Have 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.
OK, 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. Although 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!
A 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.
Right 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.There 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. Look for toothed heart-shaped leaves and tiny white flowers and buds. The taste is pretty unmistakable.A 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.Sweet 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.We 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.Speaking of pulling things off of trees… Pine trees. 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.]I 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.And 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.That was exactly what we needed this weekend… And maybe next weekend, too! 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.