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What to forage in May


Mallow (Malva sylvestris)

Mallow is a beautiful native flower containing a wealth of vitamins, antioxidants, and fatty acids like omega-3. In medieval times, it was even considered a cure-all! There is better medicine available today, but mallow is still worth foraging and adding to dishes. Mallow flowers have a mild pea taste and will look beautiful presented in a salad, and you can even pickle them to use later. The seeds, leaves, and buds of this plant can also be eaten raw, cooked, or pickled.

Oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)

Oxeye daisies are a common native plant, now considered a weed, and are sometimes referred to as dog daisies or field daisies. They look identical to common daisies you’ll find growing in the grass, but much bigger and they grow in a bush. Like most flowers, the head of an oxeye daisy can be added to salads or used as a garnish to add a pop of colour and intrigue. The buds are particularly tasty when pickled like capers and added to pasta sauces or other saucy dishes, and the leaves can be used as you would any other leafy green or herb.

Red clover (Trifolium pratense)

Red clover is likely to be found in any park, field, or grassy area in the UK. The flowers (which are purple, despite the name) are delicious, tasting of a very sweet pea — you can serve them whole, or break off the tiny flowers that make up the head and scatter them throughout your dish. Red clover is also foraged for medicinal use, with red clover extract being used to treat everything from coughs to rashes. When eaten it also has benefits for menopause symptoms, including osteoporosis.

Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

Sorrel is an edible plant that can be found on the menu in many restaurants, so it’s understandable if you didn’t know it can be very easily foraged. It’s a British native, found in woods, fields, parks, and pretty much anywhere else. Flavour-wise, despite looking like an ordinary leaf it has a delicious citrussy taste and can even replace lemons or limes in many recipes. Due to its acidity, sorrel can also be used to turn milk into buttermilk. Outside of the kitchen, it’s also used as a stain remover and can even polish wood and silver! 

Foraging tips and advice

  • Always take care when foraging as there are plants and fungi found in the wild that can be harmful or even poisonous to humans, even here in the UK. Identify your plants carefully and cross reference them with a guide or online resource (you can look them up on the RHS, for example). 
  • Remember to wash foraged items thoroughly, as most of what is delicious to us is also delicious to an array of insects too. Luckily, most hiding creepy crawlies can be removed from the surface of your foragables simply by running each item under very cold water, but you should keep an eye out for signs of burrowing or eggs too and discard items with these.
  • It’s important to practice responsible foraging too, and only take enough for yourself to use. Not only is this fair for other foragers, but it ensures the plant will continue to provide in the future. Keep an eye out for signposts when foraging, too, as it may be discouraged in certain areas for safety or conservation purposes, and never forage on private land unless you have permission.
  • As with any outdoor adventure, it’s crucial to wear sensible footwear and clothing, especially when you consider how changeable the British weather can be! Even if it’s sunny, pack some warm layers and waterproofs so you aren’t caught short and consider wearing a pair of hiking boots. Even common forage like blackberries have thorns or other defences, so you might also want to take gardening gloves, sanitiser, and perhaps a small first aid kit.