To forage or not to forage?

3 Mar
The coffee issue this morning made me think about how people used to solve that sort of thing during the second world war. Roast root of chicory and/or dandelion apparently are good alternatives. Fortunately, one of the herbal teas I received yesterday was actually black tea (chai, specifically) so I managed to get through the day so far.

When you start to think about it, within a one pound budget, a lot can be done if you allow yourself to forage. After all people used to live as hunter-gatherers before money was even invented. Of course there were a lot less people to share the food with than nowadays. Also, (if I recall correctly!) by law nowadays it’s not legal to uproot plants, so technically roasting dandelion roots is a no-no. Interesting how things that used to be critical to survival now aren’t even allowed anymore.

I decided to walk by a hazelnut tree growing in my neighborhood, just in case. Of course hazelnut season is long gone – it starts in the peak of september, so I didn’t expect anything much. To my surprise, there were still some of them laying around. Whether they’re still suitable for consumption, I’m not sure- although shelf life of nuts is normally pretty good, out in the rough weather can hardly be called a shelf. I’ll find out later.


There’s always yet another issue with foraging – you will need to have some knowledge about what plants are supposed to be edible and which ones aren’t. Sometimes, inedible plants look a lot like their edible counterparts. Even if plants are classified as “edible”, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re tolerant to them, so you’ll need to be careful either way.
Which of the above would you eat? When I picked them, I did so based on what I think I remembered from browsing the web in the past. Do you recognize what they are? As it turned out, the arrowhead-shaped leaf isn’t what I thought it was. For now, I’m not sure how much foraging I’ll do – especially plants I haven’t tried before. Apart from not being sure whether they’re safe to eat (for me), I’d not necessarily be sure what to do with them – some plants seemingly are safe to eat, even healthy, but taste particularly nasty. I think I’ll keep foraging as a backup plan for now. In the meantime, There’s a PDF on the web somewhere called “The urban foraging guide” – I’ve put a copy of that PDF on my phone now- it might come in handy to better learn what’s edible and what isn’t.

I won’t pass on hazelnuts and rosemary, though.


3 Responses to “To forage or not to forage?”

  1. sarah March 3, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    The second leaf (from left) looks like wild garlic. I’ve used wild garlic in the past, (yummy). It can be used in soups, salads, stir-fried or even pickled and in pesto recepies. A bunch of leaves wrapped in foil will stay fresh for up to two weeks in a fridge (do not freeze!!!). It is safe to eat, can be easily recognised by its distinctive garlic smell ;). I am not sure what to do with the other ones you found, 3rd plant looks like rosemary (yummmm), the one before last looks like Arum maculatum which is a poisonous plant.

    • kleinebre March 3, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

      The first on the left is a pine cone (closed); not sure if anything useful can be done with that – am I looking in the wrong place for pine seeds?

      The second looks similar to wild garlic but doesn’t seem to have that garlic smell. I’ve been looking for wild garlic but so far without much success (same with mint by the way- I guess I’m just looking in the wrong place). My best guess at that second leaf is that it’s ribwort in which case it should be edible; however, not being sure, I better not try. Third from the left – definitely rosemary. The smell itself obviously gives it away, but rosemary bushes are extra easy to recognize right now because they’re in bloom at this time of year (little purple-blue flowers). Number four are goose grass/cleavers – definitely edible. Number five, I’ll take it from you that it’s the Arum maculatum. It turns out it reminded me of sorrel (apparently a common mistake); It turns out Sorrel (Rumex Acetosa), which is edible, has a more rounded tip. In other words, if you run into plant number five: AVOID. Last but not least, the humble dandelion which we all know is an edible plant.

      • sarah March 3, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

        One place I know where you may find the wild garlic – next to the river at Dinton pastures, however, I am not sure if it is OK to pick it up there. I’ve seen the wild garlic 3-4 times in my life :):):), every time it was next to a river.

        Not sure where to find mint, it should be somewhere where the soil was not cutivated for a few years. Dinton pastures would be ideal for this, but as I said before it may be not permitted to collect plants there. Lemon balm (melissa – type of mint) and sage should be found in similar places.

        Dandelion – loads of uses, salads, chutney even jam/marmalade can be made out of leaves and flowers. The best leaves are the yellow ones, those that were covered by something and did not get enough light to produce the chlorophyll, they are less bitter than the green ones.

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