Being on Pig Row doesn't just mean growing on our quarter acre, it's about nurturing and knowing the wild larder that borders our home. We even have a foraging map, a perfect circle that encompasses all the nuts, berries and herbs we can get our hands on without jumping in the car. We even have locations that only we know that are slightly further afield, these are places where we can get maximum harvests with minimum impact. Think blackberries and apples in parks, we all see them but how many of us then go home and put it on a map? Yes, we are rather geeky when it comes to foraging. We are also rather secretive about locations and there are reasons why we do this.
Foraging for us has some rules: (1) Take what you need not what you want, (2) Take what you will eat in the next week, (3) Take what you know how to preserve, and; (4) Don't take everything. The last rule is something many fall down on, stripping mushrooms and fallen wood from the forest, ripping berries from hedgerows, leaving nothing behind for other foragers or wildlife.
Bad foraging can lead to problems in our landscape, it can and has stripped hillsides clear of fruit, wood and heather. Heather foraging used to be a big problem around here, our hills where famous for heather, poets wrote about it and then tourists came at the turn of the Victorian era and stripped the hills bare. It's like those people who go to very well known beaches and take a stone home, stone by stone they erode the beauty spot until it's on the news because the sea has breached the dunes and headed in land. Likewise, taking all the fruit, taking all the wood, taking all the herbs means that fruit cannot spread, bugs can't nest in the dead wood and birds have no food and herbs do not get the chance to seed. Therefore, when we are out collecting nuts we don't take them all because there are animals out there who need them for winter. It's the food chain. We take what we need, not what we want. We don't tell everyone where the filberts are because then they'd all strip it clean. Also, if you give away where you forage you gave away your chance to barter.
How can you forage? Read books, go on workshops, join a fellow forager and then make a map of your foraging patch and you will find many opportunities to eat for free but to forage you must be responsible, you must be secretive and you must ask permission if you are on private land. Food should be free but the land isn't always free. So check first. Common sense must also prevail, don't just collect anything and everything you think is edible, learn your berries, learn your nuts and learn your mushrooms but remember that foraging isn't all food. We collect pine cones in spring and autumn, we collect fallen wood after winter storms, dragging it home but still leaving around 70% of it behind. We take what we need to keep warm. It becomes part of our year, part of our season, part of the foraging ethos. Even skip diving is foraging, making use of something that has been discarded, it's making do rather than buying something else that could end up in a skip or landfill.
In the garden:Allotment & Garden Guide: December 1945
Allotment & Garden Guide: September 1945
Allotment & Garden Guide: August 1945
In the kitchen:
Links to Andrew writing on the Wartime Garden for other publications:
Dig For Victory and Pre-War Films
You can type wartime garden in our search box to find more results.