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.

Midsummer murmers

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Midsummer is traditionally a time for collecting various medicinal flowers, and as our land bathes in these magically long hours Honeysuckle Purbeckof light, it's perfect for gathering native honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum).

Appearing in Shakespeare's Midsummer nights dream, as a metaphor for entwined lovers (it likes to wrap itself around neighbouring trees and shrubs), honeysuckle is a plant that has been celebrated throughout the ages. Breathe in the intoxicating scent as it hangs heavy in the evening air, and it's easy to see why.
 
Honeysuckle infusionFor centuries, maybe millenia, the flowers and leaves were used to soothe fevers and general aches and pains. While people would not have known it at the time, this is due to the high salicylic-acid content – one of the key ingredients that aspirin was ultimately synthesised from (actually using the salicylic acid contained in willow). The simplest way to imbibe honeysuckle for its medicinal purposes is as a tea, steeped in hot water for five to ten minutes. It is also reputed to have strong antiseptic qualities and is a good one to crush and use externally for small wounds while out in the woods.
 
I love adding a few flowers to a salad for an unusual splash of colour, while it is also a fun 'on the go' forage – chew on the base of the trumpet and you'll be rewarded with a small but heavenly drop of sweetness from the nectar inside.
 
Honeysuckle honeyThis year however, my main focus has been honeysuckle and elderflower infused honey. As is often the case, I was picking elder blossoms the other day, and the honeysuckle just happened to catch my eye.
 
Honey is an excellent medium for drawing out the goodness from whatever it surrounds. Just put flowers in an empty jar, cover with runny honey, and then leave on a sunny windowsill for it to work its magic. I always try to gather on a sunny day when the flowers are dry, but it's still a good idea to leave the lids sightly off for a few days to allow any tiny bits of moisture to evaporate. After a month or so, the honey can be stored away in a dark cupboard – either strain the flowers off or keep them in there as an edible decoration.
 
By my reckoning, this will be a potent winter bug buster. The antibacterial and pain-soothing qualities of the honeysuckle should harness perfectly with the fever accelerating wonders of the elderflower – while the soothing Purbeck honey is also antibacterial in it's own right.
 
This sort of concoction also makes for a wonderful winter gift, bringing an echo of summer to the darker months.
 
Foraging considerations.
 
Do not eat the berries; these are considered poisonous! 
 
As this is such an attractive plant, it is not surprising that there are also manyHoneysuckle close up kinds of cultivated varieties. As such, it is risky to make sweeping statements on ediblity. This is why I underlined the word 'native' at the beginning of this post. This plant (Lonicera periclymenum) has a long history of edible and medicinal use, and it's the one I know and stick with.
 
It is a common climber of old hedgerows and woodland edges. The open flowers are trumpet shaped while the closed flowers almost resemble tiny bananas in appearance. The colour varies between white, yellow and pink; while the leaves are grey-green, oval and in opposite pairs. As always, do your own research to become acquainted with this plant. If the honeysuckle is growing in a garden or near habitation, exercise extra care.
 
For maximum potency, pick the flowers when they are fully out. As with most flowers, try and pick in the middle of the day when the sun is on them, and certainly avoid picking when damp, as they will go dingey and smell a little strange. The most fragrant flowers seem to be the ones that have just opened, although getting it just right often comes down to good luck as much as timing.
 
Honeysuckle will usually stay in flower most of the summer and into autumn if it stays warm, but remember this is a real jewel of the countryside that is a visual and olfactory delight for all so, as always, forage with consideration for others enjoyment.
 

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