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The CroftFood2023

The Ultimate Foraging Guide: How To Make Nut Butter, Sloe Gin and More For Free!

We partnered with wildlife experts, Blacks, to give a guide on how to forage responsibly for your winter recipes.

By Lucy Stephenson and Anya Dixon, Food Head- and Deputy- Editors

THE CROFT / As autumn retires for the year, the warmth and comfort of the indoors may be an inviting thought. However, with the crisp winter air comes the emergence of new, seasonal flavours to enhance your cosy winter meals. Resisting a retreat indoors might just provide you with the wholesome and sustainable activity you have been waiting for.

Although traipsing through the wilderness in the wind and rain might not be at the top of your to-do list this winter, foraging can provide an excellent break from uni stress. With this foraging guide, you’ll find the best winter picks for your foraging trips in and around Bristol, as well as some guidance from outdoor experts, Blacks. Blacks have recently collaborated with food writer and photographer, Paul Robinson - more commonly known as The Yorkshire Gourmet to give
you some edible inspiration when starting your foraging culinary journey this winter.
Adam Warrington, Author and Adventurer at Blacks comments “Foraging for wild foods is a great way to add some flavour to your outdoor adventures. Nature has an array of ingredients that are free for UK walkers. As long as you are in a public space or have the landowner's permission, foraging in the UK is a great way to explore all the tastes and flavours that Mother Nature has to offer!”


Although foraging can be daunting at first, Blacks have revealed the rules you must follow in order to forage responsibly in the UK:
● Make sure you know what you are picking
● Seek permission from landowners if you are on private property
● Only pick for personal consumption
● Only collect from an abundant source
● Don’t dig up or remove plants
● Avoid roadsides and low-to-ground spaces where dogs are walked

Adam continues “It is important to start simple when foraging, and only pick or eat something if you are 100% certain of what it is. Choosing to forage recognisable fruits such as brambles is a great way to start. It is also a good idea to cross-reference multiple foraging books if you are unsure of what you are picking.”
“One thing to note is that the food you can forage will change throughout the year. With this in mind, we have revealed the best things to pick in the upcoming months.”


The Best Things to Forage this Winter!

Hazelnuts- Hazelnuts are an autumnal classic, yet they still make an appearance and can be foraged in early winter (If the squirrels haven’t taken them all). Look out for hazel trees and hedges in woodland areas to find these delectable ripe nuts. You’ll know they’re ready when they’re a lovely brown shade and the paper-like wrapping peels away from the nut easily. Alternatively, pick them when they’re still green and ripen them at home in a warm, dark space.

You can use hazelnuts to make butter and spreads or bake them into hazelnut and chocolate oat bars! You’ll need a few additional ingredients, but the bars make a great energy-boosting snack to take with you on your next walk or hike.
When lightly toasted or roasted, hazelnuts make great salad or soup toppings to add a bit of crunch to your meals. Toss them onto a lemon and spinach pasta or blitz them with fresh basil, garlic and olive oil to elevate your pesto pasta!

Sloes - Blacks informs us that sloes appear all over the UK, but you’ll need to be quick to beat the hordes of gin fanatics looking to pick a few for this year’s vintage of homemade Sloe Gin.
Some say you shouldn’t pick a sloe until after the first frost when using them for gin, as this is what breaks the skin and allows the berry to infuse. However, 24 hours in the freezer will mimic the frost so feel free to pick away as soon as the sloes turn ripe.

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A post shared by Paul Robinson (@yorkshiregourmet)

Rosehips - With their vibrant red appearance, rosehips can be found in the winter months growing in hedgerows and woodland areas. This wild berry is tangy yet sweet, and works well as a sustainable replacement for cranberries. This winter, indulge yourself with cheeseboards paired with these flavourful berries, or for a crunch, dry out the rosehips and mix them with granola. For those culinary enthusiasts out there, try a spiced rosehip and apple chutney - perfect for a cosy winter gift!

For those looking for a more nutritional twist, wild rosehip tea may be the perfect aid for the common
cold and flu:
Wild Rosehip Tea

  • 1 heaped tbsp dried & crushed rosehips
  • Pot of boiled water
  • (optional) honey
    To make this healing tea, thoroughly wash and dry the rosehips before leaving them out to dry for several days. Once dried out, crush these berries and add a heaped tablespoon to a tea strainer (a coffee filter also works!). Then simply add your hot water and let it steep for a few minutes before straining it. The taste will be slightly tangy but flavourful - try adding some honey for a sweeter taste!

Foraging can be a rewarding and fruitful endeavour in all seasons of the year - giving us the opportunity to reconnect with nature and explore delicious local flavours. With this guide, you’ll save some money on ingredients and find ways to experiment with natural winter flavours. As we approach Christmas, cooking with your foraged produce can be a unique, thoughtful, and cheap way to create
personalised gifts. Happy foraging!

Featured Image: Blacks

Have you ever foraged for ingredients before?