Family Foraging: 10 tips for beginners
Foraging can be scary if you've never done it before. But it's a great way to get the kids outside and enjoying some fresh air (and maybe even some food) for free. Here are my tips and ideas for a beginner's family foraging walk...
Despite living in the countryside, my kids still need to be strongly persuaded that going for a walk is a good idea! I find that a walk with 'purpose' is the way to go to encourage them away from their screens. A 'foraging walk' is a great way, even for total beginners, to get everyone out – don't forget your bags or boxes - to see what you can find.
5 tips for making family foraging fun
- Go with another family so that the kids can rally each other along. This tends to keep boredom at bay.
- Limit the walk to 5 miles for kids aged 5 years plus. Anything more will be too much in my experience. You don't want to put them off for life!
- If in doubt then just look but don't touch. It's still interesting to take a picture and then Google it when you get home.
- Avoid mushrooms Sure, take a picture and point them out, but better safe than sorry, and even foraging experts have been known to come a cropper with these.
- Have a backup plan. If it's not a great time of year for foraging, or you just aren't having much luck, then why not collect nature goodies (leaves, flowers, seed heads, conkers) and make a piece of art when you return? This is a great backup activity so whatever happens, you are keeping them interested.
Ingredients to find on a family forage
Probably the easiest to spot and the safest bet. Late September to early October is the best time for these. Use in crumbles, jams, pies, or just eat fresh from the hedgerow!
These are less easy to spot – you are looking for Blackthorn trees. But when you get them you're in for a treat. Make sloe gin or sloe jam with these dark plumptious beauties. Find them late October.
- Elderberries / Elderflower:
A foraging favourite because you can get something in Spring and Autumn. The pretty white flowers are easy to spot in Spring and you can make elderflower cordial with them. In Autumn the berries can be added to crumbles or made into a tasty syrup. Late September to early Autumn is the time to look.
- Wild garlic:
A genuinely delicious ingredient – popular with top chefs. The smell is easy to recognise once you know what it is. Use in place of basil in a pesto or almost like spinach, adding to scrambled eggs or frittatas. Find it in forests, or by rivers during March.
Such a pleasure to pick (make sure it's not on someone's private land) - you can't go wrong with apples. Many farmers and apple tree owners in the country will allow you to take 'windfall apples' as they otherwise go to waste. Make chutneys, apple pies or crumbles with these. Or simply eat them – but they might be a bit sour! September and October again are top apple foraging times.
Have you ever been on a family forage? Let us know in a comment below!