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How to Forage, and Why Foraging Is Good for Your Health

Steve, aka Green Beard, is an expert on nature and loves to write about wildlife and conservation.

Wild Foods for Free

Many more people are becoming interested in foraging and are going out looking for free wild foods. This puts them in touch with nature and with ways of the hunter-gatherer our ancestors were long, long ago.

The eating of raw foods is another very healthy practice that many people are taking up and collecting edible wild plants, fruits, nuts and fungi is a great way of getting plenty to eat just as Mother Nature made it! Many common wildflowers and weeds can be eaten raw in salads and others can be cooked as greens. Many plants are also medicinal herbs, and we can find them growing in the areas we live in. This is the case all over the world.

Many people today are wisely demanding organic fruit and vegetables because they know they should be grown naturally and are free of harmful pesticides, or at least they should be. Edible wild plants and herbs gathered from the wild are guaranteed organic! There is also a lot of pleasure to be gained by finding and gathering them yourself.

Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle. Photo by Steve Andrews

Milk Thistle. Photo by Steve Andrews

Markus Rothkranz

Markus Rothkranz is an expert on raw foods and restoring bodily health by eating weeds and other edible plants, as well as using herbal medicines. His youthful appearance, boundless energy and positivity are all due to him being a raw food vegan, and Markus refers to many common weeds as “super-foods.” The Dandelion is an excellent example of one of his favourite edible wild plants. The leaves are good as a salad but you can eat the whole plant and make a coffee substitute from the roasted and ground up roots.

Markus points out that the edible weeds are full of the vitamins and minerals we need, and because they often grow in difficult conditions they send down their roots deep into the ground to take up as many of the nutrients as they can. If we eat the plants raw then we get all these healthy substances too. You can eat many plants in salads or use a blender or juicer.

Markus believes that God wants us all to be healthy and happy and so has given us free foods and medicines all over the planet. As he points out, there will be wild plants we can eat and others that will make us well, growing outside where we live and in our neighbourhoods.

Of course, it is best to eat plants that are not grown by roads where they can get polluted by traffic fumes or sprayed with herbicides, so you need to use a bit of common sense when gathering wild foods that can be foraged for. But you will find them out there and a country ramble is the best way of getting the best quality free foods from nature. If you have a garden you can eat the weeds that grow in it, if they are edible ones, and many are.

Dandelion and Burdock foraging with Bard of Ely


dandelion flowers. Photo by Steve Andrews

dandelion flowers. Photo by Steve Andrews

Edible Weeds

Besides the Dandelion there are plenty of other nutritious edible weeds. many are cosmopolitan and can be found in most parts of the world.

The Chickweed (Stellaria media) is one that often grows in gardens and on cultivated ground. It can be found in winter when other plants are scare. It is wonderful eaten fresh in salads. It is very good for you too and can be used as herb to make creams to treat skin complaints.

Shepherd's Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) is another common weed. It can be recognised by the little heart-shaped seed-pods like minute purses. Like Chickweed, it can be found all year round and is so popular in China that it is sold in markets.

The Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris) is yet another weed that is found in many places in the world. You can eat the flowers and the little round seeds raw. The leaves are better cooked as greens. All the other species of Mallow are edible too.

Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris) is a common wildflower that grows along paths and in grassy places. It is good eaten raw but can also be cooked. The leaves and flowers are edible and nutritious.

Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) cannot be eaten raw for obvious reasons but cooked they lose their ability to sting and make a very healthy addition to your diet. The leaves and young tops cooked as greens have plenty of iron and other minerals and eating Nettles helps purify the blood and body. Stinging Nettles can be made into an herbal tea too. You will need gloves to collect this plant unless you are brave enough to "grasp the Nettle."

St. John's Wort

St John's Wort flowers. Photo by Steve Andrews

St John's Wort flowers. Photo by Steve Andrews


Many edible plants and weeds you can find growing wild are also medicinal herbs. If you buy them from the health store they will cost you a lot of money but you can often get the same herbs for free if they grow near where you live.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) grows in waste places, along roads and by the sea in the UK and many other parts of the world. The ferny foliage that smells of Anise-seed can be eaten raw in salad or as a garnish but the seeds make a herbal tea that is good for the digestion an many other conditions. Fennel is both an edible plant and a medicinal herb and can be found by foragers.

The Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) is in the same category. The leaves stripped of their prickles can be eaten in salad but the seeds made into an herbal tea have medicinal properties and are very good got liver complaints and for purifying the blood. Milk Thistle is easy to recognise with its creamy white marbled foliage and magenta-purple flowers.

St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is not an edible plant but is a widely used medicinal herb that is used to treat depression. It has golden-yellow starry flowers that bloom in summer and grows in grassy places and on waste ground.


Eldeflower. Photo by Steve Andrews

Eldeflower. Photo by Steve Andrews

Dog Rose (Rosa canina)

Dog Rose. Photo by Steve Andrews

Dog Rose. Photo by Steve Andrews


There are edible flowers that can be found whilst foraging too, and flowers that can be used in other ways. The Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) , for example, can be collected and dried to make herb teas, used as the basis for Elderflower wine or champagne, and, using the whole flower-head, coated in batter and fried as an Elderflower fritter.

Later in the year, the berries can be collected and used to make Elderberry wine or added to jams, jellies and pies. Foraging can be done throughout the seasons, and besides enjoying the changes that can be observed in the natural world, you will find that there are foods for free right throughout the year, even in the depths of winter, if you know what to look out for.

The flower petals of the Dog Rose (Rosa canina) are edible, as are those of other cultivated roses. In the autumn, the forager can gather the reddish fruits known as hips. They are a wonderful source of Vitamin C and can be used in fruit teas. Watch out for the hairy seeds though inside them that need removing.

Dandelion flowers can be eaten raw as well as the leaves, and again can be used as the base for a homemade wine.

Lime Flowers from the Lime Tree (Tilia europea) make a great herbal tea after they have been gathered and dried in the summer. This tea, known as "Tillieul", has calming and relaxing properties as well as being very enjoyable to drink. The young leaves of the Lime can be eaten raw too.


Sloes, the fruit of the Blackthorn. Photo by Steve Andrews

Sloes, the fruit of the Blackthorn. Photo by Steve Andrews


Hazelnuts. Photo by Steve Andrews

Hazelnuts. Photo by Steve Andrews

Fruit and Nuts

Autumn is the best time for foraging for wild fruits and nuts too. This is the season in which Mother Nature brings forth her delights for us to gather and Pagans celebrate the second Harvest Festival at the Autumn Equinox on the 21 September.

Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) are a wild fruit that everyone knows, and they are good eaten fresh or made into pies, jam or jelly. Blackberry wine is another option for using this delicious berry.

Sloes, the fruit of the Blackthorn tree (Prunus spinosa), are actually a wild plum. Although they are far too bitter for most people's palate they can be gathered to make Sloe Gin, which is produced by steeping the fruit in the spirit and leaving it for months so that the flavour and colour leaches out into this strong alcoholic drink.

Haws, the fruit of the Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), are ripened by autumn too, and the trees are often laden in masses of these red berries. They can be eaten freshly picked and have a sort of creamy taste.

There are many types of edible nut too. There are Hazelnuts (Corylus avellana), Sweet Chestnuts (Castanea sativa) and Walnuts (Juglans regia), for starters. All of which fall off the trees they are on and can be looked for and gathered off the ground in autumn.

They often can be gathered in great numbers and they store very well too for the months ahead. All these nuts make nutritious eating raw or can be cooked and used in various meals.

Jew's Ear fungus. Source: Wikipedia.

Jew's Ear fungus. Source: Wikipedia.

Wild Mushrooms

Then of course, we cannot leave out all the wild mushrooms and edible fungi that the experienced forager can gather. With this group though, more care and knowledge is needed, because there are poisonous fungi too and it is easy for a novice to pick the wrong ones with disastrous consequences.

Always make sure you have learned how to correctly identify fungi before collecting and eating them.

One you can't go far wrong with, however, is the weird-looking Jew's Ear (Auricularia auricula). This strange fungus really does look like a fleshy ear.

It is found growing mainly on Elder trees and can be found late in the year in November and December.

Younger specimens are the best to gather because it becomes tough with age. The Jew's Ear is best stewed but also dries out well for future use. It is very popular in China. Elsewhere it is often sold in delicatessens along with other dehydrated wild mushrooms.

Other commonly eaten wild mushrooms include the Field Mushroom (Agaricus campestris), which grows in fields, the Edible Boletus or Cep (Boletus edulis), and the large Parasol Mushroom (Lepiota procera).

And Finally...

Foraging is a very easy and rewarding activity. It keeps you fit from walking about in the countryside and getting plenty of fresh air, and provides a free source of nutritious foods.

The best way to star foraging is with easily identified species such as the Dandelion or Stinging Nettle. Better still, is to learn from experienced foragers in your area, if there are any.

An excellent book that has become something of a classic on the subject of foraging is Food For Free by Richard Mabey,which was first published back in 1972 but has had subsequent editions since due to its great success. As you can see from two videos I have included here I used to quote from this book when I worked as TV presenter and used to be filmed out and about in the Welsh countryside eating the edible wild foods I came across. I was even called "David Bellamy on acid!"

Bard of Ely foraging for Wild Thyme, Scurvy Grass and Wild Carrot

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Steve Andrews


Christine Hulme from SE Kent, England on November 08, 2019:

My foraging experience has only gone as far as picking blackberries, but I really want to learn and do more, so thank you for this helpful and inspiring article. Have already found fennel growing on the beach here in Kent, UK, so that might be a good start!

Paola Bassanese from London on July 26, 2015:

Yes, I have often spotted it in my walks but never thought it was edible, thank you once again

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on July 26, 2015:

You are welcome! It is a very common plant that grows all year round.

Paola Bassanese from London on July 25, 2015:

I've never tried Shepherd's Purse, thanks for the tip! A very informative article

Virgo Rouge from New York, New York on April 11, 2015:

This is one of my favorite subjects on the planet. The earth creates music.

Have you heard of earthing and grounding? It is free. It is excellent for your health. I love these hubs. They are priceless information and the hubs that you create on foraging help connect us to the earth! Markus is an expert as you are on wild planets, herbs and food foraging. The raw paleo diet has been helping me immensely and grounding/ earthing! Food foraging is the last avenue that city dwellers like myself wish they could get involved with.

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on September 12, 2012:

It is very good for you!

Mahmo on September 11, 2012:

I am Arugula addicted and sometimes I do eat even half kilo of it in one meal alone or use as stuffing for a sandwich!. It gives me great feeling of comfort in my stomach.

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on September 08, 2012:

Thank you for this wonderful feedback!

Levertis Steele from Southern Clime on September 07, 2012:

I grew up in a family with a mother who foraged for foods. She loved it and taught us kids to find edibles in the pastures, woods, and streams. These are some of the fruits, vegetables and nuts we found and enjoyed: persimmons, grapes (several kinds), mulberries, black cherries, blackberries, dewberries, huckleberries, hickory nuts, black walnuts, acorns; poke weed, catnip, wild onions. Mom cautioned us to stay away from the mushrooms, although they were plentiful. She did not trust herself to differentiate the poisonous and edible ones.

Mom harvested pine tops and mullein to make teas for fevers. Fruit and nut trees and garlic were not wild, but we would find them growing in the woods away from any dwellings. Mom said that most of them marked the locations of old house seats. Of course, the houses were no longer there, but fruits, herbs, and nuts often continued to thrive where people once lived.

I have surfed the interned and discovered that many other edible plants are growing wild. I am especially interested in the edible flowers. I still cannot believe that there are so many edible plants all around my home. There were green, leafy, spinach-like plants growing in my vegetable garden. Every time I cut them away, they grew back. I learned that the nuisance plant is called “plantain.”

With so many edible foods growing wild all around us, why are so many people starving all over the globe? A few lessons in foraging could help save some lives, I would think.

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on September 07, 2012:

Thank you, Mary!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on September 07, 2012:

Congrats on HOTD. I don't do foraging simply because there isn't anything that grows around where I live that I would eat. When I was a kid growing up in the country, we loved to eat blackberries.

I voted this Hub UP, etc.

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on September 07, 2012:

Thank YOU, remaniki!

Rema T V from Chennai, India on September 07, 2012:

Hearty congratulations on HOTD. Brilliant hub. I got to learn a lot of useful things here. Thank you Green Bard. Sharing it across. Cheers, Rema.

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on September 07, 2012:

What a wonderful surprise this has been for me! Thank you everyone, for all these lovely comments and congratulations!

KenWu from Malaysia on September 06, 2012:

Never thought that dandelion can be eaten. I should try them out sooner or later.

whonunuwho from United States on September 06, 2012:

Great hub on foraging. My dad and I used to collect elder flowers and make wine in the Summer. We also gathered up peaches, grapes, apples, plums, wild cherries, and wild strawberries to make jelly, preserves, and wines in these months, as well. These were days growing up that mean a lot in my memories of activities that I did with my dad and I really miss him when I think about this,

frogyfish from Central United States of America on September 06, 2012:

A tempting invitation to forage...but I should require more instruction methinks before I go. I do go in my yard and eat dandelions occasionally...tender leaves, and no ants in the flowers! Your plant on the beach area was fantastic...like you said, forage plants are all over the world. Very interesting article!

simplysmartmom from North Carolina on September 06, 2012:

Great hub! I have so many dandelions in my yard, I could have free salad for weeks! :-)

rabia kamran from pakistan on September 06, 2012:

congrats for hub of the day....nice hub

TeachableMoments from California on September 06, 2012:

Congrats on your Hub Of The Day award. You are a beautiful and interesting writer. Keep up the great work. You inspire many.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 06, 2012:

Congratulations on your HOTD award. I have eaten dandelion greens, morel mushrooms and wild blackberries. I saw a mushroom growing in our yard last year that looked very much like that Jews ear one pictured in this hub. I have it photographed in a hub I wrote about mushrooms and fungi but not knowing about it, I was afraid to eat it. One has to really know what they are doing when eating wild mushrooms! Last Spring I saw a woman foraging in our greenbelt area but I was on the opposite side of the gulch. She was undoubtedly furnishing food for her family. Voted up, interesting and will share this hub with others.

hecate-horus from Rowland Woods on September 06, 2012:

Congrats on the HOTD, and what a great hub it is! I believe Mother Nature provided everything for a reason, and it good for everyone to know. It helps us feel more connected to nature. So, great job spreading the word! Voted up and interesting!

Reality Bytes from Freeman On The Land United States of America. on September 06, 2012:

What an interesting and thorough explanation of foraging. I have been collecting food from nature since I was a child but there are many here that I was not aware of, I will be looking out for them. Congrats on the HOTD! :)

Audrey Howitt from California on September 06, 2012:

Such an interesting hub! Congrats!!

Stephanie Bradberry from New Jersey on September 06, 2012:

First of all, congratulations on your HOTD. I really love topics about plants and all things natural. As an herbalist and naturopath in training, this information is of great use. I recently got to eat some wild carrot and other goodies at a training in New York. Very beautiful pictures.

nenytridiana from Probolinggo - Jawa Timur - Indonesia on September 06, 2012:

I have tried tamarind tree leaves and nut-grass, they are good for my health. Great hub, vote up!

Robin Grosswirth from New York on September 06, 2012:

This is a very comprehensive piece that details so many ways individuals can embrace foraging, should they desire to do so. Thank you for taking the time to be so detail oriented and resourceful. I appreciated your show of expertise.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on September 06, 2012:

This is a collection of foods ready for the taking as you have said. We just need to be very sure to pick the ones you have mentioned and not a poisonous look alike.

And I agree that God has put foods to help us grow and stay strong.

Congratulations on hub of the day and thank you for sharing this with us.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on September 06, 2012:

Green Bard, Totaly totaly brilliant! Congratulations on Hub of the Day. Regards snakeslane

Kristine Manley from Atlanta, GA on September 06, 2012:

Green Bard, this is such a great Hub. I juice a lot and enjoy Dandelion greens and other wild edibles. I have seen my skin change and clear, eczema disappear, and such clarity in mind because of my diet change. Voted up!

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on September 06, 2012:

Congratulatoins on HOtD! What a well-written and interesting hub. Here in the country areas of Peru, there are plenty of edible plants and people forage as part of daily life. One time we were caught inside during a downpour. We saw the neighborhood children running out into the storm, foraging for something. Afterward, several neighbors invited us for wild mushroom stew. Delicious!

Silwen from Europe on September 06, 2012:

In the country I live (it's in Eastern Europe) we forage often. There are much tasty mushrooms in the forest, also, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries can be found. Hazelnuts and other stuff grow in the forest. They are much more tastier, comparing to those, that can be found on the supermarket. Also, almost everybody, who owns a private house with a yard, often grow their own fruits, such as cherries, apples or pears. So, I am glad for those, who rediscover foraging again. Thank your for this hub. It was really interesting to read.

healthylife2 on September 06, 2012:

Fascinating information. I have recently become interested in raw foods and begin with a green smoothie every day. I would be a little nervous about trusting my ability to find these things myself especially mushrooms! Congrats on HOD! Very well deserved!

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on September 06, 2012:

Thanks for the mushroom warning. Also, I hope people will consider that herbicides and pesticides in the soil could be a problem!

Robertgillbert from UK on September 06, 2012:

Congratulations on hub of the day

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on August 18, 2012:

I am very glad to hear it, Beata! Thanks for posting!

Beata Stasak from Western Australia on August 18, 2012:

Great hub, still blackberrying in my native village, in a deep forest nearly untouched by civilization in the Eastern Europe....

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on August 16, 2012:

Yes, Alex, I agree it is very important that you know what the poisonous plants look like too. Getting hold of a good book is an excellent idea. Fortunately Deadly Nightshade isn't often encountered but there are others poisonous plants like Hemlock that are more common.

AlexK2009 from Edinburgh, Scotland on August 16, 2012:

Very nice hub. Before foraging though I would have to remind myself what (say) Deadly nightshade looked like. I would also buy or borrow a few books to make sure I knew what the edible plants looked like.

There is a saying that after October 1st Blackberries belong to the devil. I understand they get hard and bitter then. Like humans. I have pleasant memories of blackberrying as a child.

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on August 16, 2012:

Thank you for your great feedback and good luck with your foraging!

GH Price from North Florida on August 15, 2012:

We moved to the middle of nowhere in February and have been doing some foraging. First it was wild strawberries in June, then raspberries in July and now it's blackberries. We've had a couple of surprises, namely prickly gooseberries that took forever to identify and we found out that the blackberries we kept finding growing along the ground were really dewberries. It's definitely been an experience!

Your Hub is informational and I'll be referring to it over and over again, I'm sure. Congratulations on the HubNugget! :)

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on August 15, 2012:

Thank you, Sandy!

Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on August 15, 2012:

Congratulations on being a finalist. Very interesting and healthy way to go. Down to earth (literally).

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on August 13, 2012:

Thank you, hamsaa!

hamsaa on August 12, 2012:

Congratulations on your Hubnuggets

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on August 11, 2012:

Thank YOU for appreciating it and commenting!

shazwellyn on August 11, 2012:

Actually, this is right up my tree... or should I say weed! Milk thistle is a new one on me and I love the quote: 'God wants us all to be healthy and happy and so has given us free foods and medicines all over the planet.' At the end of the day, our scientists only sythnasize this from nature... it is called prescription medicine! lol

Thank you for a rather excellent article x

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on August 11, 2012:

Pamela, you gather the flowering tops and dry the flowers, leaves and flowering stalks and then crumble this up so you can store the herb. You would then make an herbal tea from the dried plant using 2 teaspoons per cup of water and to be taken no more than twice daily. The ideal time to gather St. John's Wort is midsummer and St John's Eve and Day on 23-24 June.

Pamela N Red from Oklahoma on August 11, 2012:

Steve, how does one take St. John's wort from a natural plant? I take the herbs but wondered how you use it in nature. Do you drink it in tea or eat it?

Great article by the way. Voted, good luck.

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on August 11, 2012:

Everyone should have somewhere around where they live they can forage in! Thank you so much, ripplemaker, for letting me know about my nomination! I will go an find out more about this!

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on August 11, 2012:

Now you made me wish we have a place where I can go and forage! :) I loved the lesson.

Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! This way please to read and vote https://hubpages.com/literature/August-2012-Olympi... and forage other treats. hehehe Have fun!

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on July 29, 2012:

Wild garlic makes the UK woods smell so wonderful in spring. It is something I must admit that I miss here in Tenerife.

2uesday on July 29, 2012:

I tend to only forage for the food that I have grown. Where I live even the country lanes has lots of traffic. I have a blackberry bramble patch close to home, which has been a source of fruit for pies in the past. There are also some tasty little golden-orange plums that grow wild. The tiny plums are a bit fiddly to use as they are too tart to eat fresh and the stones need to be removed when you cook them, but the taste is very nice.

I am tempted to plant wild garlic on the vegetable plot to see it it is as good as people say it is. There is already a glorious patch of nettles on the allotment which people say would make a good soup, never tried it out though.

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on July 27, 2012:

Thank you, Tamron! I have seen Greene Deane before and yes, he is very good.

tamron on July 27, 2012:

I love foraging and Greene Deane is who got me interest. You should checkout his website he has lots of great videos and photos at eattheweeds.com.

What a great article you wrote! Vote Up and share

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on July 26, 2012:

Thanks for linking to my hub, Natashalh, and for your comments!

Natasha from Hawaii on July 26, 2012:

I recently wrote a hub on urban foraging - the foraging bug must be in the air. As soon as I get on my computer, I'm going to add a link to your hub because it has a lot more general advice than mine. I love foraging and can't stop looking around me for edible plants wherever I go!

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on July 26, 2012:

Thank you for your comments, Vocalcoach and Bedbugabscond!

Melody Collins from United States on July 25, 2012:

I love to forage. It is so incredible that a plant, such as the dandelion, could be a weed when it has so many healthy properties!

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on July 25, 2012:

Excellent and so informative. I have dandelions growing in my yard now and then. Now, I can eat them. I've sure learned a lot here. Thanks so much!

Steve Andrews (author) from Tenerife on July 25, 2012:

Thanks, Arlene! My advice is to get Food For Free which is easy to refer to when you are out and about. There are lots of very good videos on YouTube now on most foods that can be foraged for. It is best to start with edible foods you are sure about. I mean, everyone knows what a Dandelion, a blackberry and Stinging Nettles look like!

Arlene V. Poma on July 25, 2012:

Green Bard, we used to go after wild mushrooms. But to be honest with you, I am afraid to forage. I do like eating rose hips, though. As long as the rose has not been treated with pesticides. UP+++ and everything else. I can probably use your Hub as a guide when I'm in the woods!

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