Will's Wild Food Diary

 Wild food diary

Fresh, organic and free! Of all things bushcrafty, nothing gets me more excited than a foraging adventure.

From time to time, I update this page with a different wild food that is in season –  gradually building up a seasonal diary of some of the foraging delights available to us.

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Disclaimer: there's lots of good wild stuff to eat, and much of it is fairly easy to identify. Unfortunately, there are also some plants and fungi that can make you seriously ill or worse. This diary is a brief overview intended to inspire and not a substitute for an in-depth field guide and/or skilled teacher. I will endeavour to point out any obvious poisionous look alikes, but ultimately foraging is the individual's responsibility. Unless you are 100 per cent confident you know what something is, leave it alone! Also, please be aware that, as with any food, different people can have different reactions. It is wise to try just a small amount first.

Watercress no less

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watercress cornwall 1I will remember the floods of winter 2012 for a sad, if self-centred, reason. They washed my favourite Dorset watercress bed clean away.

Since then, there have been fleeting moments of watercress wonder, such as the babbling Cornish brook above. But it is only recently that I have found the time to go looking for a regular supply nearer to home.

This one is on the River Avon as it makes it's final dash to the ocean, but I’m saying no more – if you put in a bit of time and effort this is not an uncommon plant to find growing in our streams and rivers – just prepare for a bit of wadingwatercress will

Wild watercress has a long season, from spring to early winter, and is identical to commercially produced plants. I therefore will avoid a lengthy description, except to say it will often grow taller and a bit more unruly having no-one to pamper it like it's civilised cousin. 

Foraging considerations

If all this sounds too good to be true, there is one unfortunate drawback, although easily surmountable. It goes by the name of fasciola hepatica. A catchy thing to roll off the tongue if you want to impress people with your Latin. Unfortunatly however, its basic translation is liver fluke. This organism has a complex life cycle, of which one part involves waiting around on plants (usually in muddy water) for an unsuspecting animal (humans included) to consume it, where upon it sets up home in the liver causing all sorts of gratuitous damage.

Revolting I know, but in reality this just means you can’t eat it raw. I always source my watercress from plants that are growing clear of the water in fast-flowing streams, typically chalk or gravel bottomed, and as such am 99.9 per cent sure it poses no threat; however, this is not a risk I take lightly so I always lightly cook it as a precaution. watercress close up

Fortunately, watercress makes one of the tastiest soups out there, so this is no great hardship, and I feel a fresh organic watercress soup must be at least as nutritious as some limp, plastic wrapped, chemically-laced offering from the supermarket. 

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