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.

If you would like to know about new posts please join the mailing list or give the FB page a like. Facebook

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.

Gorgeous gojis

Posted on


Lycium berry close up

It's a funny thing foraging. Time and again, my best finds happen when I'm not really looking. A good reflection on life perhaps, but I got very excited last week. I was wandering along the cliffs collecting sea beet when I came across a plant that I've been wanting to meet for a while now: lycium (Lycium barbarum), bearer of the orangey-red goji berry.

The name goji might well ring a bell, as it has been much touted in recent years for its health benefits. Originally from China, it has been naturalised in this country since the 1730's when the Duke of Argyle had it shipped over, to plant on his estate. It was wrongly labelled as a tea plant, and one of its colloquial and rather wordy names is still Duke of Argyle's tea plant. Anyway, the birds decided it was rather tasty, flew far and wide, and the rest is history.

There has been some controversy over various claims made about this berry in recent years, one of the most interesting being the Chinese man who lived for 252 years because he took extracts of it daily (along with other herbs and lots of chi kung). I suspect this might be a little exagerrated, but chinese medicine has a long and well thought out history, so I believe there must be some truth in one of goji's translations: 'drive away old age berries'.

lycium elderberry syrup porridgeI I don't want to get embroiled in the various claims and contradictions, so I'll stick to a few safe and proven health benefits. Like virtually any edible wild fruit, it is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C; which in turn reduces inflammation and enhances the immune system. It is also considered to be a good source of beta-carotene, this enhances the body's production of vitamin A which (amongst other things) aids healthy vision – preventing cataracts and maintaining cell growth (carrots are another good source; revealing some truth in the old saying that carrots help you see in the dark). Finally, there is also evidence that gojis serve to stabilise the capillaries, veins and arteries; which thereby aids circulation and benefits cold hands and feet (interestingly, the hawthorn berry is reputed to have a similar effect).

The taste is wonderfully sweet with a slight astringency – reminding me somewhat of Lycium juicepersimmon. Goji is a popular ingredient in chinese cuisine, and it can be found in both sweet and savoury dishes. My exploits so far have included scattering the berries fresh on morning porridge, with a good helping of elderberry syrup, and adding to home-grown carrots and wilding apple juice. I think I will dry my next batch in the airing cupboard ready for winter use. 

Foraging considerations.

Lycium is generally restricted to the south of the UK and has a particular preference for the coast – probably due to the milder temperatures.

Care needs to be taken with this plant, as it belongs to the Solonacae family which contains some rather poisonous members, including the infamous deadly nightshade. That said, tomatoes, potatoes and aubergine are also sub-members of this family so we need to see things in context.

Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) has purple-black berries so that makes things simple. Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara) on the other Lycium leafhand has quite similar red/orange berries. It is not as poisonous as deadly nightshade, but it's certainly not something you want to make a mistake with.* The main difference, to my mind, is the leaf shape. Lycium has thin elongated oval-shaped leaves (lancolate) while bittersweet has wider oval leaves that are more distinctly pointed at the tip, with small lobes at the base; in addition, the bittersweet's leaves are a darker shade of green. Lycium also has small sporadic thorns while bittersweet does not. As always, take time to study a new plant, and only pick if you are one hundred per cent confident.

Finally, one of my favourite things about lycium is one of its rather macho colloquial names: wolf berry. I don't know how many you have to eat to start howling at the moon, or stripping off and single-handedly dominating high-school basketball matches (ignore the latter if you're not an 80's Michael-J-Fox kid) but I'll let you know.

* Deadly nightshade and bittersweet are both used homeopathically. It also seems deadly nightshade, or atropine which is derived from this plant, is used in some conventional heart medicines. In all cases though, this is in miniscule quantities.

Add a comment:

Leave a comment:
  • This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.


Add a comment