Foraging for free and organic food is a real pleasure. It is Slow Living at its best. Wild food is all around us. Far more than you might think is edible.

Certainly, caution and some basic knowledge is required, but don’t let that stop you learning.

Children will love picking and they’ll probably eat it too because they’ve been part an important part of getting it to the plate. You’d think it was impossible to get a child to try Nettle Tea, or Beech leaf salad – but you’d be surprised!

We have a few favourites…

Nettles – good from February to November – but best earlier in the year. Pick the tips, pinch the plant hard where  you touch it and you’ll squash the needles that spike and create stings. Squash them and roll them around and all the stingers will have gone. They’ll look unappealing but they’re safer like that! Have them fresh as Nettle Tea or steam them as an early vegetable. They taste similar to green tea but have 0 carbon emissions…  If you learn the difference between the male and female flowers, you can eat the flowers as a nutty nibble – superfood!

Wild Garlic leaves are abundant and delicious. The power is in the leaf not the bulb.
Sticky Weed, (AKA Goose grass, Sticky Willy) – it’s that funny grass which you can stick to your clothes… pick the greenest freshest bits, boil it up (3-4 mins) as a vegetable. Tastes like spinach.
Hawthorn leaves – when they are just out, they’re tangy and perfect for dressing a salad. The donkeys love them too.

Beech leaves – best when they first come out and have little hairs on them. Treat them like rocket and add a few to your salad.

Lime Tree Leaves – taste lemony/citrus. Delicious in tea or shredded and added to salads. In old times it was used a soup thickener, chew it and feel it get ‘pappy’ in your mouth. A gentle taste.

Samphire. A local favourite and free here. You’ll find it along the lagoon at Hurst Spit. It grows in huge number along the foreshore. Wash it through several times. Steam lightly and serve with butter. No salt needed here either.


Blackberries. A staple in any foragers diet. Pick masses. Pick above waist height in case dogs have wee’d on them. We eat them raw – the rain here is as organic as you’ll get in the UK and after a bit of rain they’ll be as fresh as any.  Bake in pies, use as a replacement for any other UK berries. They’ll dye everything purple, including your tongue. They freeze well too.

A note on Mushrooms – the New Forest National Parks teams discourage people from picking and we follow that advice. If you want to know more about mushrooms in the New Forest – get the Wildcook Book from Gary Eveleigh, the forests No 1 mushroom hunter.

We have been supporting @ForagedbyFern on Facebook. She’s a South Coast girl and comes to the forest often. Read more about Fern here. 

Fern loves to use flowers in her cooking and forarges from the garden just as much as the forest or coast. Do follow her. She teaches the foraging, cooks and shares her lovely results. Tempura Magnolia flowers, Lilac and Lemon Cupcakes, Elderflower doughnuts, Wild Garlic Bruschetta…

Violet and Cherry Blossom collecting for cupcakes

A celebration meal of wild greens: garlic, nettles, stickweed, elderflower and more…

Drinks are perfect for foraging tastes. Vodka and blossom cocktails?

Local Character

If you’re wanting to learn more about foraging, then there is a lovely book, ‘Wildcook’ by Gary Eveleigh, which tells us what to find and where (safely), and offers picking tips and suggestions for how to use what you’ve found.

Whether it’s beaches, foreshores, hedgerows, fields or forests Garry has you covered. The recipes are created by James Golding, who in 2019, was Head Chef at THE PIG Brockenhurst. All are guaranteed to impress even your pickiest friends.


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