Healthy and inexpensive fun with the kids – foraging in the countryside

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Jan 21, 2016 by Aman

First of all, let's make things abundantly clear: no mushrooms. There are whole courses and books dedicated to teaching people how to forage safely for mushrooms, and no end of tragedies as mushrooms are notoriously difficult to identify; many “safe” ones look like poisonous mushrooms and vice versa.

However, if you live in the suburbs or countryside and you fancy a lovely day out with the kids, why not look for tasty goodies to take home.

It depends on the time of year as to what's available, but these goodies are all well worth a forage, and the bonus is that you get to teach your kids a little bit about nature, and to have a family experience that doesn't require expensive tickets and a lot of driving.

One thing to remember: fruit often grows in abundance at the side of busy roads, but you shouldn't pick those as the chemicals from vehicles are not a good thing to ingest.

Wild garlic for your dinner

Around April and May, as the weather becomes a bit more clement, a walk in the woods should reveal a sea of bluebells and their wondrous, heady smell. However, wild garlic also pops out to say hello. Recognisable by its own distinctive, fresh smell, it has green leaves and white, starry flowers that are easy to spot.

Make your own pesto with the green shoots or chop them up into a salad. They're as delicious as the fat bulbs we buy, but with a more zingy kind of flavour that isn't as pervasive.

Summer glories

Summer is the abundant time for fruit – or, at least, towards the end. After all the roses in the hedgerows have flowered and lost their petals, they produce rosehips, their red or orange bulbous treats. Pick plenty of these, take them home, peel the brightly coloured encasing from around the seeds, and cook in plenty of sugar and water to make a glorious rosehip syrup – great on ice cream or yoghurt!

Raspberries are a lovely, familiar sight, and these are often easy to spot in the undergrowth, their delicate pink nubs of flavour just asking to be eaten. Word of warning, though: don't pick anything too close to the ground, especially if you're going to eat it straight away!

Blackberries (also known as brambles) can be found ripening towards the end of August, their dark jewels hanging heavily from branches. Take a box and fill it, and show the kids how to check for worms and other bugs before eating. You can eat apple and blackberry pie all winter if you find a good patch to pick from.

Hazelnuts aplenty

At the end of summer, you might be lucky enough to walk through woods with hazel trees. It's hard to catch just the right time when the nuts are ripe, especially because the squirrels often get there first, so if you see any that are starting to brown, pick them, put them into a paper bag, and take them home.

Spread them out in a shallow dish, and ripen near a light window. You can then save them for Christmas or eat them as you please – but don't forget the nutcracker!