19 Aug Foraging: A Guide to Late Summer Gathering
August is a fantastic month to get out into nature and collect a few wild edibles. At the moment the hedgerows alongside the boat are ladened down with berries just starting to take on their respective ripe hues. Even if you’re new to foraging, I think you’ll be surprised with the amount you’ll be able to spot and recognise.
I’ve been warned by other boaters that as soon as the blackberries plump up, the ‘grannies’ from the village descend on the bushes, bags in hand, ready to poach as many as possible. It causes a little good-natured animosity, you can’t help but get slightly possessive about the spots outside your boats.
That said, it’s probably one of my earliest foraging memories. Heading down to the old railway track with my nan to gather some berries for the evening’s crumble. More would definitely be eaten during the harvest than would make it into the pie pan!
For those that are foraging novices, August is one of the best months to start. There’s plenty around that is easy to identify. Plus, it’s a gorgeous time to spend an evening or afternoon outside in the wild.
These are a few things we’re most excited to collect:
Haws – Hawthorn Berry
I always think haws look like mini apples. They’re the perfect size for a borrower to pop into their lunch box. It’s a really easy berry to spot and very common in the UK. The leaves look similar to an oak and the fruit is bright red when ripe. Just watch out for the large thorns on the branches!
A very beneficial berry to gather as hawthorns are packed full of antioxidants and vitamins B & C. They’re considered food for the heart as it’s said they can aid circulation, helping to lower blood pressure. Plus, they’re thought to help digestion too.
A good use for haws is to make them into ketchup. A simple process that allows their goodness to be stored through the year. They also make a lovely jelly that’s great with cheese.
Picking these may get you a few strange looks and remember to wear gloves! Nettle seeds contain a lot of ‘feel-good’ chemicals like serotonin which can help give your brain a bit of a ‘boost’. August is the perfect time to pick nettle seeds, you’ll spot many plants that are starting to get ladened down. There are a couple of things to remember though!
Nettle seeds only grow on female plants. By this time of year, they are abundant and very easy to recognise. Pick when the strands are green and drooping down towards the stem of the nettle. Once you’ve snipped a thread of seeds off the plant, place them in the palm of your hand and rub in a circular motion using your other palm. As a little warning, this can be a little stingy but mostly it’s fine.
Nettle seeds can be used in a variety of ways. Either nibbled fresh whilst out on a foray or dried and used later in the year. They’re great sprinkled over salads, mixed into energy balls or ground into a powder and included in smoothies. They’re well worth giving a try!
A really common plant that can be brewed into a tea thought to provoke ‘lucid’ dreams. Apparently, Roman soldiers used to put mugwort leaves into their shoes to prevent foot pain whilst marching. It’s also quite a good insect repellent!
It’s quite an easy plant to identify but always be 100% confident. It can be mistaken for Monk’s Hood however, there is one clear distinguishing feature. The underside of mugwort leaves have a silvery hairy appearance, as shown in the picture.
~ best to avoid using this plant if you’re pregnant as it is thought to promote menstruation.
Everybody’s favourite! Picking blackberries will never not remind me of my nan. Once the berries started ripening in the hedgerows, every dog walk became an opportunity to gather as many as possible for a crumble, cake or jam. When I pick them now, not many make it home. They’re irresistibly juicy. The perfect mid-foraging snack.
Blackberries hardly need describing, they are so plentiful throughout August. Avoid picking from roadsides and definitely leave the lower-down berries…
I did see a recipe for a blackberry fruit leather which looked interesting! A great way to preserve them for the rest of the year. You simply blend to make a pulp and spread it onto a baking tray. A few hours in a low oven or in a dehydrator and you’re left with a delicious snack perfect to roll up and to eat as a treat.
You might know this as pineapple weed. It is a plant which gets everywhere, especially in pavement cracks. The easiest way to identify it is to pick one of the flowers and give it a whiff. If a strong scent of pineapple wafts up your nose you know you’ve got the right plant!
The leaves can be eaten and added to salads but the flowers/domes are what we’re really interested in. Use these to brew a relaxing tea that’s great for digestion or to make a summery cordial. You can also infuse them into an oil to make a balm too.
A quick word of caution. Elderberries need to be cooked before you eat them! No nibbling whilst picking.
I think these are the most beautiful fruits. They hang in great droopy clusters along the hedgerows looking incredibly inviting. Their colour is so intense, the stem is a rich purple and the berries themselves are almost black. As with many wild berries, they are packed full of antioxidants and vitamin C.
Elderberries sometimes get a bit of a bad rep as their flavour can be a little bland. I’m looking to use a few to infuse into a gin this year. We did that a couple of summers ago and it is delicious, plus makes a decent Christmas present! I’m also looking into steeping some berries in cyder vinegar to create a sweet, almost balsamicy, vinegar.
Once you make and try rosehip syrup, you’ll understand why I get so excited when they start ripening. It’s a fruit that won’t really be ready till autumn starts to bite. I’d just recommend keeping an eye out for them now so you can start to plan what creations you’re going to make.
Similar to elderberries, rosehips contain a lot of vitamin C, more per 100 grams than oranges. They also need to be cooked before eating. This is mainly so you can strain the tiny hairs off of the seeds which if eaten are highly irritating to your digestive tract.
I’d highly recommend making a syrup or a cordial. Drizzled over ice cream it has an almost rhubarb, vanilla-esc flavour. I’m also looking to make a little vinegar this year with some rosehips too.
Instantly recognisable, the amount of apples that grow wildly always surprises me. Eating them can be a bit of a taste roulette. There are plenty which will make your face pucker from their sourness. I think it’s worth giving most a try. They can always be pressed into a juice or sweetened in a dessert. Who doesn’t love to crumble?
These are a few things to look out for this month and as we head into autumn. As ever with foraging, it’s important that you are fully confident in what you’re picking. Some plants are poisonous. Also, remember to follow the forager’s code of only taking what you need from a wide area. Leave plenty for the birds and wildlife to enjoy.