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.

A cherry on top

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Rather windy of late, wouldn’t you say? 

Well there's been one good result of that for us humans – the cherries that Wild Cherriesoften sit high in the wild-cherry trees (Prunus avium), until they turn ripe, and are munched by the birds, are now scattered on the ground.

It’s not the best year for them, due to the cold April when they were trying to blossom, but never turn your nose up at an opportunistic forage is what I say (a philosophy that’s got me into trouble for rifling through supermarket skips in the past, but that’s another story).

There’s various recipes out there for jams, pies and tarts, but I’m afraid the small size of the cherries makes for a rather tedious job of pitting, so I avoid that by creating a far more worthy concoction: cherry brandy. Look on line for recipes, but it basically involves brandy, wild cherries, sugar, the occasional good shake (of the bottle not yourself) and a few months of virtuous patience.

It’s no great surprise that the wild cherry is rich in vitamins and anti-oxidants, but the bark has also been used over the centuries for making a potent and soothing cough syrup – something I hope to experiment with in the future.

Wild Cherry treeForaging considerations: With its creamy white blossom in spring and fiery display in autumn, the wild cherry is a distinctive tree that sprinkles itself around most broadleaved woodlands. It has a dark purple tinge, but more distinctive is the thick horizontal lenticils on the trunk – in older specimens the bark also becomes deeply fissured and starts to peel (offering great tinder, if harvested respectfully).

The cherries look like smaller versions of shop bought ones (Prunus avium is the distant ancestor of many of the modern cultivated varieties) and they usually taste a little tart by themselves –which is why most recipes seem to involve sugar. The stones have been found in prehistoric sites across Europe, so we can only guess at how our ancestors prepared them in the days before imported sugar – perhaps they fermented them to make a wine or combined them with honey for some kind of desert.

Don’t worry if they are not fully ripe when you collect them (chances are they won’t be if they succumbed to the recent winds). Put them on a warm window sill for a few days and all will be well.


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