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

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 wild flowers 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 wild flower 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

© 2012 Steve Andrews

Comments 61 comments

Arlene V. Poma 4 years ago

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!

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

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!

vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

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!

Bedbugabscond profile image

Bedbugabscond 4 years ago from United States

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!

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

Thank you for your comments, Vocalcoach and Bedbugabscond!

Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 4 years ago from Hawaii

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!

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

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

tamron profile image

tamron 4 years ago

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

What a great article you wrote! Vote Up and share

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

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

2uesday profile image

2uesday 4 years ago from - on the web, I am 2uesday.

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.

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

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

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

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 and forage other treats. hehehe Have fun!

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

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!

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma

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.

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

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.

shazwellyn profile image

shazwellyn 4 years ago from Great Britain

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

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

Thank YOU for appreciating it and commenting!

hamsaa profile image

hamsaa 4 years ago

Congratulations on your Hubnuggets

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

Thank you, hamsaa!

Sandyspider profile image

Sandyspider 4 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

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

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

Thank you, Sandy!

Georgie Lowery profile image

Georgie Lowery 4 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

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! :)

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

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

AlexK2009 profile image

AlexK2009 4 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

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.

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

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.

Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 4 years ago from Western Australia

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

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

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

Robertgillbert profile image

Robertgillbert 4 years ago from UK

Congratulations on hub of the day

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

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

healthylife2 profile image

healthylife2 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

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!

Silwen profile image

Silwen 4 years ago from Europe

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.

vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

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!

Kristine Manley profile image

Kristine Manley 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

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!

snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 4 years ago from Canada

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

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 4 years ago from sunny Florida

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.

RobinGrosswirth23 profile image

RobinGrosswirth23 4 years ago from New York

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.

nenytridiana profile image

nenytridiana 4 years ago from Probolinggo - Jawa Timur - Indonesia

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

StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 4 years ago from New Jersey

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.

AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

Such an interesting hub! Congrats!!

Reality Bytes profile image

Reality Bytes 4 years ago from Freeman On The Land United States of America.

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! :)

hecate-horus profile image

hecate-horus 4 years ago from Rowland Woods

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!

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

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.

TeachableMoments profile image

TeachableMoments 4 years ago from California

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

rabia kamran profile image

rabia kamran 4 years ago from pakistan

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

simplysmartmom profile image

simplysmartmom 4 years ago from North Carolina

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

frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 4 years ago from Central United States of America

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 you said, forage plants are all over the world. Very interesting article!

whonunuwho profile image

whonunuwho 4 years ago from United States

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,

KenWu profile image

KenWu 4 years ago from Malaysia

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

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

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

remaniki profile image

remaniki 4 years ago from Chennai, India

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.

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

Thank YOU, remaniki!

mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

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.

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

Thank you, Mary!

Levertis Steele profile image

Levertis Steele 4 years ago from Southern Clime

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.

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

Thank you for this wonderful feedback!

Mahmo profile image

Mahmo 4 years ago

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.

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife Author

It is very good for you!

Virgo Rouge profile image

Virgo Rouge 18 months ago from New York, New York

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.

paolaenergya profile image

paolaenergya 15 months ago from London

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

Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 15 months ago from Tenerife Author

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

paolaenergya profile image

paolaenergya 15 months ago from London

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

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