Wild Food at Forest School

A little Wild Food is a great addition to the Forest School Practitioner’s basket of activities. Don’t worry about not being an expert.

BlackberriesOften just pointing out a plant is sufficient for FS purposes ~ who actually likes eating Old Man’s Ear? Many “edible” greens would be great in an emergency, but are unattractive to pupils (as indeed is lettuce to many people) so simply sampling or “grazing” a tiny bit may be challenge enough. Thankfully the few plants which are attractively palatable raw (ramsons, oxalis, blackberries) or cooked (elderflowers and berries), are amongst the easiest to identify.

Recipe of the Month ~ Elder Flower FrittersGo to top

A really inclusive activity for all ages and abilities. It combines Tree ID and crafts with campfire cooking, and it tastes yummy!

  • Involve students in identifying and collecting flowers (it’s easy just now). Supervise use of secateurs, and cut stems as long as possible (at least 6in). Rinse flowers and shake dry.
  • Make a simple batter in a bowl; use approx 4oz flour to one egg (judge by eye) and thin with milk or water. It needs to be thin enough to just coat the flowers without loads sticking on. Many pupils love beating batter! (Check for gluten intolerance, and please get in touch if you are successful in making batter with gluten free flour!)
  • You need a low, charcoally fire (not flamey). Heat a 2 or 3 inches or cooking oil in a large family saucepan (at least 8inches deep). It is hot enough when a drop of batter fizzes and cooks instantly. You may need to pull to the edge of the fire at this point, and return it occasionally between fryings.
  • Have a wet blanket or bucket of sand handy, and remember to tell pupils that water will not work for oil fires.
  • Place the elderflowers and batter on one side of the pan and a bowl with a little sugar on the other. You will need to swap order for left-handed pupils.
  • Get pupils to take turns approaching fire and kneeling safely by pan. Wearing a glove, each pupil picks up s flower head by the stem, dips it into the batter, shakes, and plunges into the oil (a little speed helps flowers to open out, not clump up). When crispy and golden brown, remove, shake and dip in sugar. May need bowls to eat on as hot!
  • Combine with Elder bead crafts for total tree experience.

Learning FrameworkGo to top

  • Taking risks, pushing boundaries, new experiences ~ eating weeds and flowers
  • Changing perceptions and building appreciation of nature and seasons
  • Leads to conservation rather than extinction
  • History ~ the Romans introduced Rabbits, Ground Elder and Alexanders; (also oak gall wasps for tanning leather). Presumably then, the Celts (ever a popular with Primary Schools) also used these things. A typical Tudor meal could include a salad of 24 wild leaves and flowers; many “weeds” today like Fat Hen were actively cultivated until recently. In WWII the government encouraged people to cash in on the “Hedgerow Harvest”.
  • ESGDC ~ Climate Change~ wild foods are ultimate in low carbon footprint eating! See Other Resources to download draft FS Climate Change Pack. Do a Carbon Relay Game to compare a native wild and exotic bought salad.
  • Bushcraft / survival link : may be only way to engage some KS4 males in nature study. The Armed Forces train special agents in Wild Food before dropping them behind enemy lines.

Policies & Procedures / H&SGo to top

  • Care for self ~ make sure you are confidant about plant Identification (practise and good book)
  • Care for pupils ~ make sure the identification is simple enough for pupils to be 100% sure too. You may want to avoid fungi altogether, as well as most unbellifers.
  • Poisonous plants ~ it is surprisingly hard to achieve a definitive list for this! The books referred to below do not have a consensus.
  • Avoid areas where dogs are walked. Don’t gather at roadsides. Walk away from well used paths for low growing plants. Always check for insects and bird mess before picking.
  • Care for plant ~ Never strip an area – in the past herbalist used a 1 in 3 rule: you pick one leaf/plant and leave three.
  • These activities should be reflected in your Environmental Policies. They are governed by the Wildlife & Countryside Act which makes it an offense to uproot wild plants and even to pick some.

Activities & RecipesGo to top

Favorites ~ grazing on oxalis leaves; ramsons leaves and flowers in soups and salads, Grazing best in spring (march- may links to signs of spring) elderflower fritters; blackberry and apple crumble, hazelnuts, sweet chestnuts, bilberries

Others ~ nettle soup and tea, Doulas fir / pine tea, linden, beech, hawthorn, ground elder, acorn coffee, elderberry (runny) jam

Reviews and referencesGo to top

  • These 3 books are excellent:

    Hedgerow Cookery, Rosamond Richardson, ISBN 0 14 046.358 5.
    Wild Food, Roger Philips, ISBN o 330 28069 4
    Food for Free, Richard Mabey, ISBN 978 0 00 724768 4.

    All have mixture of detail recipes, history snippets, anecdotal advice and information on which parts to pick. Hedgerow Cookery is the simplest to use, with English names only, in alphabetical order, few illustrations but loads of detailed recipes, plus lists of protected and poisonous plants. Wild Food is the most attractive, in large format with sumptuous colour photos of plants and dishes, ordered by season, with English and Latin names. Food for Free has fewer detailed recipes but lots of good background information including conservation, general preparation techniques, and a really common sense approach to dangerous plants. Plants have a separate section to fungi, and are listed systematically with English and Latin names.

  • WildFoodSchool ~ articles, information and beautiful photos as well as details of courses. Currently includes piece on Nettles, and well illustrated article on edible and poisonous berries. www.wildfoodschool.co.uk
  • Plant Alert, Catherine Collins, Guild of Master Craftsman Publications,ISBN 1 86108 208 8.

    Including as it does many well loved plants (like lettuce and thyme), as well as many wild plants for which the above books give recipes, this book is perhaps most useful in providing a context for defining what is poisonous or dangerous.

  • See also FSW Advice Sheet Cooking and Eating at FS

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