictures which highlight some key features so makes identification easier.
I have a books page on this website which links to Amazon but other books and booksellers are available.. these below are ones that I really like for a range of reasons. Some have good pictures, some have good recipes and other have some quirky folklore and stories in them. Many books on Amazon now have a few pages you can look at in a preview.. so if you like the look of one you can browse the first chapter or so and get a feel for whether it might be for you. I quite understand many people have issues with Amazon and prefer to shop elsewhere. If so, have a look at Alibris which is full of independent booksellers.
A small lavender filled cotton heart might seem an odd thing to start off a wild food blog.. but let me explain..
I made this last November while on holiday in Anglesey. I’d just finished working through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and something creative seemed a fitting way to round off my journey through the book.
The Artist’s Way is a 12 week course in discovering and recovering your creative self. I started in March and it’s took me about 8 months. I wanted to do each week properly and do all the tasks so decided I’d rather do it slowly. I really think it helps if you do it with a group of people, about 8 of us started at the same time (more joined us later) and we had a facebook group for chats, raising issues that came up or just showing off photos of our artistic creations.
One of the many things about the Artist’s Way is trying to tap into your intuition, half forgotten ideas or projects that your brain just puts on the back burner or dismisses for some reason. The two main parts of the Artist’s Way are regular journal writing, Morning Pages, and Artist’s Dates where you take time out every week to do something creative or just go somewhere and observe or do things that are different from your normal routine.
The Morning Pages are three pages you write long hand first thing in the morning and they can just be a brain dump of jobs you need to do for the day, half remembered dreams, powerful insights into old situations or current ones, highlight patterns of behaviour and much more. Some days the writing can really profound, some days it is just really mundane stuff like a shopping list or things to remember for the day ahead.. it really doesn’t matter .. just offloading before you start the day actually frees your mind to think of other things and can be a valuable therapeutic tool.
Writing first thing initially does sound like a huge task and something that might be hard to make time for, however, after a while it really does become second nature. Regular writing is now part of my day, not always first thing in the morning, but I always do a few pages and find the process very beneficial.
This blog is a direct result of those Morning Pages. On many occasions my writing would feature wild food in some way. Things like recipe ideas, places where I know there are great wild foods or medicinal herbs so the idea for a blog came from the frequent mentions of wild food and medicines in those pages.
I have done quite a few wild food walks and talks locally and had some great conversations in recent months with people who use wild plants in various ways but it feels that I ought to get ‘out there’ a bit more.. so here goes..
If you would like to find out more about The Artist’s Way have a look at Julia Cameron’s website. She has some short videos about various aspects of the book.
Julia has written several books now on art and creativity, writing, spirituality, money and prosperity – many have a similar format to the Artist’s Ways and are designed to be worked through to get the most out of them. She has also written books of poetry, plays and fiction. Amazon links to some of them below.. other booksellers are available!