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Wild Garlic Foraging 101: Staying Safe in Springtime

Updated: May 30

Signs of spring are every where at the minute and their is ample opportunity to enjoy the nature around us and notice things you may usually just walk right past.

The leaves on the hawthorn trees are sprouting, buzzards are cawing and circling in the sky and the bluebells are starting to emerge.

Sunlight gently highlighting small purple flowers amidst fresh green foliage.
A woodland full of bluebells (credit: Good Housekeeping)

Lords and Ladies are growing in the hedgerows in abundance. Their glossy dark green leaves start furled in a tube shape but by this time of the year, many have opened out – their distinctive poker shaped flowers will appear later in the spring.

As enthusiastic forager here at The Adventure Service, we have made a point of recognising plants which cause harm if touched or ingested. Lords and Ladies are one of these and can be deadly if eaten. So we make sure that we inform our Adventurers on what to forage for, and what not to. It’s really important that we teach them the correct ways to identify what they want, and what they certainly don’t want, to be picking up.

At our Mansfield Woodhouse site, we’re very fortunate to have access to a large patch of wild garlic which grows in Pleasley Vale, next to the river.

Many of our local sessions at Mansfield Woodhouse currently, are centred around heading into Pleasley Vale woods, foraging for wild garlic and then heading back to centre (or to a bushcraft space if the weather permits) and cooking up a treat.

Since the wild garlic has started to sprout, groups have made garlic pesto and garlic naan bread which has gone down a treat. Not just with the Adventurers, but with the centre staff too!

If you want to find out how to go out and forage for wild garlic, watch our video below. Our Director, Helen, heads out with her two daughters to a secret location, to pick and preserve some wild garlic.

Watch it here:

As we have mentioned before in our other blogs about foraging (you can find them here), you should only take a small amount of the wild foods that you find and don't take more than you will use. There is only a limited supply and you should be sure to save some for other foragers, but also the local wildlife too, who depend upon items that we forage for food.

Another important consideration when collecting wild food, is that you are aware of the other plants that are intermingled with your chosen berries or plant so that you don’t accidentally identify a wild food incorrectly.

Being 100% sure of your plant, berry or fungi identification is essential before collecting and eating foods. Berries, fungi and leaves can be toxic and potentially deadly. Toxic plants can look very similar to plants that are edible and mistakes can easily happen.

Learning about wild foods and safe foraging is something that we spend a lot of time talking to and educating our Adventurers on.

Our advice to Adventurers is to make sure that they check in with their Instructor before eating any of their foraged items. We also ensure that we educate them on what to look out for, how to know what to eat (and what not to eat) and how to forage responsibly.

If you are looking to go out foraging for wild garlic away from the service, it’s easy to do and even easier to store. All you need is a few small pots, some olive oil and away you go. Wild garlic doesn't need to be used in a fancy recipe, it can simply be used in place of garlic bulbs that you would normally buy from the supermarket. Not only is wild garlic free, but we also think it tastes much better too…

But, if you're only just starting out on your wild food journey, our advice would always be to go foraging with an experienced forager, read books about the subject (ones with pictures are usually the best), and if you really want to get into it, access a course about wild foods. There are plenty out there and we are happy to point you in the right direction. You can also download and use different apps and use different websites which can help you with your plant identification.

Here are two books that we refer back to a lot here at The Adventure Service:

Poisonous plants in Great Britain by Frederick Gillam – a pocket sized book which has black and white drawing of plants. It explains historical uses of the plants and how they would affect a person if ingested (not for the faint hearted!)

The Forager Calendar by John Wright – coloured photos and explanations of the plants and fungi that grow in each month of the year. It has a section of poisonous fungi and plants. A great aid for foragers.

Spring is the perfect time to go and capture some of natures loot, so head out with your bag, an adventurous mindset and a little bit of patience and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a seasoned forager, remembering to only take what you need.

But most importantly, enjoy being outside and learning about all the different exciting plants that can be collected in the wild.

Ready to become an Adventurer?

We are dedicated to helping our Adventurers achieve their potential through adventure and we’re always looking for new Adventurers to join us on our journey.

Follow the link to fill out our referral form, email or call 01623 232102 and one of our staff team will be on hand, to help you get you started on your adventure.

See you out there!

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