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A new year of Foraging
The beginning of the year often seems rather tough. The novelty of December’s festivity has worn off and there’s little else to distract us from the ongoing winter chill. It may seem unlikely that there are yet any wild foods growing outdoors but there are actually many – and they’re delicious too!
If you are willing to brave the frost, you will easily be able to fill your foraging bag and basket with nutritional ingredients that can be found all over the country, giving or taking a few weeks. It’s also an ideal time to get started with foraging because by beginning with the new year, you’ll gain a great oversight as you harvest wild foods through the year, learning exactly what to expect in each season and how the various climates affect nature.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a brief guide on four wild foods that can easily be identified and picked early on in the year!
These wonderful and ubiquitous plants are a staple of our British countryside, often being overlooked as edible ingredients because of their troublesome barbs. However, their abundance and nutrition should be cause for celebration, especially early on in the year when they are young and tender.
If you’re not confident picking them, use a pair of scissors and chop them straight into a basket. Then, when you’re home, briefly submerge them into boiling water to remove the potency of their sting. Since they’re full of vitamins, nutrients, and protein, they’re certainly worth the extra effort!
Historically, primrose has been used for a number of flavourful recipes, including wine, pickles, and vinegars, with both the flower and the leaves being edible. The flowers, which can bloom from the beginning of the year, are delicious raw and can make for an excellent addition to desserts and conserves, while the leaves are destined for the salad bowl, bringing a spinach-like flavour to the bowl with an occasionally mild spice.
Helpfully brought over by the Romans, this typically coastal, versatile plant offers a wide variety of different flavours during each season. Early on in the year, before the flowers begin to appear, they are encapsulated inside a sheath at the bottom of the stem. Plucking these from the ground and slicing them open reveals the premature flower inside, one that resembles broccoli, and they are a luxurious ingredient to lightly fry in a pan, with or without a small amount of batter.
Additionally, the alexander leaves, which are trifoliate and with toothed edges, have a marvellously fragrant aroma, one that tends to bring parsley to mind.
Gorse bushes are found across much of the UK, being known for their prickly bushes and winter bloom. Their yellow flowers bring an early colour to the landscape and are themselves brilliant edibles to pluck from the stem. When the sun shines upon them, they release a chemical to attract pollinators. So, if you’re walking through the hedgerow in January and you begin to smell coconut or sunscreen, you are likely to be picking up the scent of gorse flowers!
To learn about these wild foods in greater detail, including their identification, picking, and cooking, head over to YouTube and watch our Online Foraging videos! Alternatively, if you’d like to enroll in a hands-on foraging course in Cornwall, then check out our course schedule page to see what we have coming up.