I love finding a sign like this

I love finding a sign like this

I love finding sign like this.

It shows years worth of wear and tear. It’s where badgers have been travelling up a bank – the moss can’t grow there, the fissures in the bark have been smoothed out and there are numerous claw marks.

Pignuts

Pignuts

Another wild edible has just started to poke through amongst the bluebells – The Pignut: Distinguishable by its feathery leaves, care must be taken not to confuse with other members of the same family i.e. Hemlock, although if you saw the two side by side, the differences are apparent.

The part of this plant you’re looking for is the tuber, and it can be somewhat labour intensive to dig for them but, in my opinion, quite worth the while. I’ve always had a penchant for water chestnuts (like the ones you get in a Chinese takeaway) and these are not dissimilar. Digging requires care as you need to follow the stem downwards, being careful not to break it. The reason for this is because they’re sneaky buggers and don’t go directly downwards – the shoot coming out from the tuber heads outwards before heading upwards at 90 degrees to the surface. Whether this is a simple defence mechanism, I don’t know. The skin of this dark nugget can easily be rubbed off with a thumbnail to reveal a bright white, nutritious morsel. Eaten raw or as part of a stir fry, they’re rather moreish.

When might you need a fire, you may ask?

When might you need a fire, you may ask?

When might I need a fire, you may ask? The answer is: You bloody never know.

Now, in the bushcraft world there’s always a fervour for birchbark (it contains oils) and cramp balls (those black nodules of fungi, growing on dead Ash) and they’re good for propagating a fire from the slightest spark, but I reckon this stuff is just as good – It’s called Fireweed (colloquially) or Rosebay Willowherb – you would’ve seen swathes of tall plants with pink flowers growing on roadside verges whilst on your summer drives. It’s abundant, easy to gather, and takes a spark. The stems can then be used to extended the flame. You can find it in most habitats, where there’s an open space. I grab it below the seed heads. Lightly press my thumbnail into the stem and strip off the top. Just keep your thumbnail pointing downwards to avoid any ouchy splinter action.

Having seen many a fella struggling to get a BBQ going on the beach, when might I need a fire, you may ask?

Now, this is it at its winter stage. Come spring/summer it has another use altogether. Keep watching!

The Splash Zone

The Splash Zone

A lot of people will tell you not to forage next to a road, because of traffic fumes.

This picture shows a much more rational reason for not foraging by the roadside – when it rains, all that crap on the road gets splashed up onto the plants – mud, diesel, dog dirt and the like. Much better to get away from the ‘splash zone’!

Be mindful when foraging

Be mindful when foraging

This is something to be mindful of if picking wild garlic (Allium ursinum) at the moment.

The first two pics look almost like the fresh leaves poking through, but if you stick these in yer gob, you’re going to experience a nasty burning sensation, stomach ache, swollen throat and breathing difficulty. It’s Arum maculatum (Lords n Ladies) and will grow to be that conical cluster of orange berries you commonly see. It grows amongst wild garlic, so be mindful of each leaf you pick. The third photo is wild garlic, growing in exactly the same area.