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Planning Retirement Online

Free in the Hedgerows

June 2013

Wild HazelnutsSummer in Britain is so good - and while the economy is tough, it makes sense to benefit from the fabulous plants and trees that are making our landscape just so beautiful. Our hedgerows contain a wonderful assortment of berries and other items that can be used for a range of tasty, nutritious foods and drinks. And even if it doesn’t save us a great deal of money, foraging in natural hedgerows can certainly add some fabulous new flavours to our everyday menus.

The key to picking from the hedgerows is correct identification.  Make absolutely sure you have identified the plant, not just by its berries or fruit but by its leaves, shape and also its bark. If in any doubt, take a leaf into your nearest garden centre to obtain a confirmed identification. Never risk eating plants or berries that you haven’t fully identified.

The other main thing to look for is contaminated ground - roadside verges or areas where there have been industrial spills are obviously not a great location or environment for healthy natural foods.

One thing to be very aware of it that sometimes one part of a plant may be edible while another is not.  Also the berries of some plants such as elders need to be cooked first to destroy toxins. You should never use the leaves or barks of the elder.

But these few aspects shouldn’t put you off. With a little research, foraging the hedgerows in the UK for great tasting natural ingredients is a wonderful pastime in itself. The fact that you will end up with a health tasty addition to your menu is almost a bonus!

At this time of year leaves and nettles are the main things to look for.  Nettles make a lovely refreshing tea when infused, and garlic mustard can be found in the lower parts of hedges. Common mallow and wild rocket is also available to add good nutritious levels to your diet. Dandelions are excellent as a basis for homemade wine.

Wild StrawberriesHawthorn buds and leaves can be used to add new flavor to cheese on toast, while small wild cherries can be used in a very tasty jam. Green walnuts can be found in June and used to make an unusual pickle that will have your friends asking for more.

But of course it is August onwards when the UK countryside really becomes a cook’s delight. From bilberries and blackberries to hawthorn and hazlenuts and from rosehips and rowan to sloes, our hedgerows are filled with often colourful and edible berries and plants. Many are packed with high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants, while others, such as hazlenuts and sweet chestnuts, offer very different tastes and nutrition.

Useful Sites

http://www.tastethewild.co.uk/ is a useful site that also offers courses for people interested in learning more about foraging.

http://www.geoforaging.co.uk/ is another interesting site linking up information about what food is available where.

http://www.herbsociety.org.uk/kh-main.htm has some interesting recipes in a hedgerow to kitchen page.

Other sites that could be of interest include:

The Ecologist has a top ten list of food to forage
and Hedgerow Harvest is also quite interesting

There’s even a Facebook page you can look at to see what other people are saying about foraging!
http://www.facebook.com/WildFoodUK

 




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