Foraging Wild Herbs and three easy Wild Herb Recipes
Updated: Jun 17
Don’t you just love the spring, the expectation of summer to come and the new growth and green of the season is such a fresh reward after a long winter. Early spring is about new shoots, fresh herbs and green leaves but it is the wild herbs that I will focus on in this collection of recipes. There are so many wild herbs available alexanders, bistort, borage, burdock, chickweed, chives, dandelion, fat hen, ground elder, mallow, nettle, sorrel and of course wild garlic! There are countless herbs, many that I haven’t mentioned and even more recipes but I thought I would share three ways to use this new season bounty so you can enjoy enjoy them yourselves!
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Foraging Wild Herbs
Firstly, it's important to research and educate yourself about the herbs you're interested in foraging. Familiarise yourself with their appearance, characteristics, and preferred habitats. Use reputable field guides, online resources, or consider joining a foraging course led by experienced instructors. Knowledge is key to proper identification.
Always respect the environment. Forage sustainably by taking only what you need and leaving enough for the plants to regenerate.
Understanding the seasons is crucial. Different herbs have specific growing seasons. Research when the herbs you're interested in typically emerge and when they are at their peak. For example, nettle is best foraged in the spring, while wild garlic can be found in early spring to early summer. Knowing the seasonal patterns will increase your chances of finding the herbs you seek.
Diversify your search by exploring various habitats. Wild herbs can be found in meadows, woodland edges, hedgerows, coastal areas, and even urban parks or abandoned spaces. Each habitat may offer different herb species, so expanding your foraging locations can yield new discoveries.
When out foraging, observe your surroundings. Pay attention to the plants' characteristics, growth patterns, and preferred habitats. Look for distinctive leaves, flowers, or other identifying features. Familiarise yourself with poisonous look-alikes to ensure safe foraging.
Starting with common and easily identifiable herbs is recommended. Nettles, dandelions, and wild garlic are good herbs to begin with. Gain confidence and experience with these before venturing into more complex or less familiar herbs.
Engaging with local foraging communities or attending guided foraging walks and workshops can be beneficial. Joining foraging groups or participating in workshops allows you to connect with experienced foragers who can provide valuable insights, share knowledge, and offer tips specific to your region.
Be mindful of the environmental impact of your foraging activities. Avoid gathering herbs from polluted areas or near busy roads where they may have absorbed harmful substances. Respect wildlife habitats, be cautious not to damage plants or disturb wildlife, and avoid over-harvesting from a single area to maintain the balance of the ecosystem.
Always double-check the identification of a herb before consuming it. If you're uncertain, it's best to err on the side of caution. Some plants have poisonous look-alikes, and misidentification can be dangerous. When in doubt, do not eat it.
Remember to enjoy the journey and the connection with nature that foraging provides. It's an opportunity to learn about local ecosystems, appreciate the abundance of edible plants available, and cultivate a deeper connection with the natural world. Take your time, savour the process, and be grateful for the bountiful offerings of nature.
Find out what wild herbs are in season now with our Wild Food Seasonal Calendar.
Common Wild Herbs in the UK
Nettle (Urtica dioica): Nettle leaves can be used to make teas, soups, or cooked as a vegetable. They are rich in vitamins and minerals.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): Dandelion leaves are edible and can be used in salads or cooked as a green vegetable. They have a slightly bitter taste.
Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum): Also known as ramsons, wild garlic leaves have a strong garlicky flavour and can be used in salads, soups, or as a seasoning.
Sorrel (Rumex acetosa): Sorrel leaves have a tart, lemony taste and can be used in salads, soups, or cooked as a vegetable. They are often used to add a tangy flavour to dishes.
Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum): Alexanders have a flavour similar to celery and can be used in salads or cooked as a vegetable.
Bistort (Polygonum bistorta): Bistort leaves can be used as a salad green or cooked as a vegetable. They have a slightly tangy taste.
Borage (Borago officinalis): Borage leaves are edible and can be used in salads or cooked as a green vegetable. They have a mild cucumber-like flavour.
Burdock (Arctium lappa): Burdock leaves can be used in salads or cooked as a vegetable. They have a slightly bitter taste.
Chickweed (Stellaria media): Chickweed leaves are edible and can be used in salads or cooked as a vegetable. They have a mild, fresh flavour.
Wild Chives (Allium schoenoprasum): Wild chives have a similar flavour to cultivated chives and can be used as a garnish or seasoning in various dishes.
Fat Hen (Chenopodium album): Fat Hen leaves can be cooked as a green vegetable or used in salads. The leaves have a mild, spinach-like flavour.
Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria): Ground Elder leaves can be used in salads or cooked as a vegetable. They have a flavour similar to parsley.
Mallow (Malva spp.): Mallow leaves are edible and can be used in salads or cooked as a green vegetable. They have a mild, slightly sweet flavour.
Fancy making your own wild brews? Check out our wild brewing and drinks books.
Three Easy Recipes with Wild Herbs
Wild Herb Sandwich Filling
So simple you’ll love it! Simply get a tub of mascarpone or cream cheese such as philadelphia, and chop up some of your favourite wild herbs borage, wild garlic, jack by the hedge, wild chives, sorrel or lady’s smock mix them through the cream cheese and spread on good home made bread!
Wild Garlic Relish
This quick relish can be used for anything but why not try it with cold meats, or even fish! You need somebody to this relish so boil and cook a carrot and parsnip and place in a blender, peel and add a an onion and a tomato and of course a good handful of wild garlic (use Jack by the hedge when wild garlic is not in season). Blend until you have a rough jumble of vegetables and then add a real good splash of cider vinegar, season generously and then add a small amount of caster sugar, pulse again to mix and then decant into small sterilised jars. It will keep for ages in the fridge!
Wild Herb Dressing
Take a bunch of Wild Herbs, your favourites will do! Finely chop them and add them to a clean and empty jam jar. Next add the juice of a Lemon, salt and pepper, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard (or a homemade wholegrain mustard!) and then a good glug of rapeseed and then place the lid on the jar and shake until mixed. Perfect for salads, but also good for new season potatoes!
Foraging and eating wild herbs can be a rewarding and sustainable way to connect with nature, expand your culinary horizons, and embrace the abundance of edible plants around us. By researching, educating yourself, and practicing proper identification, you can safely harvest a variety of delicious and nutritious herbs. Respect for the environment, following regulations, and foraging sustainably are essential to ensure the preservation of wild habitats and the continued availability of these natural resources. So, embark on your foraging adventures with caution, curiosity, and a deep appreciation for the natural world, and enjoy the diverse flavours and health benefits that wild herbs can offer.
Love cooking wild food? Check out our selection of foraging cookbooks here.