On Sunday I went out for my third monthly outing with the newly-formed Transition Chipping Norton forager group! I happened across this new, small and friendly freshly-formed collection of eco-folk through a local newspaper, and I’m so glad that we decided to go. The initial session was a trial, but because we were all pooling our knowledge, lots of us learned more about foraging in an afternoon than we had anywhere else, and we decided to make it a monthly fixture (this summer it will be taking place every last Sunday of the month at 3-5pm).

Like many people, I’ve always picked blackberries, apples, wild plums, and wild raspberries (when we can find them!) but last year I wanted to start learning more about the greenery of the hedgerows, and found that there is plenty of what Alys Fowler calls ‘spinach’ growing all over the place, ripe for the picking, so to speak. During the last walk I took a bag and harvested a good selection of these spring greens for a soup supper made from hedgerow finds.

This soup was made from wild garlic, jack-by-the-hedge, shepherd’s purse, goosegrass, ground elder, nettle-tops and possibly a few other things that I can’t remember (with stock, and a couple of potatoes to give it a bit more body). It tasted great – my dad couldn’t believe that it was made out of weeds!

If you’re thinking of having a go at foraging for greens, it’s really fun! Make sure that you are careful about what you pick though – only pick things when you’re really confident (think about getting a book to help you) and make sure that you know what to avoid (in particular, watch out for Lords & Ladies and Dog Mercury growing near these plants, as they’re poisonous). Never pull up your greens in clumps, but pick them singly… you never know what might be hiding in your bunch. Take a few simple precautions, focus on learning one or two new things each time, and it’s easy… you’ll never buy spinach again!

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