I’ve been moving around so much in the past 10 years, I haven’t had much time to develop my green thumb.
My flat in Washington DC had space for outdoor window boxes. I planted herbs…which were quickly devoured by an animal. My flat in Paris had a balcony, but I was too busy sitting in cafes and eating cheese to bother growing anything. Then I moved to London and for the first time had a garden! I spent hundreds of pounds buying all of the gardening necessities: gloves, tools, compost, pots, plants, seedlings, seed growers, plant food etc. and had a one summer extravaganza of homegrown herbs & veg. But then 6 months ago we moved again, and voila, no outdoor space at all. Now we’re finally settled in a flat where we plan to stay for the next few years, and while it doesn’t have outdoor space, it does have a couple huge sunny windowsills, and more importantly, lots of open space and walking trails nearby!
So I’m here to tell you that if you don’t have a garden, don’t dismay! You can find lots of herbs and plants to use in your beauty products, kitchen remedies and even as part of your dinner, but you have to be prepared to get to know your local area.
Rules of Foraging
- Know your local area – Get to know your local area and start exploring your foraging options. This will be a lifelong pursuit as you find where certain plants grow and the best spots to pick them. You can try asking other foragers, but keep in mind most people won’t share their best locations, lest they get overpicked! You want to look for the type and quantity of plants available, while avoiding roadsides (pollution) and dog-walking hotspots (unless you commit to picking ‘above dog height’).
- Find the abundance. If you’re picking from wild plants, you always always always want to leave more than you take. Take just as much as you can use personally, and no more. Don’t pick the last few of something. Try to pick from several different locations rather than stripping all the elderflowers off one tree, for example. Find what plants are abundant in your area, and use those. There are always several plants which can achieve the same goal, so find an abundant plant and learn its many uses. Dandelions are a great example of this – they are everywhere, and can be used in a zillion ways!
- Don’t pick in any conservation area or on private land without asking permission first!
And finally but most importantly:
4. Know exactly what you’re picking. This is SO important for your own personal health and safety. Do not pick a plant unless you know exactly what it is! If you’re not confident, you might want to bring along a friend with a green thumb, or someone who has lived in the area for years and is familiar with the plants. If in doubt, don’t pick it! It’s not worth the risk. I suggest starting with some really common plants like dandelion, daisies, nettle, plantain, clivers – things that you can easily identify.
And if you’re still really freaked out about it, try joining an herb walk first. Herbalists all over the world run local walks where they head to a park or open space and teach small groups about local plants & their uses. Ask at your local herbal dispensary, garden center or health food shop.
So what do you think about foraging? Let us know in the comments!