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Courier Life Food

City foraging: edible herbs and plants near urban spaces

On a crisp winter morning, Courier ventured into the parks and woods north of London with Jason Irving from Forage Wild Food.

16 Nov 2016

It’s a fact that there are more plant varieties in urban areas than in rural parks of the same size. With less wildlife roaming our city parks there’s more food waiting for those who are willing to go in search of it. All you need to take with you is a trowel and fork, a knife, a pair of scissors, sandwich bags and a marker pen.

When it comes to foraging, there are a few precautions to be mindful of. The unwritten rule of urban forging is not to over forage. Take a little of everything you find, but leave enough for others behind you. It’s also ill-advised to eat anything straight from the ground or at low level. Animal droppings – particularly dogs and foxes – carry potentially harmful diseases. Wash all edible leaves and greens very thoroughly. And finally, take a guide or an experienced forager with you. Not everything out there is edible.

Where to look
Roadside Foraging

Rose hip, damsons and sloes all grow in the tall bushes along roads. Rose hips have a sweet, jammy content which you can squeeze out. However the skin isn’t edible and the small hairs inside can really irritate your mouth and throat if eaten.

Wild horseradish can be found on banks, hedgerows and ditches everywhere. It’s a root that you can spot by identifying the leaves, which look similar to dock leaves. Far more flavoursome than shop-bought horseradish, it makes an excellent accompaniment to beetroot or a Sunday roast.

Grassy Clearing in the Wood

Raw wild foods taste better than you might think. Shepherds purse, chickweed and hedge mustard can be added to salads or used as a garnish. Hogweed seed has a distinctly mustard-like taste and can be ground to season meat or vegetables.

Wild Bushes

Gorse flower (ulex) is a bright yellow flower that has a coconut scent and grows on thorny green shrubbery. It can be made into a syrup for cordial or wine.

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Know your plants

Below is a collection of common edible plants and herbs you might come across while foraging. Click on the images to enlarge them.

This story is taken from Courier Winter 2015.