01 Oct 2019


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Foraging: Getting Started

At Victorinox, we see foraging as an excellent way to combine two of our favourite pastimes: exploring the great outdoors and cooking up delicious, seasonal food. But for the uninitiated, it can be hard to know where to start. Like the sound of sourcing wild food in urban areas but don’t know where to begin? Lifelong forager and author of “The Edible City: A Year of Wild Food”, John Rensten, shares his top tips for getting started:

  • First things first…NO NIBBLING!
    Putting something in your mouth is not part of the identification process; it’s what you do with food. Once you are 100% certain of what you are dealing with, then trying a tiny amount may or may not be the appropriate next step, but tasting an unidentified plant is not a smart move.
  • All things in moderation
    When trying something new for the first time, only eat a very small amount to make sure there are no adverse effects. We are respond differently, so doing a simple tolerance test is a good habit to get into. When trying a new species of mushroom for the first time, having obviously reached the point where I am utterly certain of my identification, I cook and eat a tiny section of one cap, the following day I eat a larger piece and the day after is when I might consider consuming a whole portion.
  • Remember the community
    Another reason for moderation is simply to not be too greedy. It’s such a good feeling when you find and successfully identify something you know is going to taste great and it’s sometimes really hard not to get carried away but if foraging is to be accepted as a responsible urban activity it’s vital that everyone involved doesn’t overdo it.
  • Wash everything
    This common sense rule of thumb applies to everything you forage. An exception can be made for certain types of mushrooms which are very good at absorbing moisture. These you can just brush clean and cut off any dirty bits.
  • Focus on the family
    Still not sure where to get started? Focus on one particular family, e.g. the mint family which includes thyme, basil, rosemary and lavender. Familiarise yourself with the characteristics of this family and practice identifying its members until you feel confident to move on to other plant families.

These are just a few of the many tips found within John’s book or shared on one of his walks. If you want to know more, John will be giving a talk at the Haus of Victorinox at this year’s Wilderness Festival in Oxfordshire, UK.