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For the Love of Foraging

two hands cupping a portion of blackberries, the words "for the love of foraging" superimposed onto the photo

With the scorching summer heatwave now behind us, everybody's thoughts have now turned to autumn (well, that certainly seems to be the case if my Twitter feed is anything to go by). Now that we're not desperately fanning ourselves with every piece of paper in the office, sweating in places we didn't even think we could sweat, and even contemplating filling the bath with ice to cope in the 35 degree heat, being outside in the rain showers and tepid temperatures might not seem so appealing. But today I'm here to tell you that now is the optimal time to be outside because there are treats aplenty in the autumnal countryside! Recently, I've been doing a lot of foraging - that's harvesting wild foods, in case you didn't know - and this post is all about encouraging you to do the same. 

Why I love foraging

Firstly, anything that gets you outside in the fresh air is a good thing. I love the outdoors, even in the deepest depths of winter there are so many things to do, so taking the opportunity to get out there and spend time away from my phone and laptop screens is something I always seize with both hands. I also find foraging really satisfying, it's lovely to know when you're chowing down on your breakfast that the berries you're feasting on were picked with your own two hands! Foraging is a fun social activity as well. My boyfriend and I have been really into going on bike rides at the weekends lately, and we often stop along the way to fill up our empty lunchboxes with fruit. It's a nice excuse to stop, chat, and enjoy each other's company. The seasonality of foraging also adds to its charm. It's something to look forward to every autumn! But the biggest appeal of foraging for me? Well, it's obvious right? FREE FOOD! Nobody can complain about that.

green apple trees, bursting with fruit

Top tips for successful foragers

Know what you're picking

I cannot stress this point enough! If you don't recognise something while you're out and about on your foraging mission, do not pick it up! And for the love of god, please don't eat it. Only pick what you recognise. When I forage, I usually stick to easily identifiable foods such as blackberries. I never pick mushrooms or anything similar because it's just too much of a risk. Always put your safety first when picking wild food.

Don't take more than you need

When foraging, moderation is key. Taking more than you need is very wasteful, so don't pick every berry on the bush just because you can. Leave some to come back and pick later, or allow other foragers to take some too. There's plenty for everyone if we all just share!

Leave enough for the birds and beasties who depend on the hedgerows

It's not just your fellow human foragers who love a tasty treat. Be a responsible forager and leave enough food for the wildlife who depend on it. You can pop to Tesco to refill your fruit bowl but the birds don't have that luxury! Also, make sure you don't trample down too many brambles and potentially destroy the habitats of hedgerow animals such as wood mice, robins, toads, grass snakes, and more. 

red hawthorn berries on a bush, hedgerow in background

Nail your foraging fashion

I once made the mistake of going foraging in a pair of very short shorts. Ouch. Don't do that, folks. You will end up prickled all over! Channel your inner Boy Scout and be prepared by wearing a long-sleeve t-shirt and trousers, or you'll fall victim to the inevitable hedgerow brambles or nettles like I did.

Take a friend who's taller than you

For those hard-to-reach places, of course! I have been known to stand on a garden chair in an effort to snaffle a few berries located high up above the fence in the past, but in the interest of safety, I can't recommend you do the same! Instead, bring a tall friend along and have them do the dirty work for you!

Follow foraging guidelines from the experts

There are so many helpful websites out there to give advice to newbie foragers. Countryfile even has a guide to what to forage in every month of the year - talk about handy! GoSelfSufficient also offers advice on which berries to pick, so you'll be sure not to pick the unripe or sour fruits by accident.

two hands cupping a portion of blackberries, a small dog jumping up to sniff at them

Recipes

So, now you've been out and harvested a bumper crop! Good on you! But what are you actually going to do with your haul of fruit? As I mentioned earlier, my foraging fruit of choice is the humble blackberry. Blackberries are sweet, soft and juicy and they work amazingly well in all kinds of recipes. If you've also collected yourself a punnet of blackberries from the hedgerow, here are just a few ideas for how to enjoy them. I've tried and tested all of these myself, and even sorted them in order of cooking skill, so there's something for everyone!

Blackberry granola 

The easiest recipe of the bunch - this one doesn't even require cooking! It's also one of my favourite ways to enjoy blackberries. Grab a handful from your punnet and wash them thoroughly. Then, place in a bowl with a tub of berry yoghurt (vegan-friendly Alpro strawberry and banana flavour is my favourite to combine with blackberries). Top with a handful of granola (at the moment, I'm loving the Kellogg's no added sugar granolas) and your nuts and seeds of choice. I usually go for a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds and some milled flaxseed, which is a great source of magnesium and Omega 3. This breakfast option is healthy as well as delicious!

Stewed berries and ice cream 

Some like it hot, and if you're one of those people, this recipe is for you! Place a portion of blackberries into a saucepan with a drizzle of water to lubricate the pan and gently begin to heat. The berries will spurt out loads of juices in no time! Add sugar to taste (I usually add only a pinch unless I have a really sour crop of berries) and heat until you've reached the desired consistency. Heat them for a short amount of time if you'd like your blackberries to remain whole, and for longer if you want a texture that's more like a puree. While they're still hot, spoon them over a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream (Swedish Glace is a great option if you're dairy-free / vegan) and serve. The result will be delicious!

Apple and blackberry pie 

Much as I'd like to, I cannot take any credit whatsoever for this final recipe! I will direct you to the BBC Good Food page to read the full thing for yourself because it really is worth a go. My Mum makes amazing apple and blackberry pies at home and thanks to this recipe, I'm finally able to recreate them for myself. If you've got a bumper haul of berries then I highly suggest giving this pie a try.

blackberry bush bursting with fruit, hedgerow in background

Have I convinced you to give foraging a go with this post? What are your favourite seasonal fruits? Let me know in the comments. Stay safe and enjoy yourself out there!

Until next time,

A x