Wild Food Foraging - Cultivating Skills &
Confidence through Inspiring Forays in Nature

Winter Foraging

It’s deep December and I’m standing outside. Actually, there’s 8 of us standing outside and waiting for the one that’s gone astray. Once we’re all congregated, we begin. There’s something innately quiet about walking in Winter, as if all around us is sleeping, and in some ways it is. We walk together through this slumbering landscape, initially unaware of the life around us.

From as early as November, my forager eyes start to spot edible greens that are normally associated with spring. Alexanders, Nettle Tops, Three-Cornered Leek (locally known as Wild Garlic), Wild Cress and Mustard, Pennywort, Wild chervil, Gorse flowers and even Daisy leaves and flowers for salads and cooked dishes.

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard, Hedge Mustard

Although the nutrition of plants can be significantly increased in Spring, goodness can still be enjoyed from these plants through the winter months. In Cornwall, where we may lack in terms of nuts and berries (there are only a few forests & woodlands here) it is more than made up with coastal plants and, due to the mild climate, a great choice of edible greens right through winter. While other areas of the UK are below frost or snow, there are milder areas of Cornwall that offer valuable forage-ables.

Urtica dioicaBellis perennis

What’s more, foraging feeds the soul not just in winter, though every time of year. According to the  National Wildlife Federation’s article; It’s all in the dirt, the reason for this includes good bacteria in the soil that releases seretonin – the feel good hormone. This makes me feel even better about my muddy boots and dirty fingernails too!

In some ways, there’s more to see in winter, without the distraction of hoards of people, beautiful, bright flowers, and sunsets to melt into. Instead, the offerings maybe more subtle – beige stems, low growing greens, and flowerless stems, though don’t be tempted to dismiss these edible due to their humble winter personas.

Common Hogweed seed (Heracleum Spondylium), for example (below), may look like a dead seed-head, though within it lies delicious aromatic flavours for curries and many sweet dishes.

Heracleum sphondylium

Hogweed Seed and Almond Thins

If you need it, use foraging as an excuse to get you outside, for that dose of daylight, fresh air and nature fix. Watching wintering birds, or rolling white horses of the waves, and returning with a handful of winter greens, it’s hard for the soul not to be lifted, even if just a little. And if you’re still not convinced and only yearning for the bright yellow sun of summer, then perhaps gorse is the only cure for you. Up on the moorlands of Cornwall, somewhere, you will always find the bright yellow flowers of gorse; an uplifting flower. According to Bach Flower Remedies gorse can offer you hope, when all hope is lost. I promise, summer will return.

Gorse flowers

4 comments:

  1. Thanks Rachel we really enjoyed our foraging walk with you.We were staying at Gwel an mor to see in the new year.
    Never thought we would eat nettles but we gave it a go.Loooking forward to making nettle tea.
    Thanks M&M.

    Comment by Martin&Margaret — 4 January 2014 2:28 pm

  2. It is amazing how you can take the hedgerows for granted and not really notice what is growing there. A very interesting and well presented walk. Many thanks. Many people know of the famous optical illusion where a picture is either the outline of two faces, or appears as a candlestick, and both pictures are there if you look hard enough. The walk with Rachel has exactly the same effect on your eyes as you walk around the greenery of Gwel an Mor.

    Comment by Robert, Susan, Dan and Carys Miles — 5 January 2014 9:35 am

  3. Lovely to have you all there, I hope you’re NY has started well – very stormy down here, though many plants are pretty resilient!

    Comment by Rachel — 5 February 2014 12:05 pm

  4. Yes, that’s exactly it! Opening the senses to what is already there! All the best for foraging back home.

    Comment by Rachel — 5 February 2014 12:07 pm

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