Foraging in Summer
Midsummer is a magical time for collecting edible wild plants.
Britain’s forest and woodlands are rife in summer with herbs waiting to be foraged and used to add flavour to recipes
You can spend warm days and light evenings foraging for surprising ingredients to make delicious food and drinks.
Here are my June top tips on what to forage, where to find it and what to do.
Also known as dog daisy, oxeye daisy is an easy-to-recognise plant which has edible flowers and flower buds.
How to use it: the fresh leaves are edible and have a sweet taste when young. Leaves are best eaten before it flowers as they turn bitter. Chop them and use as a herb or mix with dressings and salads. The flower buds can be pickled like capers and the flowers can be eaten raw and added to salads or desserts. The fresh or dried leaves and flowers can also be used to make a tea.
What to look for: grassy places, verges, hedgerows and in meadows. It blooms from late spring through to September.
Oxeye Daisy Recipe Ingredients
20g Oxeye Daisy leaves
150ml coconut milk
150g natural yoghurt
½ a lime (juiced)
Oxeye Daisy Recipe Instructions - serves 2
Roughly chop the Oxeye Daisy leaves
Put in a bowl and then add the yoghurt, coconut milk and lime juice
Mix thoroughly and allow to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.
Roses are red, white, pink and edible! I love to stop and smell the roses. I love to eat them, cook them and garnish with them too. All rose petals are edible but make sure they haven’t been sprayed first.
Petals from all types of rose, like dog rose, are edible, and have a slightly fruity flavour that can be used to make syrups or jellies. Avoid any that may have been sprayed with pesticides.
How to use it: use the petals raw in salads. Infuse in vinegar, make jam or crystallise. Dry the petals and use in Middle Eastern and Asian dishes.
What to look for: look for dog rose (Rosa canina) in hedges and scrub. It grows up to 3m with curved thorns. Its pink flowers appear from June to July. Field rose (Rosa arvensis) is similar, but smaller with white flowers. It’s best to pick the flowers as they start to drop.
Here’s a recipe for Pink Elderflower and Rose Cordial
10 elder flower heads (flowers forked off stems)
Handful of rose petals (fragrant ones)
200 g unrefined sugar
500 ml boiling water
1 unwaxed lemon
1 oz citric acid (if you’re going to store the cordial for a while)
Ideally pick the flowers in full sun. Fork the flowers off the stalks or snip off the main stalks, putting flowers aside and discarding the rest. Place the elderflowers and rose petals (check to remove bugs) in a heatproof bowl or container, along with the sugar. Pour over the boiling water. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon and leave for 24 hours.
Strain the mixture through a sieve, or preferably a fine muslin cloth, and funnel into clean bottles, or dilute and dish up!
Sticky Bud Cleansing Drink
You probably know this weed well, for its clingy tendencies. It comes in the door on our dog, our socks, and the backs of our jumpers - I use it in a simple spring cleansing drink.
I use it as a spring “cleanse” that might be good for my kidneys but just tastes wonderful, and excites my need to get the most out of the plants around me. As I weed it out of my garden, I set it aside to be washed and then stuffed into a jar filled with fresh water and throw it into the fridge.
Twenty-four hours later, we have a refreshing sticky weed infusion that tastes like spring green.
Plantain is one of the easiest wild plants to find. There are two plantains in the gardenand the Greater. Both – the Ribwort are found in lawns and paths, and both are perennial weeds with strong roots. But did you know they are also a useful herb?
This plantain salve recipe is so easy to make and a great introduction to the fascinating world of homemade herbal products. Use it on the whole family, for bites, stings and other skin irritations.
Here is what we use it for in our family.
Flea, horsefly or mosquito bites
Stinging nettle stings
Dry, chapped skin
Grazes, scratches and small cuts
Rough or cracked skin
Rashes and inflamed skin
Softens and heals scabs
On pets, if they have scabs, small sores or irritated skin
This recipe for Plantain Salve is super easy to make and great to make up for friends and family.
Pick and dry your fresh plantain leaves until crispy dry. I generally use about 20 leaves per batch.
Make your Plantain infused oil by melting approx 1 cup coconut oil using the double boiler method, add your leaves and allow to infuse for 2-4 hours.
Melt 2tbs beeswax into your plantain oil to make an ointment or salve.
Pour into glass jars or salve tins and let cool before sealing.
Give out freely to friends and family members and they will love you forever!
Lime Tree Flowers to make Tisane or herbal Tea
The flowers (lime blossom) of lime trees have a sweet honey-like aroma and have been used as a food and medicine. The flowers have mild sedative and anti-anxiety properties and were administered in the field hospitals of the Second World War.
How to use it:
The young, heart-shaped leaves of small-leaved lime (and other species of lime) are edible. They have a succulent almost sweet flavour which is enhanced once the leaf is covered in honey dew from aphids.
How to use it: the young, translucent leaves can be cooked, but are best eaten raw. Add them to salads or sandwiches instead of lettuce (with a spritz of lemon juice). There are a lot of offshoots on the tree during the growing season. These are perfect for picking and can be harvested on a regular basis.
Gather lime flowers in full bloom in June and July. You can add fresh flowers to salads or dry them and bake them into cakes and breads or use to make herbal teas. Lime tea has a sweet taste and is particularly popular in France where they call it tilleul. Its calming properties make it a good bedtime drink.
What to look for:: lime grows wild across the UK, but is commonly planted in country parks, along avenues and in urban areas.The small yellow-white flowers are attached to a wing-like bract. They generally flower in June and July.
FFor many people, fragrant elderflowers are synonymous with summer and they’re at their best late May to June depending on where you are in the UK. The flowers and berries are the only edible part of the eldertree and require cooking to remove the small amounts of toxic chemicals.
How to use it: pick the flowers, give them a shake to remove any insects and rinse briefly in cold water before using. They can be used fresh as flavouring for cordial, wine, tea, liqueur, syrup, jelly and desserts. You can also dip the flowers into a light batter and fry them to make elderflower fritters. Alternatively dry the flowers and use them as a substitute for fresh flowers in most recipes.
What to look for: look for elder trees in woodland, scrub, hedgerows and on wasteland. Their creamy-white flowers hang in flat-topped clusters. Pick when the buds are freshly open on a warm, dry, sunny day, well away from traffic fumes.
This perennial herb is so-called because its leaves resemble those of the elder tree . But it's also known by a host of other names that reflect its history as a medicinal plant and more recently, its reputation as a weed. They include goutweed, dog elder, herb Gerard and Devil's guts.
Ground elder isn't native to the UK and was first introduced from continental Europe, probably by the Romans, as a potherb and remedy against gout. It was once a cultivated and valued plant and although its traditional uses have dwindled, the plant hasn't. It's now classed as an invasive weed and is an irritation to many gardeners who fight a continuous battle with its persistent roots. Why not, then, embrace it as a food plant?
How to use it: very versatile with a similar flavour to parsley that goes well with fish. Eat the young leaves and shoots raw or add to salads and sandwiches. You can cook the leaves in a similar way to spinach by steaming or softening in butter. Or add them to anything you're making like soups, stews, bubble and squeak and pasta dishes.
What to look for: it's widespread and common in shady places under hedgerows, in gardens, woodlands, hedgerows and along lanes. Look for its luxuriant green leaves that often form thick carpets. It's around for much of the year, but in June the leaves are particularly lush and tender. It's not difficult to identify but it is in the same family (Apiaceae) as some poisonous plants. When identifying ground elder look for serrated, oval leaves which are in groups of three on a grooved stalk. The plant grows close to the ground.
Ground elder is an invasive plant and can be easily and unwittingly spread. Avoid putting any roots or root fragments in your compost bin.
Woods in summer are often filled with the delicious scent of honeysuckle. This beautiful, fragrant wildflower has edible blooms that can be used to infuse a sweet, honeyed flavour into many dishes.
How to use it: you only need a few flowers to capture their essence. Use them to infuse water to make refreshing tea, sorbets, cordials or jams and jellies. Make simple syrup with honeysuckle flowers that can be used to make vinaigrette, or added to cocktails, gin, champagne and chilled fizzy water. Don't eat the berries - they may be mildly toxic, especially in introduced garden varieties.
What to look for: honeysuckle is a common climbing plant of old hedgerows and woodland edges. Its red-tinted, trumpet-shaped flowers appear from June to September.
Also known as wild chamomile, this plant smells strongly of pineapple and has a sweet, pineapple flavour. Pineapple weed is not native to the UK and was first recorded in the wild in Britain as an escape from Kew Gardens in 1871. It became one of the fastest spreading plants in the 20th century.
How to use it: pick the flower heads when they are young, before they develop a bitter taste. The fresh or dried flower heads of pineapple weed can be used to make herb tea (similar to its close relative, chamomile) and the fresh flowers can be eaten raw in salads or cooked. Its leaves can be added to salads or just nibbled when you’re out walking.
What to look for: it grows on poor, compacted soil around footpaths, field entrances, waste ground and through cracked tarmac on road sides. Look for its feathery leaves and daisy-like flowers with dome-shaped yellow-green corollas.
Wild Sorrel can be found growing in parks, fields, lawns and almost anywhere grass grows, it is very common so you should be able to find some near you
It is a perennial herb that looks a bit like spinach with succulent stems and tender, arrow-shaped leaves.
How to use it: the leaves and stem of sorrel have an acidic, lemony flavour. Add them to soups, sauces, pies (sweet or savoury), quiches or eat fresh in green or potato salads. Try making sorrel pesto by blending the leaves with pine nuts, garlic, parmesan and olive oil. The leaves can also be brewed into a tea.
Where to find it: look for wild sorrel amongst meadow grasses and flowers in spring and summer. Pick only fresh young leaves – older ones can taste bitter.
I hope this has given you a taster of what to find in our glorious countryside this summer.
If you are interested in joining us for some guided foraging fun, book your spot for our June event with Krysia Chrzanowska-Hunt who will help you discover the wonder of the world on your doorstep.