When it comes to wild foods and foraging, the berry simply has to be the best of the best. Sweet and satisfying there is nothing like it. Its even better knowing that just a few miles away, people are paying very good money for an inferior product in the supermarkets. What you have in the woods, is totally fresh, natural and organic, simply the best that nature can produce. What they have is a farmed, forced to grow, pesticide soaked pretender, and they charge you £3 for it. Lets take a look at the familiar and not so familiar berries that are sometimes, right on our doorsteps. As with all foraging if you cant positively identify it – don’t eat it. Britain has poisonous berries that WILL kill you.
I would have though this one needed no introduction, but have been amazed by the people who don’t know it! Grows everywhere, almost literally. Large amounts can be collected in a short time and they store well when frozen or made into jam. We like to put them in smoothies. Loaded with anti-oxidants, high in fibre with huge amounts of vitamins and minerals, these fruits have been shown to have anti-cancer properties.
Unsurpassed in flavour, these are a personal favourite of mine. Very expensive per 100grams in the shops, yet able to be easily picked in large quantities in the wild. Astonishing health-wise, compounds in raspberries encourage cancer cell death and help prevent cells turning cancerous in the first place.
Very distinctive and very fast to pick, make these a excellent wild food. If they are to be eaten in any quantity then they should be cooked as they contain a cyanide like chemical. Often they are made into wine. Anti-inflamatory, anti viral-and anti-cancer. Packed with vitamins and minerals and ranks 3rd in the world for vitamin C content.
In our opinion, you haven’t tasted a strawberry until you have tasted a wild strawberry. They are very small but don’t be fooled, the punch they pack in terms of flavour is incomparable. Difficult to pick in quantity. Besides the usual anti-cancer, high vitamin content, wild strawberries also contain potential neurological disease-fighting and anti-aging compounds. Their free radical-zapping antioxidant activity is outstanding, as are their blood glucose-leveling abilities.
Every part of the wild cherry tree is poisonous except for the fruit. Stones must be removed as they contain cyanide. That said, wild cherries make excellent eating, that is if you can get there before the birds do!
Very common on our windswept moors and mountains, bilberries bushes like well drained acidic soil. Fantastically flavoursome, reminding us of blueberries. Relatively easy to pick them in usable amounts. Phenomenally medicinal, its benefits are too many to name here.
Many people pick sloes every year and I bet that 99% of them end up in a bottle of gin. With good reason too as they taste awful when raw, but there is far more to sloes than a flavouring for your tipple. Sloes cleanse the blood, improve digestion and are known to improve kidney and bladder problems. Stones should be removed as they contain cyanide.
Very distinctive – unmistakable in fact, bright red berries that, unpicked, will remain on the bush all winter. Every child knows rosehips as the seeds can be used as itching powder, however the older generation will know it as it was likely given to them by their mother for its immune boosting properties. Rosehip contains vast amounts of vitamin C, gram for gram far in excess of oranges, but it doesn’t end there. Rosehip helps prevent cancer and chronic disease, lowers cholesterol and is helpful in managing diabetes.
Rarely eaten today, hawthorn would have played a large part in our ancestors diets. Mashed and left to dry in rolled strips, hawthorn turns into fruit leather without any other ingredients added. This can then be stored for ages, possibly years and remain edible. Far from our first choice when it comes to flavour but the medicinal properties are interesting to say the least – compounds promote the health of the circulatory system, are useful in treating angina, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia.
Once mainly confined to upland, craggy areas but now a very common tree amongst the gardens and parks of Britain. Bright red/orange berries that many mothers tell their kids are poisonous, and to taste them raw, you can probably see why! They taste very sharp and its much better to make them into a jelly, which is traditionally served with venison.
Also see our wild food for beginners article.