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Monday, 8 September 2014

Is there anything we can do to make wild food more accessible?

There isn't a simple answer to this:

We can't make more wild food, or make it easier to reach, or change the law about where you can go to forage and the permission you need or what plants you can and can't dig up. 

Burdock produces a tasty edible root at the end of it's first year of growth but can we dig it up?
For an answer see tomorrows post on legal foraging.  
What we can do is try to change peoples attitudes about it and increase peoples knowledge about what is out there. How often are children told "don't put that in your mouth" now obviously there are things children shouldn't play with or put in their mouths but is there any harm in teaching them what they can eat? 

There was once a time when every child used to pick blackberries and scrump apples but that seems to be a thing of the past. I walk past prime blackberry picking patches regularly without enough time or a big enough appetite to pick them all and they just seem to be hanging there and going mouldy, and I've lost count of the number of apple trees in peoples gardens which are left uncared for and unharvested. Maybe it's easier to buy a bag of apples than pick your own or maybe it's the risk of finding the odd worm or maybe people think that they don't like 'outdoor' apples. 

It does truly confuse me, people could be saving money and enjoying time outside just by doing a little foraging. It doesn't take any skill, maybe a bit of ingenuity to reach the high up fruit, and there is no danger of poisoning from collecting a few blackberries. Yes if you want to do some more advanced foraging like looking for fungi or you particularly want to harvest some wild angelicas and make sure you don't pick hemlock by mistake then you need to make sure you're ID skills are good enough not to confuse your target species with something that might harm you. 

Is it a panther cap or is it 'The Prince', one edible one potentially deadly or something else entirely?
So start now, pick what you can definitely identify; apples, plums, sloes, blackberries and start making jams, sauces, crumbles and cordials. Buy a book on fungi, invest in an illustrated botanical guide book, look online, enrol on a course, you could even resort to reading my blog. Whatever you do, do something that's how we make wild food more accessible, learn about it, use it and tell others how fun it is to look for and delicious it is to eat.    

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