In the modern world we’re disconnected from our food. When the cupboards and fridge run bare, we make a list, and visit a supermarket. Here, we can find all the food we need, sat in neat rows on white shelves, sealed in plastic. The wild hunt, reduced to a stroll around some aisles with pop music infusing our thoughts.
Not that long ago in human history sourcing our food wouldn’t have been so easy…so bland. We’d have needed to capture, catch, cultivate, and forage our dinner. No mean feat, but intrinsically rewarding, because the joy of finding our own food is primal. It’s written into our DNA.
This, amongst many other reasons is why foraging is exploding in popularity.
Foraging reduces your food bill
In the last few years food prices have increased annually, yet wages for many of us, have stayed put. Not an ideal combination when it comes to the weekly shop. When was the last time you made it through the checkout and had a nice surprise?
When you forage, it’s free. Who doesn’t like free food? Of course, you can’t forage pots of luxury ice cream and you’re not likely to find a bottle of red sticking out of the ground, but if you’re clever you can find a great deal to eat. Particularly on the plant and fungi front.
There are all sorts of common UK plants that will bulk up a salad and taste great – including penny wort and wood sorrel.
Fan of pesto? Wild garlic (that you cannot fail to smell in country lanes in spring and summer), makes delicious pesto. Couple this with some fried wild mushrooms and some pasta, and you’ve a wholesome meal. Almost completely free too.
The UK countryside is also brimming with berries and herbs – such as blackberries and nettles. Blackberries make wonderful crumbles (obviously), and nettles make an immune boosting tea.
Walking along the seashore? See if you can find yourself some salty rock samphire to have with a fresh piece of sea bass.
Globalisation has completely transformed the food industry. We don’t have to rely on British seasons for certain foods, because we source whatever we want from wherever we want in the world. Modern society has evolved to have a global diet, with exotic ingredients, vegetables, and fruits available almost continuously. This is a wonder of contemporary logistics—though terrible for the environment.
Every item of food has a carbon footprint attached to it from transport emissions. Not to mention the water and fossil fuel-based energy used to produce it. The further away the country of origin the larger the footprint.
Shopping, only sourcing food that’s produced locally to us, is near impossible to achieve. Such is the way of the world now.
However, foraging is different. Nature has grown this food, using only the sun’s rays and soil nutrients, and its carbon footprint is you taking it home. If you start foraging on a regular basis and designing seasonal meals around wild foods, you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint significantly.
Our lives, especially during the pandemic, have become hermetically sealed. Working from home, visiting the supermarket, communicating via video chat. There’s not much nature in all of that.
Additionally, with the rise of binge-watching culture and digital entertainment we are often experiencing nature second hand. This leads to a nature deficit, which without us realising, can contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation.
By taking up foraging, you’re giving yourself a reason to get out into the wild woods and fields. To be successful in your foraging adventures you must embrace the exploration of the countryside. The reward is more than just free food. It’s an awakening of a wild instinct, and part of what it means to be human.