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Foraging for wild food is how we add flavour and fun to our winter walks.

These are top of our list to find this season.

“Foraging is such a simple thing to do and sets off a series of feel-good hormones and brain connections that we share with our vital, hand-to-mouth, alive and kicking ancestors. Foraging also helps to foster a nurturing bond between people and plants, people and people and people and the natural world,”

Rachel Lambert
wild food tutor, forager and award-winning author

We live in an edible landscape, if you know what to look for, and foraging is a great way to find wild and seasonal food without plastic packaging or air miles. All you need to do is follow responsible foraging guidelines to ensure you don’t harm woodland, wildlife, or yourself, when gathering from nature’s larder.



Always know what you are picking. Never consume a wild plant or fungus unless you are certain of its identification. Do not collect rare species. 


Leave plenty behind. Forage carefully to ensure there is enough left for birds and other wildlife to consume, and for the plants and fungi to reproduce. In Denmark, where there’s a long tradition of foraging, the law only permits people to harvest as much food from public land as they can fit inside a hat!

At Ecco, we always take a good foraging guide or download one of the many foraging apps available to help confirm species when out collecting. It’s also important to keep in mind that some species are protected by law, so do not collect them. Ancient woods in particular can contain many rare species, so take special care when gathering in these environments. 

 Uncertain about something? Leave it where it is. 


Now, to forage ...


The fruit of the rose flower can be found in
gardens, towns, and all over the countryside.
Rose hips start to emerge in autumn, but as the
blooms can still cling on through early winter,
the hips endure throughout the season, surviving
snow and ice. Rose hips are high in vitamin C,
and make a lovely tea, jelly, or syrup.

Fun Fact: You can make itching powder from rose hips; school kids used to slip them into classmates’ school jumpers.

Caution:Wear gloves when you are collecting to avoid any irritation.


Teardrop shape of a nut, the sweet chestnut is secreted in a very prickly green case. Harvest from the ground as the nuts are not ripe until they have fallen from the tree. The bigger and bulkier the nut, the better - and if it is white at the tip, it’s still not ripe so leave it for the squirrels.

Fun Fact: 

You can cook chestnuts on a shovel. Score the skins so they don’t explode, place on the shovel then hold over an open fire. 


Wear gardening gloves, sweet chestnut cases can be tricky and very prickly.

Look for the grey oyster mushroom on tree stumps - especially beech trees - and fallen wood. This edible fungus grows in bunched up groups and has a convex cap and white gills running down its stem. Always take a mushroom guidebook with you to avoid mistakenly picking poisonous fungi.

Fun Fact: 

Extraordinarily, the oyster mushroom is carnivorous. It entraps and ingests nematodes, tiny little worms, for their nitrogen and other chemicals that’ll nourish it.


A possible lookalike is the Angel‘s Wings mushroom, however these are more white coloured. Always forage with caution and only harvest if you are 100% certain about what it is - ensure the oyster mushrooms you gather are grey and keep the number one rule of foraging at the forefront of your mind: ‘if in doubt, leave well alone.'


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Growing ubiquitously all over the world yet are overlooked as an edible plant. They are easily found, identified and can be a tasty and nutritionally valuable part of your culinary repertoire. Drop in boiling water to wipe out the sting, then the leaf can be treated like spinach and added to omelets, curries, and stews. The plant is a perennial and can be foraged in every season.

Fun fact: Stinging nettles were used to make cloth in some north European countries until the emergence of flax.

Caution: Do not treat the nettle like a salad leaf; it must be cooked to divest it of its sting.

Sloe Berries

You can find sloe berries burgeoning on
blackthorn bushes until the end of December.
The number of sloes and quality of the fruit
depends on the weather conditions through
spring and summer. A bumper crop of plump,
well-ripened sloes require the perfect balance
of warmth and water.

Fun Fact: Sloe berries make a good face mask as well as a good gin. Squidge the vitamin C rich pulp out of the berries and rub into your skin.

Caution: The blackthorn bush is very spiky. Use gloves when you are foraging.


You can find this fleshy mushroom through winter, at the edge of woodlands and out from under hedgerows. The Wood Blewitt is a fleshy lilac/grey fungus that is good for cooking. It has a meaty texture when cooked fresh but is also good for drying and using later if your foraging is fruitful. 

Fun fact:

This species sometimes grows in circles overnight; they used to be called ‘fairy rings’ as they were thought to indicate magic was ‘at work’. 


Wood Blewitt Mushrooms must be cooked thoroughly as they can cause an allergic reaction.

Pine Cones & Needles

Found in woods and forests across Northern Europe and America, pine cones produce a prized nut that is embedded in the cone. Pick open cones and shake to dislodge the nuts inside, or place closed cones by the radiator or fire for a few days to open.

Fun fact: Today pine nuts are a delicacy for squirrels and woodpeckers. Sixty million years ago, they were a favourite of the dinosaur Parasaurolophus.

Caution: Use pine needles to flavour vinegar and infuse in boiling water to drink as tea (use protective gloves as they can be spiky).


The wild ancestors of our commercial apples, crab apples ripen in autumn, but winter is the optimum time to forage for these miniature fruits after cold nights and sharp frosts. Freezing temperatures soften and sweeten the flesh of the crab apple. Crab apple jams and jellies are delicious and easy to make at home by boiling, then simmering, in water and caster sugar. 

Fun fact:

Because of their wonderful blossom and small-sized fruit, crab apples are popular to ‘bonsai,’ the Japanese art of miniaturizing trees. 


Do a taste test as you forage, apple varieties can vary dramatically, and you don’t want to waste time collecting disappointing-tasting fruit.


Growing readily on woodland floors and hedgerows and thrives anywhere damp and shady that has been undisturbed for an extended period. Its green leaves look a little like clover and in harsh chilly weather they can start to wilt. All parts of the plant are edible, but the stems are the tastiest.

Fun Fact: Wood sorrel can act as a natural weathervane: the leaves fold up before and during rain and when it gets dark.

Caution: Wood sorrel is safe to consume in small quantities; however, it contains oxalic acid, which is present in many commonly eaten vegetables. Do not eat it in large amounts to be on the safe side.

By Michelle Pamment, Editor

Find more seasonal inspiration in Fire up the winter barbecue or discover outdoor nighttime adventures in Notes on night walking