Foraging: A COVID-friendly fall activity

7 mins read

Nature is bursting with hues of yellow, red and orange. There’s a never-ending supply of blackberries growing along every forest-path in the area. And we are currently not supposed to engage with the outside world, or each other. Has there ever been a more perfect time to head into the secluded space of nature and rummage for seasonal (and free) goodies?

Here’s a list of forages widely available at our doorsteps: Grab a bag, some gloves and get ready to enjoy all the beauty this season has to offer.

Rosehip (Rosa canina)

Credit: Konevi from Pixabay 

What it is: These red and orange seed pods are quite a common sight around Scotland, often found around hedgerows or Woodland fringes. Packed with vitamin C, Rosehips pods are renowned for keeping winter colds at bay – what you’re after is the outer layer in particular.

How to use it: You can turn it into wine, jam, jelly or syrup – or if you want to relive childhood, pick out the hairy seeds and pick your unfortunate itching-powder-target…

Where to find it: Just about anywhere: In the woods, on the side of roads – keep your eyes peeled on your short walk home from the bus stop, chances are you’ll pass by atleast one bush whilst on your way.

Sweet Chestnuts

Credit: Konevi from Pixabay 

What is it: These edible nuts wrapped up in a fluffy coating, are full of surprises. Did you know that they can help stabilise blood sugar levels, promote healthy skin and improve brain functions? And regardless of being a Christmas staple, they’re not actually native to the UK – but were introduced to the British by the Romans.

How to use it: Depending on your time- and mindframe, these nuts can be baked, boiled, roasted or microwaved. The only non-negotiable part, is to score a cross in them before cooking – preventing potential explosions and the resulting mess. Once cooked, they can be enjoyed as they are – or used to make puddings, stuffings or puré; whatever strokes your fancy.

Where to find it: Simply anywere beneath a Chestnut tree. Make sure the coating is still compact when picking – otherwise they may have gone off.

Bay bolete (Imleria badia)

Credit:  Gary B Goldman from Pixabay 

What is it? The risk of accidentally kicking up poisonous fungi puts some people off mushroom foraging. This species however, is quite hard to get mixed up – as they show a bluish-grey bruising if you press lightly on the underside of their hat. It’s a high fibre, flavourful forage, containing heaps of essential nutrients and will make for a gorgeous, creamy mushroom soup to warm up a cold evening.

What it looks like: It’s round cap is 4-15cm wide, light to dark brown and the flest is white/slightly yellow. The stem is smooth and streaked with the same colour as the cap. Avoid picking the boletes that have red colouring on the mushroom, or if they turn vivid blue immediately after they’ve been sliced.

Where to find it: Go to a nearby forest and forage – it can pop up just about anywhere on the ground, or on decaying tree stumps. With the mushroom being large and chunky, you might actually only need to find one to make your scrumptious soup!

Sea buckthorn

Credit: Kasjan Farbisz from Pixabay 

What is it? These miniscule spheres bursting with color, are also jampacked with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It is an edible berry growing on a shrub, commonly found in Russia, China, Canada – and, as you might’ve guessed, Scotland too.

How to use it: Although they can be eaten raw, most people prefer them in some kind of refined version, due to their acidic and intense flavor. The list of things for which you can use them is exstensive: juice, tea, puré, sauces, ice cream, pies – they even make for amazing hair and skin treatment oils!

Where to find it: Typically, it is naive at seasides and fuction as a stabilizer for sand-dunes. Now they have started growing inland across the UK, so you are likely to find them alongside roads or in the outskirts of forests.

Common Nettles Urtica dioica

 Credit: AllNikArt from Pixabay

What is it: Loved by some and hated by many, it is safe to say that these stingy green weeds stir plenty of emotion in people. Apart from being a scary plant to avoid (unless you enjoy the sensation of being burned alive), it is also has powerful health benefits. It aids kidney support, contains anti-inflammatory properties, helps remove skin eczema, is packed with iron and other minerals and support blood.

How to use it: Substitute for spinage in any cooked recipe – lasagna, soups, stews, hummus – whatever your heart desires. Or saute with mushrooms and use to top of your avo-toast, turn it into pesto or simply boil it to make a nutrient-potent tea. Throw into your smoothies for an added vitamin-boost or if you’re in for more of a project, try making nettle beer. The options are endless – and so are the plant.

Where to find it: In pretty much any forest, green patch or park.

Foraging will help calm you down during these strange times. It will also provide a cool project to focus on (and possibly boast about to all your social media followers). But most importantly, it will serve as a money-saving trick: who needs A £5 Ben & Jerry’s when you’ve got your own, home-made sea buckethorn-sorbet, topped with dried nettles and sweet chestnut-puré?

Don’t hesitate to experiment, get your feet muddy and your hands full – let the forest become your fridge!

Featured image credit: Valiphotos from Pixabay

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