I have never been foraging before, well not officially anyway. I have scratched my hands on blackberry bush thorns whilst gathering a few berries for a pie. I have snapped an apple off a branch at an orchard, but nothing like this. This foraging experience was a guided tour by a trained botanist who is like a walking encyclopedia on everything from sustainability to food as medicine. She is great fun too, and an amazing chef, bringing us a wild food picnic to share after our hard work foraging.
It wasn’t truly hard work at all but rather a slow meander through one of the most abundant meadows in the South Norwood Country Park. There were a few dog walkers we came across but other than that we had the green space to ourselves to learn about and taste the plants in the natural habitat.
Gemma, our guide told us how to identify the things that were edible being sure to check with her before eating anything to rule out the chances of consuming hemlock instead of cow parsley! She also explained the medicinal uses for the different leaves and flowers and how they can be prepared to eat raw, cooked or turned into poultices or tinctures. It felt like going back to an ancient time when we humans had knowledge of the natural world and how to live alongside it in harmony.
Gemma also runs a London riverside forage with botanical gin-making on a boat. She also helps to guide forages for forest feasts out in the countryside.
I think this was one of the most novel and educational things I have done in such a long time. It has made me think about re-wilding my own garden and trying some of the delicious recipes that Gemma made.
The activity is a perfect one for people aged over 55 as the paths are well maintained, the pace is easy. There are plenty of stops along the way and the picnic at the end of the tour is most energising and nutritive. Think vegan dandelion cupcakes and gluten free nettle bread. Parking is free and easy in the surrounding area and the Norwood train station is close by.
See more details about this foraging walk with Earthwild.