Food for free – without the packaging!

Filed in Blog by on August 31, 2011 3 Comments
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Andy Atkins - Director of Friends of the Earth

Hopefully you’re all putting your creative heads on and making plans for zero waste week 2011.

We’ve asked you to focus on reducing waste when away from home.

It’s pretty easy to put simple changes in place at home to reduce landfill waste, but when out and about we often fall into bad habits.

I don’t know about you, but here at Zero Waste Towers our bin used to be full of non recyclable food packaging. We’ve shared a post about freeganism (or the less attractive term of ‘dumpster diving’) in the past but I appreciate that’s not something we’re all ready to embrace.

So how about foraging? Foraging helps us get in tune with the rhythms of nature. We’re often detached from nature when eating – we eat strawberries in December and parsnips in summer. We buy too much food and throw 1/3 of it away. We eat processed food which make us over fed but under nourished. Foraging gives us food for free AND comes without plastic packaging!

I’ve been talking to Andy Atkins; Executive Director of Friends of the Earth. Andy and his team have created a foraging calendar with the aim of getting us out into nature. I have to admit, the most foraging we do is for Sunrise the bunny. We go out daily to collect whatever nature has in store for her – dandelions, yarrow, cleavers and plantain are some of her favourites.

According to Andy you can forage all year round for yourself too and now is the best time of all.

Andy tells us that late summer and autumn is the time when lots of wild food is at its best. In particular wild watercress, mushrooms, rosehips and of course, windfall apples are in their prime.

During winter nature just keeps on providing. In November you can find sweet chestnuts and by January and February you can be tucking into chickweed and nettles. For the hard core foragers, December is apparently the best time for roadkill!

During spring when the earth is waking from its winter rest and we all need some cleansing after stodgy winter foods, Jack-by-the-hedge and wild garlic are in abundance. Apparently both beech and hawthorn leaves make a perfect spring salad.

In the summer you can feast on wild sweet cherries if you’re lucky enough to find them and wild rose petals.

Andy says “It’s natural to feel apprehension about going out to forage, but putting it aside and being prepared to experiment with foraged food can be enormously rewarding – both in creating tasty meals and also rustling up something which hasn’t just involved shoving a box in the microwave.” He reminds us to take precautions; some mushrooms for example, can be deadly and Andy recommends “Food for Free” by Richard Mabey as a good introduction for beginners.

Remember, it’s not like a supermarket sweep, keep our feathered and furry friends in mind too. They need the food more than we do, so be sure to share and share alike. AND get permission before foraging on private land – I don’t want to come an have to bail you out for trespassing!

What about you? I know some of you go blackberrying, make elderflower cordial and have even made oak leaf cordial What else have you successfully foraged for?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (3)

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  1. Sandy says:

    foraging around here is the norm, with blackberries, nettes, rosehips, elderberries, damsons, sloes, wild garlic, I could probably go on a bit longer, lovley, just going Blackberriing now bye

  2. Attila says:

    This year I foraged my own garden and picked rosehips from a wild rose we didn’t plant and made apple and rosehip jelly.

  3. Went blackberry picking last week, and found a hoard of huge juicy ones, which I hear are rare in some places this year, but i managed to fill a decent sized lunch box, most of which has been frozen, but some of which made it into a crumble with my grandma’s windfall apples! An almost free crumble, because the butter, sugar and flour for the topping was brought.
    Ive been meaning to find out what sloes and damsons look like for a while now, and yesterday I was walking down to my local beach to comb for some driftwood and shells, which im lucky to day, my local beach has in abundance. On the way down there my friend Michael and I saw a couple hedgerow picking, and I regognises the small round black fruits I had always thought were the fruit I seek, and I was right!
    I now know there are hoards of both sloes and damsons within a ten minute walk from my house. 🙂
    Near my aforementioned friends house is a pear tree, which around a third hangs over the wall onto a public pathway… theyre getting quite big and tempting 😉
    Ive dumpster dived when I worked in a local charity shop; because they threw away so much “bad” quality, but perfectly usuable stock!! It was enfuriating! But never in supermarket bins; That said, I’m lucky enough to have friends who have tested out our local supermarket bins; Tescos arent locked, packaging not slashed and luckily non drenched in that in-edible blue dye. Ive yet to work up the courage to do this, yet!

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