A walk on the wild side with forager Chris Hope
This summer’s abundance of wild fruit has encouraged lots of people out collecting blackberries as, even in the city, bramble bushes have scrambled over every bit of uncultivated ground.
It’s easy to think that blackberries - and the occasional apple - are pretty much all there is to find, but in amongst the concrete and carefully maintained parks and gardens there’s a wealth of wild food to be found.
Forager Chris Hope, who has a BSc (hons) in Medicinal Horticulture, has been researching our native plants for over 14 years and now shares his knowledge with two-hour guided walks in cities and countryside around the UK.
I was lucky enough to head out with Chris and a small group of newbie foragers to explore our local park in South London. It was a complete revelation to discover that in just a small patch of park there were so many edible plants, leaves and berries. In all we covered around 16 different varieties from a deliciously peppery wild rocket to hogweed seeds that had a flavour a little like a cross between cardamon and cumin.
Of course, as well as lots of lovely edibles, there are plenty of plants that range from mildly toxic to something you’re not coming back from if you consume. Chris pointed out some of the more deadly wild plants, as well as explaining how some plants have edible leaves, for example, but not flowers or seeds.
If you’re intending to get into foraging for wild food it’s essential to have as much knowledge as possible. Going out with an experienced forager like Chris really is the best way to start but there’s also several books and websites with hints and tips, that also explain the legal and ethical aspects.
Each season there’s something new to discover, so I’m looking forward to my next guided foraging walk! I’ll be talking more about the individual plants we found in the foraging session in my next few posts.
** Chris has a Facebook page,’Ipso-phyto: all about wild plants’ and a Meetup page ’The Town and Country Forager’ with information about his next walks, as well as lots of information about wild plants for food and medicines. **