Dakota Murphey, Gardening Year, Grow Your Own, Hedging, How To

Wild food foraging

Who doesn’t have fond memories of collecting blackberries along an overgrown pathway? Even city dwellers will have come across an alleyway with a siding of brambles somewhere. Of course the countryside is the best place for foraging, especially woodland, and getting the family out of the city for a day without spending a fortune is a great idea, if only for a breath of fresh air.

It’s a great way to get the kids away from screens and indulge in some good old-fashioned fun. Much has been written about the health and developmental benefits of engaging children with nature, so a foraging adventure will be doing much more than you think.

Foraging for food can be risky if you don’t know what you are picking. Many plants, flowers and berries are poisonous and mustn’t be consumed. But don’t let that put you off. With a watchful eye and a little education you can safely pick the things that are edible and teach your children a thing or two about nature along the way.

Read through our safety tips, to be clear about what it is you are foraging for and you’ll have a fun and fruitful day. If you don’t feel confident, there’s plenty of information available from organisations such as the Woodland Trust. Or experience day companies, such as Into The Blue offer foraging courses with an expert (a great gift idea for the nature lover in your family).

foraging in the wild

Safety tips

  • Avoid picking plants from busy roadsides, near to landfill sites or close to stagnant water/foul ponds.
  • Don’t pick plants that look as though they have been recently sprayed – check for signs of wilting or residue on leaves.
  • Don’t consume diseased or dying plants, and never eat dead leaves.
  • Only take what you need, and try to pick leaves from several plants rather than all the leaves from one plant, so that the plants can continue to flourish.
  • Wash all your leaves and fruit before eating.
  • NEVER consume anything you aren’t able to 100% identify as safe. If in doubt, leave it alone!
  • There are some plants you should never eat raw, so do your research.
  • Wear gardening gloves to protect from spikes and thorns.
  • It is illegal to disturb or pick plant material that belongs to any protected wild plant.

Test your tolerance

Some people are extremely sensitive to certain foods and for that reason it’s really important to test your tolerance of a new food you haven’t tried before.

Take a small piece of the raw edible part of the plant (make sure it is a plant that is edible raw). Put it in the front of your mouth and bite on it a few times, then spit it out. Wait for 60 minutes. If you experience no bad reaction, proceed to the next step.

Now try a larger piece of the plant (edible part only!). Try boiling the edible part of the plant you are tolerance testing and eating and swallowing a tiny quantity of it (about a quarter of a leaf for example). Wait for 60 minutes and see how you feel. If you don’t experience any negative reaction, proceed to the next step.

Try a tablespoon mixed into a suitable recipe. If you do not experience any negative reaction after 60 minutes, your body should be OK consuming that specific wild edible plant in larger quantities. But don’t overdo it.

foraging tips

Here are some tips on a good old family hedgerow favourite to get you started. Good luck with your foraging!

Blackberries

Plump blackberries are a winner for the kitchen. A foraged crumble is the perfect treat after an afternoon of standing on tippy toes to reach the most luscious and juicy fruits on offer. These divine hedgerow berries are ripe for picking in August and September and are great in lots of favourite family recipes. Try cheesecakes, smoothies, hedgerow jams, or simply mix with roughly chopped almonds and plonk on top of a bowl of porridge. Yum!

High in antioxidants and vitamin C, blackberries have great health benefits too. Be careful of the blackberry bush thorns while you are picking, and beware the juice stains, so don’t wear your best clothes. Inevitably a few nicks and stains will be forgotten about when you get to eat the fruits of your labour. If you are out picking with younger children, be mindful of the height at which they are picking. Better to lift them up, than gather contaminated fruits at doggy-leg height! You get the gist!

Family tip: make some smoothies with blackberries. Your children can set up a stall to sell small cups at the end of your driveway, or instead deliver a surprise smoothie treat to neighbours. Soak your fruits in water for 30 minutes and rinse before eating, or using in recipes.

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.

Allotment, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts

Thanks to the development of science and technology over the last few decades, most of us understand the importance of sustainability and environmental consciousness in the 21st century. However, it can sometimes seem impossible to bring this understanding into our day to day lives beyond the basics of recycling, eating organic foods, and using natural products. One of the best ways to bridge this gap is by growing your own edible garden at home. If this sounds like something you’d like to try but you’re not quite sure how, here are five reasons to help you make up your mind.

Grow Your Own Edible Garden

1. Learn how to live sustainably

One of the timeliest and more important reasons to grow and consume your own produce is in order to increase sustainability at home and decrease reliance on shop bought products. In addition to saving money, growing your own food also gives you control over what exactly you harvest and how often you harvest it. At Modernize, we know that sustainable living is about providing for yourself exactly what you need; no more, no less. Grow your own herbs, fruits, and vegetables, and you will be one step closer to a sustainable home life.

2. Encourage healthy eating

Plant and consume your own fruits and vegetables and you will be able to say without a doubt exactly what you are putting into your body. Choose your own produce and cultivate your edible garden without the use of herbicides or pesticides in order to achieve the best, healthiest result.

Home Grown Produce

3. It’s super simple

If you think that cultivating your own edible garden is difficult, you couldn’t be more wrong. While the process will take time, patience, and care, companies like Primrose take all the stress out of gardening with their Grow Your Own products. Simply choose from their wide variety of herb, tomato, strawberry, and other planters and grow kits, add in gardening basics such as raised beds, mini greenhouses, pots, trays, tools and watering equipment, and you are ready to begin your gardening adventure.

Indoor Herb Growing Planter

4. Save money

Sustainable living is just as much about saving money as it is about providing for yourself. By growing, harvesting, and consuming your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs, you will decrease your food bills, full stop. If you think that the initial financial outlay for a sustainable garden will be too high, think again. Shopping at affordable garden centres such as Primrose will give you high quality products for the lowest possible prices and help you on your way to self sufficiency.

5. Get the whole family involved

The best part about gardening is that absolutely anyone can do it. If you have young children, encourage them to get involved in your edible garden process. Kids love getting dirty, so let them help and they will learn about sustainability, accountability, and environmental responsibility without even opening a book. On top of all that, involving your children in the development of your edible garden will instill in them a love for nature and the environment that will last for years to come.

Kaitlin KrullKaitlin Krull is a writer and mom of two girls living the expat life in the UK. Her writing is featured on Modernize.com and a number of home decor sites around the web. She can also be found blogging from time to time on her personal blog, A Vicar’s Wife.

How To, Kathryn, Recipe

Chestnut RecipeIt’s that time of the season where the roads and paths are littered with browned leaves and twigs, the sky is largely grey and there’s a new, chilly wind which bites at your fingers – Autumn has arrived.

But before you sulk and mourn for summer, take a harder look at the ground next time you walk through a rural area and notice the treasures the season has brought for us. I speak of course of those spiky green balls which will soon plummet to the ground from the tree tops, our old friend the chestnut.

Chestnuts ripen around October – November and can be enjoyed raw, roasted and used as ingredients in various delicious dishes.

If ever you should fancy a little natural nibble whilst walking in the wilderness, ensure that the chestnut is good, firm and healthy looking before peeling back the brown skin, revealing creamy greenish flesh. Raw chestnut flesh has the texture of a carrot and tastes a little bit like a nutty pea with a slightly smokey aftertaste.

If you’re looking for a more traditional and less Bear Grylls approach to enjoying our favourite wild nut, then collecting a pocketful ready to roast at home is a classical option. Roasting chestnuts around an open fire has been a winter past time going back centuries. So whether you just want a tasty treat or fancy reminiscing your time with the scouts, here’s how to roast a chestnut, the sensible, indoor way.

  1. Preheat your oven to 400ºF (205ºC).
  2. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut an ‘x’ into the nuts to allow steam to escape.
  3. Spread the nuts across a rimmed baking sheet with their cut side up, and slide directly into the oven.
  4. Now you have fifteen to twenty minutes to wait. Make a cuppa or pour some scotch and ready a hot towel and a large bowl. Ensure that the nuts don’t burn by moving them frequently.
  5. After 20 minutes, wrap the chestnuts in a hot towel and squeeze them in order to loosen the skins. Leave wrapped in towel for five minutes.
  6. Now, take a chestnut and peel the skin while the nut is still warm.
  7. Take a bite and enjoy the warm, nutty goodness.

Best of all, unlike other nuts, chestnuts are low in saturated fat, so that’s at least one guilt-free winter indulgence.

KathrynKathryn works on the marketing team and spends most of her time making our website read better.

She has a degree in English & Creative Writing and loves classic cars, 1970s music and ginger beer.

She writes our fictional stories and seasonal posts.

See all of Kathryn’s posts.

Joycelyn, Recipe

A basket of apples at Primrose
Who could say no to these apples?

By the chill of the wind, it seems like summer’s now gone for good. Just as it started to fade, I decided to do a bit of cooking and whip up a pudding celebrating the transition: Apple and Peach Crumble.

I took home some of the apples that had been brought in to the Primrose office and I had a punnet of peaches I hadn’t yet eaten. I wanted a simple way to make use of this fruit – I’m not much of a cook, so it had to be something I couldn’t screw up – so baking a crumble was an easy choice.

I based my recipe off this one from the BBC, tweaking it to my tastes – adding far more than “1 pinch” of cinnamon, and a little bit of vanilla as well.

My fruits before adding the topping. I put only apples in one half of the pan, and both fruits in the other half.
My fruits before adding the topping. I put only apples in one half of the pan, and both fruits in the other half.

I took the peaches and added in about half of my apple chunks, tossed them together, and put them in one half of the pan. The rest of the pan was just apple without peach – my Other Half is notoriously picky, and I didn’t want him to miss out on crumbly goodness if he wouldn’t eat peaches.

Then I sprinkled on my topping, with another generous shake of cinnamon, and into the oven it went! I kept the pan in the oven for longer than the recipe called for, to ensure my crumble was perfectly crispy and crumbly.

I didn’t have any custard on hand, but I did have some vanilla ice cream. Crumble à la mode – magnifique!

Apple and Peach crumble with ice cream
My finished crumble, topped off with a scoop of ice cream. Yummy!

And how was it?

Simply scrumptious. I would recommend this dish to anybody with some fruits to use up – I hear this has been a very good season for big apple harvests, and blackberries too. My mouth waters at the thought of experimenting with plums, gooseberries, rhubarb, pears…

Have you gotten to taste the results of your autumn harvest yet?

Joy PrimroseJoycelyn is a member of the Primrose marketing team.

She is a novice windowsill gardener but hopes to graduate to larger plants one day. She enjoys British food (despite its sometimes bad reputation) and British scenery.

At Primrose, when not tending to office plants, she deals with online advertising and social media.

See all of Joycelyn’s posts.