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More people want to forage for wild food, reveals survey

Written by Fiona

January 08 2021

Wild mustard can be foraged in the UK. Credit: Petr Pakandl

A new survey has discovered that the UK is a nation of people keen to forage for wild food… if only they knew how.

The research conducted by outdoor clothing brand TOG 24 shows that almost three-quarters of adults asked are keen to forage wild food, yet just a quarter have foraged wild mushrooms and only a fifth have foraged on more than one occasion.

A lack of confidence and knowledge are the main reasons why people do not forage more. Half of adults are worried they might pick something poisonous; a third are concerned foraged food is unsafe to eat and a fifth worry foraged food is unhygienic. Further,  10% admit they do not know where wild food grows near where they live and 19% are unaware what produce is in season or what should be picked. 

Yet there are a number of benefits of foraging, such as free food and a connection with the land and nature.

Tog24 has subsequently created an essential guide to foraging for wild foods.

Another useful source is Wild food UK.

Also read:

Winter foraging ideas include Burdock. Credit: Trish Steel
Winter foraging ideas include Burdock. Credit: Trish Steel
Velvet shank mushrooms. Credit: Matthew Hatton
Velvet shank mushrooms are edible. Credit: Matthew Hatton
Winter produces hedge garlic. Credit: Evelyn Simak
Winter produces hedge garlic. Credit: Evelyn Simak

“We want to know more about wild food foraging’

The study found that two-thirds (65%) of people are keen to have more knowledge about the varieties of wild food available at different times.

For a further 54%, it all comes down to having a better knowledge of where to forage, as well as a greater understanding of the laws around foraging (41%).

Many people have environmental concerns too, seeking reassurances that foraging activity is not damaging wildlife food supplies (35%) or trees and plant life (28%). 

Mark Ward, TOG 24’s managing director, said: “Getting out and exploring nature is what we’re all about. It’s our heritage and it plays such an important role in everything we do today.

“Exercise is, of course, key to being outdoors, but so is what the land provides us. Foraging is an ancient art and as is the case with many old practices, we’ve lost it a little.

“We believe there has never been a better time for us to reconnect with nature and feed ourselves in the process. This is evident in our research findings where it’s clear to see that people want to do this. They might have seen it on TV and want to get involved but don’t know where to start. 

“We want to encourage foragers to get out there and with the permission of landowners, teach them about what to look for that is safe to eat and to have the confidence to cook their freshly foraged produce properly.

“By providing detailed information on this subject we hope this can become a reality for people up and down the country.” 

Marlow Renton, of Wild Food UK, said: “Foraging is a great fun and healthy hobby. There are potential dangers though, as there are many poisonous plants, mushrooms and fruits in the UK.

“It’s important to remember when foraging the number one rule is simply don’t eat anything from the wild if you don’t know what it is, and that it is edible. 

“The best way to learn is to go on a foraging course and to get yourself as many good guides as possible to take on walks.

“A good instructor will be able to give you rules to follow that will keep you safe and expand your foraging horizons.

“It doesn’t take long to pick up the basics and become familiar with the safe wild edibles, such as wild garlic or giant puffballs.

“Whenever you are out on a walk and unable to identify something, take photos and look it up at home. Doing this will increase knowledge levels of the lovely things we have to eat in the wild in the UK. Just stick to what you know and don’t take any risks.”

Useful seasonal wild food foraging guides

wild food foraging.
Winter food foraging.
wild food foraging.
Spring food foraging.
wild food foraging.
Summer food foraging.
wild food foraging.
Autumn food foraging.

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