Going for a walk in spring is a great way to start foraging for healthy food for free. Get out and enjoy a Walk in the Woods - put a few carrier bags in your pocket and you are ready to start foraging. Spring is the best time to pick green leafy plants as they are at their tenderest - look out for them in hedge bottoms, on green verges and in wild uncultivated garden edges. Then go to the recipes section and try out some of the recipes sent in by our Tree Wardens.
Here's our guide to the best pickings to be had on an spring walk.
Wild herbs and leafy green plants that have traditionally been part of people's diets, such as wild rocket, nettles and garlic mustard, are all at their best earlier in the year when their leaves are young and tender. Like all vegetables, leafy green plants are really good sources of the vitamins and minerals that help to protect us from disease and keep us healthy.
Green vegetables are rich in vitamin C, folates, carotenoids, vitamin K, and calcium, and may also provide small amounts of iron. Also, because of these nutrients, leafy green vegetables are especially important in helping to protect us against heart disease and some cancers as well as keeping our bodies in good working order.
Look out for common mallow, wild rocket, nettles, wild garlic and garlic mustard in the hedge bottom in spring and early summer. Some, like nettles and wild garlic, are easy to identify but if you are unsure about what to pick it's best to start by going with someone who is an experienced forager.
Did you know the fresh green buds and leaves of hawthorn are also edible, they can be picked and eaten straight from the hedge or used as an addition to salads. In some part of the country they are known as 'bread and cheese'.
There are lots of fragrant blossoms and flowers that can be foraged for and added to flavour puddings, jams and cordials, look out for apple blossom and elder flowers but remember if you pick the flowers you don't get the fruit!
Do's and Don'ts
Don't pick anything from hedgerows at the side of busy roads - it's just too polluted.
Make sure that the trees or shrubs you're picking from don't obviously belong to anyone. Even if the fruit is hanging over a pavement or a wall, if the tree or bush is on someone's private property the fruit belongs to them.
See if you can find a curved stick when you're out - they make a great hook for getting to fruit on higher branches.
If you're crossing fields, watch for cattle and close any gates behind you.