Take a walk on the wild side and bring hyper-local flavour to your plate thanks these eight best spots for foraging edible plants, herbs and fruits in London.
Spring is here, and with it come blooms and shoots of all kinds – including many you can eat. So, what better way to celebrate the season than by cooking with plants you’ve picked yourself?
It’s perfectly possible to do without leaving the city, too; London’s public green spaces are awash with ingredients that you’re generally allowed to pick – except in the Royal Parks, where foraging is banned, and some other locations, where you may need to seek permission. What you take should be for personal consumption; check out the Woodland Trust’s foraging guidelines for more tips on how to do forage responsibly.
Of course, you should never eat anything you can’t definitely identify, so guided foraging can be a good idea for first-timers; various companies including Forage London offer expert-led walks in the city. Or, for those confident in their plant-identification skills, here are some of the best spots for sourcing ingredients – simply check what’s in season before setting off.
Pick up some elderflower at Hampstead Heath.
It’s one of London’s best-known parks, but what you might not know if that there’s plenty to pick on the Heath. Want to make sloe gin? You’ll find sloe berries on blackthorn bushes all over the Heath, as well as elderflower (great for cordial), dewberries and hawthorn berries, which can be made into jam.
Finsbury Park and Parkland Walk
It may not be the most beautiful of spaces, but Finsbury Park and the adjoining disused railway line (now a woodland walk) are great places to find wild plants and herbs that you can brew into teas, or use as soups and sauces. Look out for everything from nettles and sorrel to mugwort, as well as various berries.
Burgess Park is lined with cherry and sweet chestnut trees. Image Loz Pycock via Flikr.
Burgess Park and Surrey Canal Walk
The filled-in Surrey Canal now serves as a lovely walking route that connects Peckham with Burgess Park, on the Old Kent Road. Along the way you’ll likely find walnuts and sweet chestnuts (try them in a pie), chickweed (a hard-to-find herb) and rocket, plus a lot more.
Battersea Park does a strong line in wild garlic and herbs; keep an eye out for chickweed and mallow, which can both be used to add flavour and colour to dishes. You can also expect flowers including elder, plus gorse, the buds of which can be pickled and eaten like capers.
It’s a forager’s paradise at Walthamstow Marshes. Image: Little Idas Flowers.
Hackney and Walthamstow Marshes
This pair of wild green spaces, hemmed in by the two branches of the River Lea, are a forager’s paradise. There’s an abundance of nettles, as well as dandelion leaves, which you can toss in a salad, and a few patches of wild garlic hidden among the trees. Late summer, meanwhile, is the time to look for blackberries.
Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park
Foraging in Tower Hamlets’ green spaces is only allowed with permission, so if you do want to hunt for ingredients in the Cemetery Park, you can join one of the occasional guided sessions, or enquire online beforehand. Shade-loving wild garlic grows here, alongside wild chives, mushrooms (not recommended unless you really know your stuff), elder berries and the occasional wild strawberry.
If berries are your bag, head to Wormwood Srcubs Park. Image by Alexey Komarov via Flikr.
Wormwood Scrubs Park
Squeezed between Acton and Kensal Green, this sizeable park is big on berries, with sloe, rosehips and blackberries all growing in abundance when they’re in season. You’ll also find plenty of nettles around, so be sure to bring your gloves.
Wimbledon Common is a great place for finding fungi, but you’ll need to get a permit if you want to pick mushrooms. For anything else, responsible foragers are welcome; look out for leaves including sorrel, dandelion and mugwort.
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