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.

Life’s a beech

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It’s late this year. But in the last few weeks, and with gathering momentum, vibrant splashes of green have started to burst from the bare winter trees. beech coast path 2

It’s an uplifting sight to see winter releasing its final fragile hold. And even better is the fact that some of the leaves are edible while young and tender. I mentioned hawthorn last year, so this year I thought I’d tip my hat to one of our most magnificent of trees – the beech (Fagus sylvatica).

The most famous use for the leaves involves gin and is called beech leaf noyau. There’s plenty of recipes online and it’s worth a try, producing a light green, slightly fruity drink. Personally, I prefer to save my gin for the elderflower that will soon be here or for certain autumnal delights, so generally I just enjoy the leaves raw – I suspect the subtle flavour would be lost if cooked although I have not tried it.

beech pot saladOne of my favourite ways of enjoying wild food is simply to browse as I walk, and beech leaves are perfect for this – making for a refreshing snack while ambling through the countryside. The top pic was a small copse on the west Dorset coast path last week.

A few leaves also go nicely in a mixed salad, while I tried them for the first time in a potato salad this year – they added great colour, with the mild fruitiness really complimenting the mayo. 

Foraging considerations.

The beech is a common and reasonably easy tree to identify. It has a smooth grey trunk and can grow to heights of 40 metres, although for obvious reasons, you’re better off finding a shorter one!

The pointed leaves at this time of year are an almost translucent bright green with a slightly wavy outline and beech leafa fine hairy texture. But don’t hang around – in the next few weeks they will darken and toughen up until they lose their flavour.

As with all foraging, sustainability is an essential consideration. Avoid stripping whole branches bare – much more responsible to take a few leaves from different branches.

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