I have always considered myself a bit of a collector…meaning I just like to keep stones and flowers that I find! The extent of my experience of actual foraging has just been collecting nettles or dandelions and using them for tea. I suppose I always went blackberry picking and apple picking when I was younger as well, but that’s about it! I had never really considered starting to look for food in nature until I came across this book by John Wright.
Essentially, this book does what it says on the cover. It is a month by month guide to foraging in the UK, but there is so much more than I expected. It starts off with disclaimers about how to make sure that you’re being safe and sensible when foraging for food, which I think is a good thing to include! There are a couple of chapters about conservation and the law, so that you can make sure that whatever you forage is in compliance with regulations and moral guidelines. Something else I thought was really helpful to include before the month by month guide are chapters on the types of things you can forage, including how to identify different types of plants, fungi, seaweeds and invertebrates.
From there the book delves into the guide. And this is possibly the most comprehensive guide about British wildlife I’ve read, irrespective of whether you use it for foraging or not. Wright extensively details each species that is commonly found (and available to forage) in each month, including information about the species itself, how to harvest it and how to use it. Although they’re renowned for being the baron months, January and February’s chapters detail some herbs and plants, as well as a few interesting and delicious looking mushrooms. March brings a vast array of different flowers, weeds and even seaweeds and trees – everything you would associate with Spring bloomers is covered here, from dandelions to nettles, from birchwood to garlic etc. April, again, details a vast array of springtime plants like gorse, elder, morel, as well as plenty of types of seaweed. This chapter also includes the option of snails (although Wright himself does not seem to keen on the idea of eating garden snails!). Fennel, pine, watercress and onions are all fascinating finds from the month of May, and are definitely things I consider forage-able with my limited experience.
June is where I started to enjoy reading about the possibility of harvesting sweet things, as opposed to more herbal and earthy options. This chapter talks about wild strawberries, elderflowers, gooseberries and Japanese roses, while July outlines the raspberries, redcurrents, cherry and opium poppies. Of course, August brings a huge array of delicious sounding options, such as blackberries, dewberries and summer truffles; as well as a vast array of fungi including my favourite named mushroom, the fairy ring champignon. September appears to be the optimal month for foraging with a vast range of different options from crab apples to wood mushrooms. October, November and December whilst not so fruitful, have plenty of fungi and herbs to offer as well.
At first, I wasn’t so sure about this book. To be quite honest I was very skeptical as to whether it was even possible to forage in the UK, as I usually associate foraging with places that seem to have more range in their wildlife. My eyes have definitely been opened since reading this book. While it isn’t something I expect anyone and everyone would be interested in, I would wholeheartedly recommend it if you’re at all interested in wildlife and nature. It is fascinating to read about the array of different plants that are growing right at our doorstep, and has really made me think about how I could better use some of those resources as alternatives to things I would ordinarily buy in a supermarket. It would be much more sustainable and would bring me a better appreciation for my natural surroundings.
All in all, while I don’t think I’ve quite been persuaded to go and forage for all my meals, I have definitely started to think more about the ways I could incorporate more sustainable, self sourced natural ingredients into my life. I definitely think this book is a fantastic guide to UK wildlife and would be an essential item for anyone wanting to try sourcing their own natural ingredients, or just to learn a bit more about foraging as a hobby.