A Foraging Walk in April

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An April Foraging Walk in the WoodsHave you ever found a new place in your area and liked it so much that you had to go back again the very next day?  That’s exactly what happened to us this weekend. We wanted to find a new place to go for a foraging walk, and Jeff had a place in mind that he drives by on his way to work, that we should check out.
IMG_9449OK, here’s the thing about England.  There are so many nature preserves and green spaces, it’s just ridiculous. People rarely tell you, “Oh, you should go to this one place for a walk or a hike– it’s so beautiful!”  I think it’s just understood that there are 101 places nearby that are absolutely gorgeous, clean and fairly wild. I guess everyone knows this already. We are constantly discovering new walks and (barely) hidden away wild places that we love. It’s probably my very favorite thing about living here.

So this weekend, we found the West Stow Country Park. It’s huge, and the best part is West Stow Lake– which seems to be a goose sanctuary at the moment. We loved seeing so many goose families with their fuzzy little gaggles of goslings.IMG_9396 IMG_9397 IMG_9399Although I have been writing for a while now about foraging, I still have such a long list of foods to find and try. This is such an exciting part of the year. I’ve been reading posts and books about foraging for months, during the winter, and now everything is popping up and I’m eager to find some plants I’ve been looking for, or to try to identify ones I haven’t taken notice of before. We brought backpacks, several ziplock bags with us, as well as a pocket-sized foraging book. And snacks!
IMG_9504A foraging walk is really more like a regular walk, except slower. You take in all the beauty, but also hone in more closely on everything around you. I was scanning all of the plants, trying to notice them all, making note of which ones I could identify, and which ones I didn’t know, or thought I had seen in some of my books or research. Some of them, I took photos of so I could look them up later.
IMG_9466Right now, mid-spring, most of what is available is greens and flowers. We haven’t found any mushrooms, though I was looking and hoping. But we did find some other lovely things to eat, a few of which were new to us!

Now is a great time to pick garlic mustard.IMG_9474There were groves of it, and we brought home a lot! It’s kind of addictive to eat raw on the trail, but the spice begins to catch up with you. And the garlic breath. IMG_9452Look for toothed heart-shaped leaves and tiny white flowers and buds. The taste is pretty unmistakable.IMG_9488A green I’ve wanted to pick for quite a while now, which is very common all over the US and Western Europe, is comfrey. Comfrey is very useful, and the leaves cook up to be very much like spinach. We took home a bagful and ate it last night.IMG_9450Sweet cicely is everywhere right now, but I admit that I am nervous about eating it much, especially with Amelia nearby. It can easily be confused with hemlock, which is deadly. But when you are sure of it, it’s really delicious– it tastes like licorice.IMG_9403We also munched on some young hawthorn leaves. The very new ones are good, but older ones are bitter. It’s a fun novelty to pull leaves off of trees to eat.IMG_9471IMG_9485Speaking of pulling things off of trees… Pine trees.IMG_9507 Did you know that the catkins are edible? I was so surprised by how tasty they are! These have yet to dry out and release pollen, and they are juicy. A bit astringent like a green apple, but they taste like Christmas. I brought home a whole bunch of them and have them soaking in local raw honey. I am going to write about eating pine and pine pollen shortly– it’s so fascinating! [Here’s that post.]IMG_9460I don’t have pictures of the loads of miner’s lettuce (claydonia) that we found under the pine trees and brought home, or the ground ivy that I picked for teas. Goosegrass (cleavers, sticky willy, etc.) was everywhere, too, but we had plenty of that in our own back yard.
Of course, a major source of nourishment on a foraging walk is taken in through the eyes and ears. We loved listening to all of the birds singing, and just seeing all of the spring beauty around us.IMG_9449IMG_9443IMG_9404IMG_9489IMG_9451IMG_9418And no matter how much traveling we can do while Amelia is with us, I will feel like I’ve done it all wrong if I can’t offer her long, quiet moments like this.IMG_9501IMG_9490That was exactly what we needed this weekend… And maybe next weekend, too!IMG_9428 Have you been out to collect some of the spring bounty in your area yet? What have you found?

Common Sense Caution: Don’t go around eating plants you are not familiar with. Do some research first to make sure you know what it is. Google image search is your friend! I have a good collection of foraging books to help me spot edibles and avoid toxic plants. Here are a few I recommend: Food for Free, Foraging and Feasting, Thrifty Forager, The Forager’s Harvest.

If you are interested in more foraging posts and ideas, you can check out my foraging board on Pinterest.

An April Foraging Walk in the Woods and the Wild Edibles we Found There

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12 Responses to A Foraging Walk in April

  1. jamesdburns2013 April 29, 2014 at 6:35 am #

    Your pictures are lovely and the subjects are so interesting.

    • ariana May 6, 2014 at 9:22 am #

      Thank you, James!

  2. Holly April 29, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    I’ve never tried pine catkins or pine pollen. I have a huge tree in my backyard, so I am looking forward to your recipes. How lucky you are to have so many places to explore. Here in Southern California, it is quite dry but there are quite a lot of elder trees, black mustard plants, and sages. I really enjoy your posts on foraging and wildcrafting.

    • ariana May 6, 2014 at 9:25 am #

      Hi Holly, I hope you can catch some pollen and try nibbling on some catkins from your pine tree this year. I really was not thinking at all about wild foods while I lived in Southern California, so I didn’t even realize that there were elderberries! We picked wild grapes in the hills when I was a kid, but otherwise I just don’t remember… So glad you are enjoying these posts– it’s fun to share what I’m learning!

  3. Laurel April 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    Here in the wilds of East TN we tried Japanese Knotweed for the first time. Also tried some chickweed, redbud blossoms, dead nettle & henbit this year. Oh, and it was our first year trying poke! I don’t think we’ll bother with it again. Have you tried it? We’ve got tons but, all of the cooking required removes any flavor it might have had. We did the 1/1/15 minute method.

    We’re going to try to get cattails established in our pond. Our favorite wild green so far has to be lambs quarters. The wild mustard is blooming all over the place and it tastes just like cabbage to me. I hear that you can make your own mustard when the seeds come ripe too. I’m going to try to catch the seeds this year.

    As soon as the mulberry leaves get a little bigger I’m going to pick a bunch of them for tea. Have you priced mulberry tea lately? Ouch!

    Love your pics as always, and love England. It’s awesome how they take care of their green spaces there. They seem to have a more ecological outlook on life.

    • ariana May 6, 2014 at 9:28 am #

      I agree that it’s so great that there are so many wild spaces here. This particular spot has clearly been arranged for fishing, but it’s still pretty untouched otherwise, and such a treat. This is the #1 thing I’ll miss about England– hopefully wherever we land will have some similarities. I love hearing all the wild edible plans you have! I know of a few mulberry trees nearby, so I will take your lead and collect some leaves for tea. I have a bunch of jars of things I’m drying for blending teas, and I don’t think I’ve tried mulberry before– thank you!

  4. Rois April 29, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    My family and I are moving to Sisters in Central Oregon in June, a new environment foraging wise for us. My husband and I are excited to learn new foraging skills but it is a little odd to me to think that I won’t be able to walk along a trail and name all of the plants. My parents started teaching me foraging when I was all of three. Feels a little bitter sweet- full filling a dream but letting go of an era.

    • ariana May 6, 2014 at 9:30 am #

      Rois, I LOVE that your parents taught you about the plants in your area from such a young age– this is the knowledge we’re losing, and part of the reason I blog here is to rekindle an interest in the sustenance and medicine that surrounds us. It will be so fascinating to learn a new landscape full of different plants. As you know, we lived in Bend for a few months, and really loved it– so beautiful! I am wishing you well on your move!


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