With supermarkets stacked with fruit and vegetables from everywhere, we have removed ourselves from first hand knowledge of food. We are now often relying on others, like food manufacturers and supermarkets.
Our experience with foraging
When summer comes to an end and the days get shorter, some fruits and nuts are ripe and ready to pick.
I often go for a stroll with the kids to see what we can find in hedgerows or the woods. Things we look out for are blackberries for example as they are easy to find and recognise.
Sometimes we find Damson, Elderberries, plums, Sloe berries, Mulberries or nuts like hazelnuts and chestnuts.
We are keen collectors of chestnuts in autumn, which gives us a great reason to venture out. We often cook the chestnuts and bring them along as a filling and hearty snack on the next trip out.
Why should you go foraging with kids?
- When your children spend time in nature they are more likely to develop a lifelong love for it!
- Your children will learn where food comes from and how it grows.
- It’s more likely your children will eat the food they have found and picked themselves.
- Wild food is full of nutrition and vitamins.
- It’s a great reason to go and spend time outside in the fresh air.
- The seasons will come alive.
Foraging with kids – Where to start
There is a lot of fear around foraging in our pre-packed and manufactured lives. In times gone by first hand knowledge would have been passed down and any dangerous or poisonous plants would have been identified and avoided.
Yes, while it’s not a good idea to start foraging without some knowledge, there are many fruits, nuts and herbs which are easy to recognise and perfectly safe to eat.
I have made a list of easy to find food to get you started. Mainly fruits and some nuts which we have found in nature.
All you need is an idea what to look for and containers or paper bags to store your treasure in.
Foraging with kids – What is out there?
Damson is a small purple fruit which looks like a plum. These can be found in hedgerows across the country.
You can make a great jam from this fruit as well as cordial.
Elder flower cordial is made from the blossom, though my Nan always made a great cordial from the berries. Just add some sugar to sweeten it, though my Nan never did!
As a rule of thumb, never identify a fruit just by the berry. Always check the leaves of the plant to help you identify it and to avoid berries that aren’t edible.
We found some wild plums along the Crab and Winkle walk in Kent. We spent a large part of our walk picking and nibbling! Of course you can make a delicious jam from the plums if you manage to bring any home!
Sloe berries are weird. The bushes are super prickly so the berries are hard to pick. We tried to make jam with the berries but we are convinced that no amount of sugar is going to produce a sweet sloe berry jam.
We had heard of making sloe gin, but this did not work for us either (plus not something the kids can get involved in.) So whenever we see Sloe berries we smile and walk on. Let me know what your experience is with Sloe berries. I am very curious!
Mulberries are an absolute treat. You don’t often find a Mulberry tree but when you do make sure you pick some.
Our love for Mulberries started some years ago in France.
The kids noticed an old lady picking something from a tree and eating it. As curious as kids are, they watched the lady for a while from a distance and asked, “Mum, what is that woman picking?”
“Uhm, don’t know, why don’t you have a look?”
The old lady didn’t speak a word of English and my French is basic. But she explained with her hands and warm smile what they were and that you could eat them. And so we did!
I have only come across a Mulberry tree twice since that time in France. It made me smile and remember the lovely French woman that showed us the berries so many years ago.
Blackberries are deliciously sweet. If they easily come away they are at their ripest. My children can’t get enough of them!
In the town I was growing up in, there were a couple of beautiful hazelnut trees. And in early autumn we would go there after school and pick up hundreds of hazelnuts.
You will often find hazelnut trees in the woods, the nuts however are harder to come by. Squirrels LOVE hazelnuts and in fairness, it’s hard to beat a squirrel at well…..squirrelling haha
This might be my favourite of all. There are so many recipes out there using chestnuts. We have made a delicious chocolate mouse, roasted chestnuts but as it turns out my children like boiled chestnuts the most.
Which is just as well, as it is simple to do (just cut a cross in the chestnut and boil until soft.) We then bring the cooked chestnuts to our autumn outings as this provides a very filling and nutritious snack.
Foraging with kids -Why not?
Being prepared with containers is essential for a successful foraging walk. You might be surprised at what you can find in your local park or woodlands.
Foraging gives a walk purpose and well, its lots of fun.
Just be aware of the following:
- Make sure children are accompanied by a responsible adult with knowledge of plants and edible fruits.
- Don’t damage plant or bushes.
- Only pick what you need.
- Make sure the area around the plant or bush is not polluted.
- Ensure plants are identified and take a book or use an app.
Foraging with kids – How to make jam with berries
We have a very simple version of jam. I am not someone to follow recipes to the letter. I tend to do the taste test instead.
We wash damson, or blackberries or plums and put it in a pot with a very tiny layer of water.
Boil the fruit for a couple of minutes and add some sugar.
Then put the fruit through a sieve and that’s it.
If you like cordial instead, just add some more water when boiling the fruit.
You can use honey as an alternative to sugar for a healthier option.
Foraging with kids – resources
There are many books on the market which are helpful when foraging with kids. Here are 3 books we have found very good.
Of course I am only touching the surface here, but I think it is a nice list to start with. All fruits and nuts mentioned are easy to recognise and pick.
Let me know in the comments below what your experiences are with foraging with kids. What did you find?