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The credit brunch: Our guide to wild food foraging

Wild plants can be healthy but eating the wrong mushrooms could be dangerous. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Now we all know that natural, local foods are our best bet when it comes to boosting health and wellbeing but would you be prepared to add so called 'weeds' to your dinner plate?

The health benefits of wild plants are nothing new but using them in our everyday diet is back in fashion after chefs across the country openly add the likes of Nettle, Sorrel and Dandelion to their receipes!

One man who know all about the benefits of eating wild food is Scientist Dr Patrick Harding, he's been a regular food forager for the past 30 years and believes eating wild can boost your immune system, give you a vitamin boost and even cure skin conditions.

Food foraging does come with a serious warning though, you have to be very careful what you pick. Eat the wrong plant or mushroom and it could have serious consequences. Here are Dr Hardings top tips for a safe and fun food forage

  • Confirm the identification of the plant or mushroom with a good book/website and preferably by showing it to an expert. If there is any doubt do not eat/use it.
  • Remember to use all your senses for identification, not just visual clues. Smell and texture may be just as important, as is the habitat.
  • Don’t uproot plants in the wild – it’s illegal.
  • Don’t disturb wildlife such as nesting birds when foraging.
  • Only take a few leaves/flowers/fruits from any one plant.
  • Young nettle leaves (from the tips of the plants)- best identified by touch – make a healthy tea and also a good beer.
  • Broad, bright green leaves of Ramsons (wild garlic) grow in damp woods and smell strongly of onion. They are a great salad addition, or to wrap around baked fish or to put in the blender with olive oil, pepper and some walnuts to make a wonderful pesto.
  • The leaves of Sweet Cicely – a plant that looks like Cow Parsley but smells strongly of aniseed when crushed, can be stewed with rhubarb to remove the sharpness. Fine for diabetics too. Remove the leaf before serving.
  • Chunky grassland mushrooms found only in April and May that are white on the cap, stem and gills and smell strongly of flour/wet pastry are the edible St George’s Mushrooms. Fry and add lemon juice, thick yoghurt and fresh parsley. Enjoy.
  • Look forward to the warmer days of summer and especially Elder flowers for making cordial or alcoholic fizz.

If you'd like to learn more about food foraging safely Dr Harding is holding a special workshop at Sherwood Pines Forest Park in Nottinghamshire, you can find out more details here.

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