Turn a weed into treasure – get foraging
Spring is upon us, and with it, all manner of green shoots, buds and leaves. It’s a time many of us venture into gardens neglected over winter and explore what’s been happening. And there are plenty of spring greens to be found… and eaten.
There’s something magical about eating something you’ve picked from its source, rather than receiving it neatly weighed and packaged in plastic. And it’s even better if you’ve found your food in the wild (or in the wilds of a free-sprouting garden!).
Children love getting in on the act – foraging is the ultimate in treasure hunting! And getting to know the plants around us is a great way of strengthening children’s connection to nature, the changing seasons and our relationship with food.
In this post we look at three greens commonly treated as weeds, and explore how you can make the most of them.
Dandelions are the bane of many a gardener’s life, being hardy little plants that crop up everywhere. Rather than pull them up as weeds, harvest them!
Dandelions are full of vitamins A, B, C and D and contain minerals such as potassium, zinc and iron. You can use young leaves in a salad, use in a homemade pesto or steam them. You might want to try this simple Italian recipe.
Nettles are another common plant that many of us dislike for their stings. But they’re actually a potent source of vitamin C and iron, so well worth harvesting (using gardening gloves, of course). You’ll need to blanch them to neutralise the stings, but after that they can be used like spinach. Here’s a recipe for a wonderfully witchy green soup.
Many woods are smothered in wild garlic through April and May. It’s an easy plant to identify with pungent, spear-like leaves and white flowers.
Both the leaves and the flowers are edible. Wild garlic has a milder taste than the bulbs we buy in shops, but it can be used in the same way to flavour dishes, or add excitement to a salad. There are some recipes you can try here.
Some foraging safety pointers
• We’re sticking to commonly found, easily recognisable plants in the post, but it’s still worth having a field guide or an ID app for your phone – there are plenty around if you browse your app store.
• Ensure children only forage with an adult and that you’re sure what the plant is before eating it.
• Only take from untrampled and unpolluted areas, and give everything a wash before you eat it.
• Only take what you need and check you have permission to forage in the area. The Woodland Trust allows foraging of most species for personal use – they have some guidelines on responsible foraging here.
We hope you enjoy your wild treasure hunt! Let us know how you get on in the comments.