Foraging with children
There is something magical about finding food growing wild. And there are lots of foods out there to tempt us, once we start looking. With a little guidance, even young foragers can get in on the act. Late summer, as fruits, berries and nuts ripen, is a great time to start.
It’s worth establishing some ground rules straight off to keep everyone safe. The number one thing to spell out before anyone pops anything into their mouths is that they need to check with you first. Most of the fruits and plants we recommend starting with are easily identified, but it’s wise to have an adult on hand to double check when you venture out foraging.
The second thing is to be aware of where things are growing. You want to avoid low-lying plants where dogs might have passed by (wee!) and it’s best to avoid foraging by busy roads.
Once that’s sorted, it’s off for the best sort of treasure hunt – an edible one! We’ve kept things simple for foraging with little ones, all of these are easy to identify, widespread across the UK and not easily confused with other fruits and berries.
We couldn’t cover foraging in August without mentioning these! Blackberries straight from the bush are an absolute delight. And the best thing is, they grow in a number of habitats: woodlands, hedgerows, waste ground, verges. So chances are you’ll come across some.
They’re thorny, sprawling monsters - care, gloves and long sleeves are called for.
What they look like: The leaves are dark green on top, and pale underneath, with jagged edges. The stems are long and rambling and covered with thorns. When the fruit is purple-black, it’s ready to eat. Leave the red-purple fruits for a few more days.
Eat them raw, or turn into a crumble or jam.
Elderberries are also distinctive at this time of year, with their dark purple clusters of fruit drooping down from stems. Elder trees can grow to around 15 metres and like blackberries, can be found in a range of habitats, including verges, wasteground and alleyways as well as woods and scrubland, so chances are you’ll come across some.
The berries are sour and best not eaten raw, but they make delicious cordial or syrup. They’re also highly nutritious and are often used to help prevent catching cold and flu. If you’d like to prepare for the sneeze season, try this simple recipe with your haul of berries.
August to October is crab apple season. You can find them in woodland and scrubland, and they’re the ancestors of our cultivated apples. The fruit is smaller than apples, and more tart – you probably won’t want to eat them raw! Look for dark green, oval leaves that come to a point and fruit that grows on long stems. Given their smaller size, they can look like cherries.
You can roast your crab apples and add them to fruit punches, or make a crab apple jelly to serve with bread or meat.