Top 10 Woodland Wild Food Finds
10. Red Currant
The Redcurrant, a relative of the Gooseberry and a popular garden fruit, grows wild in the UK, but doesn't produce as many fruits as it's garden counterpart. Through July - September, it produces strings of luscious deep red berries with vertical lines and translucent skin, which are sweet, with a pleasant sharpness. The berries can be used for a range of culinary applications, from syrups and sauces, to pies, pastries and desserts. Or just snaffled on their own.
9. Rosebay Willowherb
Rosebay Willowherb is a tall plant, with magenta flowers rising up a central flower spike at it's summit. It has green, lance-like leaves that are arranged in spiral formation up its stem. It's flowers and leaves are edible, with the young shoots being cooked and eaten like asparagus, or added to salads, along with the flower heads. The flowers and leaves are also the main ingredients of the fermented Russian tea, Koporye. A recipe for this refreshing beverage can be found here.
8. Ground Ivy
Ground Ivy is an aromatic, evergreen creeper in the mint family. It is aslo known as Gill-Over-The-Ground, Creeping Charlie, Alehoof and Field Balm, to name just a few! It has distinctive round to kidney-shaped leaves with round toothed edges and pretty, blue-purple tubular flowers. It is used as a salad green or pot herb in many countries. It has traditionally been used to brew beer and also as a plant-based alternative to animal rennet in cheese-making.
7. Wild Raspberry
The Wild Raspberry is super-common throughout the UK and can be found in open woodland, along woodland trails, and even on roadsides verges. The fruits are often smaller and less 'plump' than garden varieties, but they are still delicious, and very versatile in the kitchen, being used to make syrups, sauces, desserts, pies, fruit salads, smoothies, or just eaten as a they are.
6. Wild Leek
Few-Flowered and Three-Cornered Leek are invasive wild onions that have been introduced to the UK from overseas. These plants are in the Allium Genus of plants, and so are related to onions, garlic and leeks and share a resemblance in flavour to both spring onion and garlic. Despite being invasive, they are also extremely delicious, and have a huge number of culinary uses. When combined with other wild greens, such as Wild Garlic and Garlic-Mustard, the collective flavour they impart is just wonderful.
5. Wood Hedgehogs
The Wood Hedgehog has to be one of the best, most delicious edible mushrooms out there. Arthur loves them and always looks forward to the onset of Autumn so we can go out and gather them. Perfect for beginners, this pale, chunky and flavoursome mushroom is so easy to identify due to the tiny spines on the underside of the cap, which give it it's common name. There are no other pale, firm, chunky mushrooms with spines instead of gills, so it's very difficult indeed to confuse it with anything else.
4. Wild Garlic
Despite being quite abundant in damp woodland and easy to spot (in fact, you'll probably smell them before you see them!), Wild Garlic is often overlooked as the choice edible that it is. These leaves are packed with wonderful garlicky flavour and can be used to take any dish to the next level. We regularly use them as an ingredient in ragus, sauces, kebabs and burgers, or to infuse mayonnaise or yogurt. We also use the unopened buds to make one of the best pickles I've even eaten. Being freezable as well, wild garlic a delicious staple food that can be stored for use all year round.
3. Hen of the Woods
One of our favourites, The Cauliflower, or Brain Fungus, is an unusual large edible mushroom with an irregular, dome-shaped, labyrinthine fruiting body. It varies in colour from light brown / buff, to yellow, grey or creamy white, and is quite delicious! One of the best things about this fungus is it's ability to regenerate - if you harvest not to close to it's stem, it will regenerate itself, provided fresh, edible new growth in a week or two. A mini-mushroom farm!
The Golden Chanterelle, also called the Girole or Pfiferling, is an extremely tasty mushroom that is found in both coniferous and deciduous woodlands. They taste sweet and peppery and are great in a range of recipes such as soups, stews and omelettes, or cooked on their own on toast. These are Arthur's favourite mushroom (and mine!), and are simply delicious. If you come across some, be sure to add them to your foraging basket!
1. Penny Bun
Boletus Edulis, also known as the Penny Bun, Porcini or Cep, needs very little introduction, as it is, without a doubt, one of the tastiest mushrooms you'll ever find, and a king of the edible mushroom world. It is found mostly in deciduous woodland, often in association with Beech, Oak or Pine. Although this mushroom is quite common, there is often only a small window of opportunity to find them due to a short fruiting season. This makes them quite elusive, if you don't know when and where to look!