In today’s digital-heavy world, foraging provides us with a rare opportunity to engage all the senses as we touch, smell, collect and taste the delights that nature provides us freely throughout the year.
A seasoning of awakening, Spring is prime time to venture into the wonderful world of wild food – as nature awakens with glorious fresh greens and the first of the wild flowers. Below, you’ll find details on our favourite things to forage during the Spring (many of which are often overlooked as useless weeds) – as well as plenty of ideas on how to feature them in your meals!
Here at The Salt Box, foraging is integral to our day-to-day. From picking nettles for our guests to enjoy as a post-feast brew to wild plums for our signature chutneys – it’s a practice we appreciate greatly and believe should be accessible to all.
Both through our online resources and our range of experiences, at the heart of what we do is sharing the knowledge on how to live a wilder, healthier and happier life in tune with nature, with as little impact on the environment as possible.
When done carefully and sustainably, foraging is a great way of connecting with our natural environment and making the most of the ingredients on our doorstep – you can’t get more local than your nearest hedgerow! Global research continues to prove that spending time outdoors is beneficial to both our physical and mental wellbeing – the fact you may get to enjoy something delicious at the end of it is an added bonus!
Whether you wander down to an unkempt corner of your garden, veer off the path on your daily commute or head a little further afield – we hope this guide inspires you to head outdoors and explore.
We urge you to forage mindfully and respectfully (to both the landowner and to the natural world around us), always forage with caution (if in doubt, leave it out) and only pick what you need.
Whilst nettle are often relegated to somewhat traumatic childhood memories, this humble wild green is top of our list of favourites with it’s deep-earthy flavour and abundance! We guarantee that wherever you are in the UK, you’ll find a handful of nettles no more than five minutes’ walk from where you are.
A wild superfood that is both nourishing and revitalising, nettles are packed with vitamins, minerals, iron and high in protein. Nettle leaves are in their prime at this time of year, a vibrant green that is a really versatile ingredient in the kitchen – whether you’re making a simple nettle tea, popping them in your morning smoothie, dipping them in a batter to make a wild tempura, cooking up a pot of nourishing soup or making a syrup for your spring cocktails. Once they’ve been blanched in boiling water, the sting is removed and they have a herbaceous spinach-like flavour.
Commonly known as Sticky Weed or Sticky Willy (due to the plant’s sticky tendencies), these clingy cleavers have quite the portfolio when it comes to their potential uses and capabilities. Found abundantly under hedges, paths and roadsides – cleavers are said to sprout when our immune systems may be a little sluggish from the long winter – a very considerate plant indeed.
Cleavers offer a fresh green taste, similar to young peas with a hint of grassiness/herbal flavour. Rich in vitamin C, they make an excellent spring tonic, infused vinegar, or delicious as part of a wild salsa or chimichurri.
Glossy, green, long and arrow shaped leaves (up to 12cm in length) – the main identifier are its delicate pointed ‘tails’ at the base of the leaf. Found in open grassland, they have a distinctive lemony or citrusy tang, which many describe to be like a tart apple peel. Its leaves and flowers add a great zing to salads, or can be used to replace lemon or lime in dishes requiring an acidic bite. A wild green that’s also delicious in soups, stews or as a sweet ingredient in your cakes, ice-creams and sorbets.
Used in our menus all throughout the year, Ground Ivy is a wild Salt Box staple. This plentiful evergreen is found in woodlands and under hedgerows, a low growing creeping plant with kidney-shaped, scalloped deep green leaves.
During the spring, they have tiny light purple flowers – also edible and great as a garnish. A unique flavour, they are a mashup of rosemary, sage, mint and thyme with a mild bitter aftertaste. Great as an aromatic herb, chopped finely to add to your dishes – and brilliant as a wild herb in your stuffing mix for your Sunday roast!
Displaying an array of white and pink flowers to catch the eye and wispy leaves to match, its no wonder yarrow looks just as good in gardens as they do out in the fields. Foraging for yarrow is great for beginners, as it’s very common and easy to identity thanks to its fine, fern-like lacy/feathery leaves that spiral round the plant.
Flavour-wise, yarrow is fairly neutral with a slightly medicinal taste (many find them a little bit bitter). This is a wild plant which leads the pack in terms of medicinal benefits – used in herbal medicine for thousands of years, to stop bleeding, heal open wounds, relieve pain and fight infection.
A misunderstood weed, often upheaved from lawns and patio cracks – has a long versatile list of culinary and medicinal uses. Easy to spot their tall yellow flowers blossoming on fleshy stems and their dog-toothed leaves, they can be found abundantly.
The Dandelion provides us with three crops – roots, leaves and flowers. The leaves are at their best during the Spring when young (picked before the plant comes into flower) – as after this point, you may find them a little bitter. The petals can be used fresh as a bright addition to salads, sweet treats or even added to cooked rice for a delicately floral flavour (note the flowers are at their most flavourful if picked in full sunshine). We also use the petals to make a dandelion jam – perfect for a wildly inspired cream tea.
An easily identifiable and familiar ‘weed’ with its small round leaves and delicate tiny white flowers – much loved by chickens! This delightful hedgerow packs more vitamins and minerals per ounce than spinach or kale – just boil or steam as you would any leafy green. It’s a great source of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Chickweed has a delicate and mild taste, making it a great accompaniment to more pungent wild leaves. The leaves can also be eaten raw as a savoury herb in salads and sandwiches, or chopped and added to soups, omelettes, stuffing, meatballs, pies, used as a garnish or makes for a delicious pesto.
Please note that this information is offered as a guide only. When foraging, we always recommend using multiple references, especially when exploring new ingredients. Here, you’ll find a selection of our favourite foraging books.
Get a little taste of the wild and join us in the woods for one of our Seasonal Cookery Courses, Foraging Walks and Creative Workshops. We will guide you through tips on harvesting, correct identification and most importantly – how you can use wild food in your kitchen!
All of our cookery courses begin with a foraging walk. Ambling through the beautiful Priory Farm Estate in which we are situated, we take guests on a short walk introducing them to a handful of commonly found wild ingredients, which are then incorporated within the dishes created throughout the day.