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.

Hawthorn heaven

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What beautiful weather of late!

It certainly seems to have turbo charged all the spring growth and I’ve noticed that the hawthorn trees all over Dorset are enthusiastically unravelling their fresh green leaves. The hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is one of the first trees to really wake up after winter (blackthorn beats it but produces flowers before leaves). In another month it will toughen up and become unpalatable, but right now the fresh young leaves are perfect for the picking.P1010073

In the past, the leaf and unravelled flower were a favourite forage for children, known as bread and cheese – the leaf being the bread and the flower the cheese. It's a fanciful comparison, but their taste is quite passable. Eaten by themselves, they can seem slightly bitter, but when added to other dishes, the fresh and slightly nutty side of their character appears.

I picked these leaves from a tree on the edge of Thorncombe woods near Dorchester, after last weekend’s Family Bushcraft event. I nibbled a few straight from the branch and then took a handful home. Normally I'd add them to a green salad and toss them with a little balsamic vinegar, and I’ve heard of people cooking a kind of suet from them. However, on this occasion, as befits my classy lifestyle, I had them on cheese on toast – a fitting dish I thought considering their colloquial name!

ID points: The hawthorn tree is very common through the UK. It dots itself around the woodlands, but typically it’s a tree of hedgerows – 'haw' being old English for hedge, while the 'thorn' bit should be obvious on close examination. There’s lots of tree guides available in book form or online, but it’s generally a shrubby short tree. The thorns are probably the clearest ID point, they are short and at roughly 45 degrees to the branches. The blackthorn is the only other common tree with thorns, but these are normally much stronger and longer – the leaves look nothing like the simple lobed leaves of the hawthorn below.

  P1010072- haw2

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