Foraging The Forest
Mar 15, 2017
The earliest human beings on this planet fed themselves in only 2 ways – by hunting animals and by foraging for plants. All of the food they ate was gathered with their own hands, including berries from bushed, wild greens from fields and mushrooms from decaying trees. Through practice, trail, error and knowledge passed down from their parents, they were able to recognise which plants were edible, which were poisonous and what could be found at different times of year, and where. In the modern world, our food system is very different, and we have lost touch with our natural, foraging roots. But it doesn’t have to be that way. For the more naturally inclined Spicers out there, we’ve put on some fantastic opportunities to learn how to forage in the forests like our ancient ancestors would.
The Benefits Of Foraging
Foraging for your own food is an incredibly rewarding experience. In fact, it offers more than just a fun pastime – it offers a whole range of benefits for your lifestyle, your body and your taste buds.
Free Food: Foraged food costs you absolutely nothing except time, so it’s great for your wallet. Of course, your time is worth something, so you probably wouldn’t want to forage for cheap food like potatoes. But many foods found out in the wold cost a fair amount of money to buy from supermarkets, so it can be worth it for more speciality ingredients.
New Flavours: Many wild foods are difficult to find in supermarkets – such as the fresh wild mushrooms prized by gourmet chefs. And there are some foods you may find that simply aren’t available in shops – like pawpaws, a mango-like frit with a custard-like flavour that’s too delicate to ship. Foraging is a great way to find and experience new flavours you would never taste otherwise.
Great Nutrition: Some of the foods found in the wild are more nutritious than those you buy at the shops. Free of pesticides and artificial contaminants and preserves, you get all the of the goodness and nutrition they can offer. Plus some wild foods – like dandelion greens and wild crab apples can contain seven or eight times more phytonutrients than their supermarket partners.
Outdoor Exercise: Of course, hunting for your food involves a lot of moving around in the great outdoors. If you know the area well, you can plan a hike to the choicest harvesting spots, you will stretch to pick berries and bend to gather greens. It’s a full, natural workout! Not only that but it’s much more pleasant than an afternoon in the gym, and much more rewarding!
Sustainability: Wild foods you pick yourself are organic and locally grown. They don’t use pesticides or artificial growth chemicals, they only use rain water and don’t require fossil fuels to harvest. When you go out and pick your own food, your carbon footprint is pretty much 0.
Natural Connection: Beyond all of that, picking your own food from the fields and wood restores that fundamental connection to nature that the human race as lost over the centuries. You can experience the cycle of the seasons in a more meaningful way than which bank holiday it is, and feel like a valuable part of the natural world, not just someone who tramples on it.
It Has Some Hazards Too…
Of course, picking foods from the forest floor has some hazards too, particularly for the inexperienced forager. You always run the risk of eating something harmful, especially as many poisonous plants closely resemble their edible counterparts. You are also dealing with unfamiliar foods, so you may not know how to eat them either. Many wild plants that are edible are tough, bitter or completely indigestible if you don’t prepare them properly, which puts many inexperienced foragers off. Inexperienced foragers also run the risk of damaging their environment by harvesting too much of the plant and killing it off completely. Experts will be able to tell you where the areas too delicate or vulnerable to be disturbed. You also need to be aware of any private properties around you, as it is often illegal to forage on someone else’s property without their permission, so you have to be careful so that you don’t end up being arrested!
If you’d like to try your hand at foraging for your own food, you’ve come to the right people. At Spice we are all about experiencing new and exciting things, so we have set up a foraging foray into the woods in May. We will spend the day foraging in the Surrey woods for fruits, berries, mushrooms and other edible plants with the aid of a foraging expert from Wildfood foraging. Spaces are filling fast, so book your place today to avoid disappointment!