Wild Garlic

wild garlic ramsons

wild garlic ramsons

From early March in the south of England and mid to late March in Scotland wild garlic, Allium ursinum a relative of chives, onions and normal garlic can be seen growing. In sheltered spots you may see it hanging on until late July but that’s an exception rather than a rule. Wild garlic is generally at  its peak from April to June and when they flower in it is a sight and smell that rivals a bluebell woodland for its beauty.

The season is due, in part, to the behaviour of trees. Bluebells and wild garlic are both plants that don’t tolerate full sun but like partial shade; and they make the most of the daylight hitting the forest floor before the leaves on the broad leaved trees start to grow, blocking out much of the sun. They can also be found under ancient hedgerows and on river banks where they get the right light/shade ratio.

It’s often cited that Wild garlic, also known as Ramsoms, l’ail des ours,  Broad Leaved Garlic, Stinking Jenny, Bear Garlic and Jack’s snatch can be confused with the poisonous Lily of the valley and Autumn crocus so do ensure you know what you are picking, the smell should really be the biggest giveaway as wild garlic smells like garlic Lilly of the Valley is also rather course to the touch and slightly paler than wild garlic. Truth is they are fairly easy to tell apart.

When foraging for wild garlic be sure that you are picking just wild garlic and that no other potentially poisonous leaves get mixed up with your pickings. I once accidently ate a leaf of Lords and ladies (Arum maculatum) which started to burn my mouth, and if I hadn’t spat it out I could have blistered my throat and carked it. Really though this is a minor consideration and shouldn’t put you off.

Once picked wild garlic is great to just throw in with other foods when cooking, I’d suggest a few leaves thrown in when you are wilting spinach or in soups and stocks, stuffing for a chicken. Also, the leaves freeze very well and each year I’ll throw a carrier bag full straight in the freezer and pick at the leaves as and when I need them.

Simple Wild garlic and nettle soup.

Nettles start to appear at this time of year too, when picking you can wear gloves but if you are feeling truly wild they can be picked without stinging as long as you “grasp the nettle”, that is to say as long as you clutch it tight when picking, but really I recommend gloves!


1 tsp mustard seeds
1 red onion
1 tbsp unsalted butter
100g nettle tips
50g young wild garlic
1 tbsp Cider vinegar
750ml vegetable stock


Melt the butter, then fry the onion and mustard seeds until softened. Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Chop up the nettles and wild garlic then throw in and simmer for 5 minutes until the leaves are tender. Grate in the nutmeg, season, liquidize and serve. You can add a dollop of fresh cream, natural yoghurt or crème fresh.

The Lunchbreak forager – Hawthorn

Hawthorn – Crataegus – What is Hawthorn?

Hawthorn Berries

Hawthorn Berries

Hawthorn is planted as hedging and therefore can be found on the edge of car parks, in public parks and, for those in the countryside, it can also be found on the edges of farming fields.

Botanical description

Hawthorn grows to 5-15m and can be about 6m wide. The bark is smooth and grey on young trees and on older trees longitudinal (top to bottom) grooves start to appear.  Thorns grow from the branches at right angles and can be from 1-3cm long. The leaves, which appear in very early spring, budding sometimes in late winter are indented into 3-7 lobes reaching halfway or more to the central vein. The leaves can be of variable shape but often they are toothed towards the tip.

Collecting Haw berries

Haw berries are abundant so it shouldn’t be long until you find some. They are often planted as hedging so look around the edge of car parks. They fruit from September and into October, after which they can still be found on the tree but you might have to fight with maggots to what is left!

Bird enthusiasts with quite rightly insist that the haw berry is a food highly prized by many of our native birds and therefore a valuable source of fuel as the days grow shorter and the mercury drops. You need not worry too much as haws are so prolific that unless you are picking the metric ton there should be plenty left for the birds. However, if there is just one bush it is perhaps best to leave this alone.

Folklore suggests that picking from a single tree is a no-no, too. It is considered that the a

hawthorn bush

hawthorn bush/shrub/tree

single hawthorn tree is a gateways to the fairy kingdom and they will be angry if you pick from it. Rumour has it that there are single hawthorns that are considered to be grumpy trees. A white which in Bristol insists that one particular tree growing in a very public park is one of the moodiest trees she has ever met!

A good haul of haw berries can be picked in one lunch break. The trick I find is to take off as much of the stalk as you can whilst picking at this stage to save you having to do it later. It seems much less of a laborious task doing it as you go on a bright autumnal lunchtime than later at the kitchen table. Having the radio or an MP3 player can help and listening to rhythmic music such as a good piano concerto or some dubstep can really liven up the picking.

Collecting Haw blossom

Hawthorn is one of the first trees to blossom in early spring and as the snow melts, days lengthen and plants start to grow. It is one of the best signals to the forager that there is more food around.

It is a little more fiddly picking the blossom than the haws so do be aware, or you might get pricked! It is also advisable to collect in a paper bag as this makes it easier to dry the blossom. Once picked the bag can be hung in a warm dark place, such as a stationary cupboard, for a couple of months. They can then be used to make delicious teas.

Eating on your lunch break

Haw berries can be munched on raw and have a mealy texture reminiscent of avocado: chew on a few and spit out the pips. The leaves, too, can be munched straight from the tree or added to your lunch-time sandwich, but are much tasier when they first come out, by late spring they are already past it. The first leaves are known as bread and cheese despite tasting nothing like either. Add a small handful of leaves in with a hard crumbling cheese like Cheshire for a sandwich to look forward to.

Lunch-time drinks

The blossom which blooms white-pink and even crimson in April/May time can be used to make a rather refreshing tea it is also very good for you (see medicinal uses).  Simply put one tsp of dried blossom or two of fresh into a small tea pot and pour over hot water. Allow to infuse for up to five minutes before drinking. You can also add ginger or dried lime flowers for extra flavour.


This recipe below for toffee apples was a life saver when I was doing some TV for the BBC, I was in the process of moving house and doing lot of book promotional talks  and so very stressed with no  time for anything. I’m rather ashamed to admit that the first time I made it was live on air and I had no idea if it would work properly. Luckily the results were wondrous and I still follow the recipe to this day!


50g of assorted hedgerow fruit (haws, sloes, hips etc)
225g sugar
150ml water
half tsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp maple syrup
25g butter
6 apples
6 fat twigs/sticks


Boil the hedgerow fruit in the water for 10 minutes until it starts to change colour. If using hips, sloes or anything that can’t be mushed between your fingers easily then freeze overnight and thaw before using.

Strain through a muslin cloth and measure 110ml of the resulting water. It should’ve changed to a lovely redish/purplish colour (depending on what fruit you are using). Gently heat stirring in the sugar until fully dissolved and adding the rest of the ingredients. Bring the mixture to the boil and keep at as close to 138°c as you can for 10 min. You’ll be able to tell when it has done by dropping a bit of the semi-solid liquid into cold water, if it turns to a ball it is done.

Pull the stalks out of the apples and whack the sticks in. Roll them in the semi-solid until coated and repeat. Leave to harden on a grease proof paper.

Some tips about foraging

Five Plum Wine recipe

Five Plum Wine

This is an extract from my bestselling home brew book Booze for Free published by Eden Project Books, RRP £9.99 for hardback (but you can often get it much cheaper online).

Over the year different plums will come into season: the first is the cherry plum, followedairlocks on plum wine by cultivated plums, then greengages, damsons, and finally sloes. Using your freezer you can collect a selection of these and make a complex plum wine with an excellent bouquet.

You can mix together whatever plums you have, as long as the weight adds up to 10kg/20lb; they should all spend some time in the freezer to soften. The following recipe makes 20 litres/4.5 gallons of wine; to make a smaller batch simply divide all the ingredient quantities by your desired factor.

Plum wine Ingredients

500g/1lb greengages
2kg/4lb cherry plums
1.5kg/3lb sloes
6kg/12lb damsons
2 ripe bananas
250g/0.5lb raisins
250ml/half a pint of grape concentrate
20 litres/35 pints of water
6kg/12lb sugar
5 tsp pectolase
5 tsp yeast nutrient
all-purpose wine yeast

Equipment needed for making plum wine

large saucepan/cauldron
fermentation bin
large demijohn or 5 smaller ones
airlock(s) and bung(s)
large fruit wine funnel

Plum Wine Method

Freeze all the plums and allow to thaw. Peel the bananas. Boil half of the water and stir in the sugar. Add all the ingredients to the fermentation bin and leave for ten days in a warm place, occasionally returning to mash the fruit with a sterilized masher.

After those ten days, strain into a series of demijohns or one big one. Attach airlock and rack after a month. Allow to ferment out, racking on occasion if required. Age for at least three months, longer if you can. Plum wine can get a bit hazy but if you try not siphon all the sediment when siphoning you should avoid the worst of the haze.

Andy Hamiton’s delicious alcoholic elderflower champagne

The fizz that characterises elderflower champagne is a result of bottling before the fermentation process has finished, normally this process is started by capturing wild yeast. This can cause problems: namely, lack of alcohol, exploding bottles and disappointing results.

(for more hedgerow drinks don’t forget to help fund my 3rd book – Wild Booze and Hedgerow Cocktails)

elder champagne with elderflowers By using a bit of fermenting know-how you can make a sparking elderflower “champagne” every year that may rival any real champagne (though I am biased since it’s my own recipe).

The first problem to look at is using wild yeast. Some areas can be wild yeast deserts meaning your champagne will never ferment. If you do manage to capture a wild yeast you never know which yeast will get to work on your drinks. Each yeast works differently so you can be in for a lottery of flavours and alcohol strengths. The only way around that is to add your own yeast and champagne yeast is the best option; this has the added bonus of making your elderflower champagne alcoholic.

Elderflower champagne in a glass

Elderflower champagne in a glass courtesy of Roy Hunt

My recipe doesn’t resemble a normal elderflower champagne recipe and it is essentially a recipe for elderflower wine which is then re-fermented. This means more reliable results and if you change your mind halfway through at least you are left with some great white wine.

There was a pleasant country belief that if the flowers were put into ale, and a man and woman drank it together, they would be married within a year. – Lesley Gordon, 1985

ALCOHOLIC ELDERFLOWER CHAMPAGNE Grated rind of one lemon 1 litre/2 pints of elderflowers 3.5 litres/8 pints of boiling water 1.3kg/3 lbs sugar Juice of one lemon Champagne yeast, 1 tsp yeast nutrient.

Put flowers into fermentation bin and mix with lemon rind, lemon juice and sugar. Pour over boiling water and allow very gently stir until fully dissolved. Allow the water to cool to around 18°c – 20°c,  then filter through a muslin cloth and add the yeast and 1 tsp yeast nutrient. Leave in a place with a steady temperature of around 20°c for a 10-14 days or until the majority of fermentation has ceased.

When you are sure all the bubbling has ceased, strain in demijohn and allow to ferment fully. About three months should do the job, keep checking with a hydrometer. When you get consistent readings over 3-4 days your wine will have fully fermented.

Bring 200ml of water to the boil and add 70g of sugar. Allow to cool then strain the wine into a another demijohn leaving the sediment. Add the 200ml of sugar solution and leave in a warm place for 24 hours.

Siphon into champagne bottles seal with champagne corks and secure them in place with metal cages. The wine should be kept at room temp for the first 10 days. After this time it is moved to a cooler place, such as a cellar. They should initially be stored horizontally and over the next three months they should be gradually moved upside down. This can be done by placing the neck into sand. Chill for 24 hours before serving and do not disturb the bottle before opening.

Any problems making alcoholic elderflower champagne?

It’s funny how so many people have the same problems when making elderflower champagne. I’ve noted most of them and hopefully, you’ll find help on my article Elderflower champagne problems from mould, no fizz to exploding bottles.

The Urban forager by Andy Hamilton

Sloes by RoyIt often surprises people when they realise that urban environments can supply a more diverse range of foods than rural areas can. This mass delusion of the bio diverse countryside manifests itself when you see hoards of people flocking to country parks or pulling up on B road lay-bys at the mere mention of wild food on BBC’s Countryfile or Autumnwatch.

Urban foraging vs Countryside

I am not denying that you will get some food from the countryside, when looking for soles or hawthorns for instance the countryside should be your first point of call. Also, it can be simply a good day out with the family if you go foraging together.  What I am suggesting is that, before you do jump in your car or hop on a bus, consider a much more carbon friendly approach to foraging and wild food. That is to nip down to the local park, look on walls down your street and even ask the neighbours if you can help weeding.

Andy Hamilton the Urban forager up an elder tree, foraging by Roy Hunt

Andy Hamilton, the urban forager

Indeed I just have to poke my head out of my living room window on this (the day of writing) a morning in March to see ground ivy which used to be used in brewing in place of hops and can be used in a salad. Ivy leafed toad flax which is a great grazing food as it sets root in on walls and can be eaten as you wander down a street. Some thyme growing in the cracks in my pavement, a window box left over from the previous season giving home to some dandelions, sage, chickweed which can be used in a salad, goosegrass which makes a great detox drink, ribwort plantain that can be used in place of spinach. Finally there is hairy bitter cress which has a great peppery taste and can really jazz up a ham sandwich. Compare these crops to a conventional farmer’s field and you are likely to see just one crop, or if it has just been ploughed perhaps nothing growing at all!

Things are improving with the governments bio-diversity subsidies but the fact still remains that farmland in this country generally consists of huge swathes of mono-crops. Stand up on a vantage point in any county and you are likely to see fields and fields of just one crop such as rape, corn, maize or sugar beet. Even the grass grown for grazing on livestock farms is likely to be planted and therefore only around 3 or 4 varieties will be grown.  Also take into consideration the sheer size of the fields taken up by just one crop.

Urban foraging

Now compare this to the areas plants grow within a city. Cities are not made up of a few fields marked for a few uses they are as diverse as the people who live within them. We have gardens, parks, allotments, golf courses, football pitches and industrial sites all within our city walls.  If you walk around an allotment site or even peer out of your bedroom window to see what everyone is growing you are sure to see a whole host of plants.  This is because thankfully we are all different and so the whole range of tastes are catered for with each garden. When the green thumbs of our isle get into action it is possible to grow plants from all over the world and many gardeners do just that.

Yes, I am oversimplifying things and not mentioning woodlands, country parks, nature reserves, organic farms or even hedgerows around farms. What I am suggesting is that to really learn about wild plants you don’t have to go out and look in the countryside.

In fact a friend of mine who offers paid for forages also and lives on the south east cost, came to Bristol and we walked through an area surrounded by gardens, allotments, a couple of small holdings and a city farm. He was amazed at the number of plants on just two streets. Sure enough the diversity of human activity around this area has a direct correlation with the amount of plants on offer.

This, I think is why I am angered to see gardens being turned into off street parking place, new housing estates appearing on parkland and in place of allotments. Or people selling off parts of their gardens in order to squeeze in a few more houses into areas that already resemble a rabbit warren.  If the government insists that it is helping bio diversity should they not be looking into giving gardeners and allotment owners subsidies as well as to farmers? This could be a step towards preserving some of the plants that could otherwise leave our shores.

Andy Hamilton foraging for urban wild food blackberries

A spot of Urban blackberry foraging

Both the countryside and urban forager too must take a great responsibility to the plants that are around him (or her). Many people that first get bitten by the foraging bug will immediately run out and start tearing up the countryside in the hunger for new tastes. I too was once guilty of this when I found a patch of wild rocket growing by a river not far from my house and I then massacring the whole plant in order to make rocket pesto. It was not until the next year when I saw some wild rocket growing in a place further down river that I remembered this previous patch, I had not allowed any of the plant to go to seed and had deprived it from its sole and rightful purpose in this world, to reproduce. This mistake not only cost the plant’s children their future but it also forced me to walk further for my pesto ingredients than I needed to. This anecdote hopefully illustrates a far greater point, that of conservation.

It is possible to carry on eating wild plants without devastating your local stock. The foragers code suggests that you should leave the plant looking like it did when you first saw it. This means don’t strip all of it’s leaves off, eat all of the flowers pick the whole plant up by the root. In fact it is illegal to dig up the roots of any plant without the land owner’s permission and some rare plants should be left alone totally in order to preserve them.

You must also be very aware that there are some poisonous plants out there, plants that will paralyse you if digested, plants that will cause a slow lingering death and plants that will just make you ill. The old saying that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”, rings true when it comes to foraging and you must always be 110% certain before you eat something that you find.

It is not that difficult to find a forager in your area to get some basic knowledge to get you started, just look out on notice boards, in health food shops and on the internet.  I taught myself using books and the internet.  The wild food section of our book, The Selfsufficientish Bible published by Hodder and Stoughton is set out with the novice in mind giving a brief description of various foods, information on where to look and a few recipes. My othe book Booze for freeOther books that have helped me are the classic Food for free, by Richard Mabey. I would try and source an older version of his book as it is a much better read and goes into more detail than later editions. By far the best Mushrooms guides are by Roger Phillips which have detailed descriptions, edibility advice and great photographs. I seem to collect wild flower guides too which can be found in good secondhand book shops and charity shops ensure that it has the latin names of each plant as many common names can vary.

I found that the more plants I learnt about the easier it became to identify them. I learnt by identifying the plants on my doorstep. I took out my digital camera took a snap and through a process of elimination worked out which each plant was. Over a few years you will be amazed at how many plants you can identify using this method and it can be quite a buzz knowing that you can identify most of the plants in a mile radius from your house.  Happy foraging


Birch Sap Wine and how to tap a birch

Birch sap being collected

Birch Sap being collected

One of the first signs that spring has sprung is when small, neatly wrapped parcels of leaves start to appear on the trees. These buds indicate not only the start of spring but that the sap is rising, and the sap  from the birch can be tapped and drunk. The ambrosial birch sap need not be just a taste of early spring as it can be preserved as a wine. Any birch tree can be tapped, but ensure you tap an older tree of at least 25–30cm in diameter: any smaller and you risk damaging the tree before it has had a chance to grow. Drill a hole into the tree at a 30-degree angle facing downwards. The hole should just penetrate the bark and should be as thick as the piece of tube you will need to insert into the tree. Push the tubing right into the tree and put the other end in a bottle or demijohn. Leave for a day or two, returning twice daily to check on progress. If the sap that comes out smells and looks a bit like dog pee then the tree has been infected with a fungus and the sap should be discarded.

It can be difficult to tap a birch tree if you live in a town or city. My friend and fellow forager Fergus Drennan suggests that you climb the tree and tape or tie the demijohn to a higher branch before tapping up there. The sap rises right up the tree so you should still get a good amount.

When you have finished tapping the tree, make sure you plug up the hole. There are several ways to do this, including shoving a piece of cork into the hole and covering it with wax so you can come back on alternate years, pick the wax off, pull out the cork and tap again. Personally, when I plug a birch I find a small twig or branch underneath the tree, cut that to shape with a penknife then hammer it home with a stone. If you don’t plug a tree you leave it open to infection, which could kill it.

Birch sap does not keep very well and should be put into use as soon as possible. If refrigerated it will last for only a few days, but it can be frozen until needed.

Birch sap wine is certainly a delicacy of the woods, so much so that it is available commercially in many countries. By altering the amount of sugar used in the fermentation process you can determine how sweet or dry your wine turns out to be. This recipe will make a slightly dry wine.


4.5 litres birch sap
250ml white grape concentrate
1kg sugar
2 tsp citric acid
half tsp tannin
Hock wine yeast

Bring the sap, concentrate and sugar to the boil, remove from the heat and add the citric acid, then stir until the sugar has fully dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature then stir in the tannin and sprinkle the yeast on. Cover loosely and leave for ten days.

Siphon into a demijohn and rack after about four weeks. Allow to ferment out before bottling and age for at least three months.

First published on the Observer Organic Allotment blog


Eating the Dead

Eating the Dead – Foraging Edinburghs Graveyards

Andy Hamilton and a gravestone with booze in hand

Andy and Grave

With its abundance of green spaces Edinburgh’s wild food larder is pretty impressive –  just a short and welcome step away from the heaving main streets, street performers and countless flyer off-loaders during the fringe, and into the hidden gardens, graveyards and hills to find all sorts of edibles fit for any table. What’s more, this food is available for everyone and at a price we can all afford at a credit-crunching nothing.

To start my forage I got a train which pulled into Edinburgh Waverly Station. One thing struck me about this Southern/Northern town  (Southern for the Scots and Northern for the English): it could be renamed Rosebay willow town for the amount of this herb scattered all over the city.

Rosebay willow herb’s seeds are distributed by the wind and as trains supply a regular amount of the stuff the seeds are blown from here toPenzance.  A quick trip up the Scots monument also reaffirms the notion that even without trains Edinburgh has more than its fair share of wind thus further spreading this plant’s seed.

The dried leaves of Rosebay Willow Herb can be used as a tobacco substitute, but having quit smoking a few months back it’s not one I really intend to try. I have, however, tried an infusion made from the leaves, which is supposed to help asthmatics and it is somewhat agreeable, although as with most herb ‘teas’ it’s helped with a little honey.

Wandering into one of the graveyards off the High Street I contemplated the fate of Robert Fergusson, one of the greatest but least recognised Scottish poets, as I munched into some freshly picked cherries. I also contemplated as to whether the roots of the cherry really did enter into his coffin and hoped that I could absorb at least part of his genius without ending up in the old Darien House (Mental Asylum) as he did.

Staying with a slightly morbid theme, it is certainly noteworthy that graveyards are some of the best places to forage for wild foods and generally the older the better. Unlike parks and other public areas they are often unmanaged (although I am not saying the ones in Edinburgh are), and moreover they are protected areas that not many people visit and thus a wild food haven.  However, if a grave or crypt does have something growing on it that does look managed and is less than 50 years old perhaps best to leave it alone than to munch on to save offence – how would you like to see someone munching around a loved one’s grave?

I digress. In just a brief walk around one of the more famous graveyards I found Rosemary, Rosehips, clover, common plantain, marjoram, lime trees and mallow to name just a few of the more easily recognisable wild foods.

There is more to Edinburgh than eating the dead and so I headed off back to Waverly station to check out the ocean’s larder. Well I also had an ulterior motive; I had seen the Forth rail bridge being painted on Blue Peter when I was a child and it had so impressed me that I needed no real excuse to go and see it up close.  I found a little ‘beach’ under the bridge on the North Queensferry side and started to look for food. I was amazed to find a lobster claw almost immediately, but without having a lobster pot on me or indeed having enough time to leave it there overnight, the lobster was the one that got away.

In fact the crab that ran over my boot also got away so did the oysters, snails and mussels and rabbits that I saw whilst in North Queensferry.  I like to know how to live off some of the wild animals and marine life but it does not necessarily mean that I will go around killing and eating them. Indeed I know that if you throw a rock in the air with a bit of food around it a passing seagull will swoop down, eat it and the change in weight will bring him down for you lunch. I also know that you can eat slugs and worms if you starve them for a couple of days – who knows, it might be things like this that will save my life one day but let’s hope that it not too soon.

I prefer to stick to food without a pulse when foraging especially when I am with my vegetarian girlfriend and of course as on any seafront there was food aplenty, namely seaweed in which this beach was covered. Most sea weeds are edible but remember to ensure there is still some left next year: seaweed should only be cut up to twice a year leaving the roots attached to rocks. The most common you will find, and here being no exception, is Bladder Wrack which can be washed and simmered then served up with your Sunday roast. Seriously don’t knock it until you have tried it.

What amazed me more than the obvious seaweed was that around the edges of the beech I found some Good King Henry, a plant I normally associate with dung-heaps on farmyards. This bronze age staple food can be bought into the hear and now by cooking it like spinach and mixing it with Chinese food as it goes really well with a little Soya sauce to take away the slightly astringent after taste.

I try to always have one wild food that I endeavour to discover each week. Finding this is the way to build up your knowledge of plants. This time it was to be Sea Holly, a plant that I found but won’t tell you where for reasons that are about to become obvious. It is a beautiful thistle that, just like me, has suffered for its beauty (ahem), insofar as it is picked for vases across the country before being allowed to set its seed. The wild food novice should take heed here and remember to pick responsibly, so that all of Edinburgh’s bounty doesn’t go the way of what could have been such sweet road kill, the Muskrat, Pika or Artic Lemming.

I once told by a fellow writer to never delete anything, in fact this was back in the 1990’s when neither of us had a computer. On this advice I kept reams of paper, which still sit in my loft. Luckily, these days most hard drives will hold at least 1 billion words so not deleting anything is very easy. I digress, the below was orginally written for a Scottish Newspaper, it didn’t make the cut so I saved it and two years later got paid for placing it in a British Magazine. Perfect!


Why I love foraging, Autumnwatch video clip and Ethical consumer article

Why I love foraging

Whenever I start my foraging walks I always ask the group if they have any prior knowledge of wild food. They often (as a group) look sheepishly down to the ground in a collective muttering of, “no”.

“What about wild blackberry or apple picking”, I always ask. The whole group transforms to a collective mummer of yeses as I announce that these are wild foods and therefore they have all indeed been foraging. Stories then start to spill out from this group of foragers about childhood Easter holidays spent on farms picking wild garlic, ora about fathers who would munch on wayside plants as they walked around the fells.

This perhaps why I get really annoyed when people dismissingly call foraging a middle class pass time, not because I hate the middle classes (I was bought up as one, albeit lower middle class); but because foraging is one of the most classless and inclusive activities going. You don’t need any special equipment, it can be done almost anywhere and by its very nature it’s totally free. I have taken groups of inner city single mothers out foraging, groups of office workers, Doctors, scientists, students and children. All equally enjoy learning and eating our landscape as much as each other. Our ancestors were all hunter GATHERERS, they were indeed all foragers. I might not have to check the history books to be pretty certain that we didn’t have a class structure 20 000 years ago.

On a personal level I want more people to forage so they can share the joy I have watching the seasons slowly unfold into a picnic full of flavours. Think of the exhilaration you feel after the wind has whipped you up a craggy path to the top of one of our great hills or mountains, or how a summers afternoon on Cornish beach can reenergize you for months after or even just how walking the dog cheers you up. This is how I feel daily when I go out picking food. It’s as much about what I am feeling as what I am eating, even in the rain, the feeling is happiness.

I think it is the interaction with the outside world that I enjoy, not just passively walking around a well trodden path with 40 other people having driven there on a Saturday afternoon but really getting to know an area and all its plants. These joys can be had by all, even if you are only picking blackberries!