Summer Foraging Recipes
Summer is in full swing (despite what the weather may suggest) and nature’s larder is filling fast. But do you know which delicious wild edibles are in season and what the best summer foraging recipes are to make the most of them?
Summer season wild edible plants
Summer is the season of wild berries, giving loads of options for fruity foraged recipes. There are also plenty of edible flowers to be found, providing a simple pretty garnish to any salad or use them to create flavoured cordials, syrups and even liqueur if you like your drinks a little stronger. And don’t overlook the leafy greens. While many wild leaves are best foraged in spring when they’re tender and young, there are still plenty that taste just great in summer and are packed with nutrients to boost your physical and mental well-being.
Whilst we love to go foraging and believe it’s a positive way to forge a deeper connection with nature, please always remember to forage responsibly. Only ever take from plentiful stocks and always leave more than you take – your foraging will be short lived if you don’t leave enough for regeneration in future years. And most importantly, please don’t forget that wild plants are vital for the survival of wildlife.
It’s also important to only ever pick plants you are confident in identifying. If you’re not sure, leave it alone!
Check out this handy guide to responsible foraging by the Woodland Trust.
Foraged flower recipes:
You can’t miss these beautiful bright bunches of creamy-white flowers lining hedgerows and brightening up woodlands. You’ll see them everywhere throughout May to early July depending on where you are in the UK, their heady scent filling the air on a warm sunny day. This is the perfect time to pick them too: they’re at their sweetest when picked on a dry sunny day just before noon.
Elderflowers make a delicious flavouring for summer cordials, syrups and jellies. But our favourite is elderflower liqueur. It’s the perfect fragrant addition to a classic gin and tonic or add a dash to a cold glass of prosecco for a summery fizz.
Elderflower liqueur foraging recipe:
Pick your elderflowers on a bright sunny morning when the flowers are dry and basking in sunshine – discard any heads with brown flowers
- Shake the flowers heads to remove any insects
- Snip the delicate flower heads off the main stalks and place in a sterilised 1L kilner jar
- Cover the flowers heads with the rind of 1 large lemon and pour in 1L of vodka, filling it right to the top (this should help prevent the flowers turning brown, though if they do the liqueur will taste the same, it’ll just look a little darker)
- Store in a cool dark place for 2-4 weeks
- Make a sugar syrup by heating 100ml water with 100g sugar until it dissolves – allow to cool before using
- Strain the elderflower liquid through muslin into a large bowl or jug
- Add half the sugar syrup and taste – continue adding the sugar syrup until it’s just sweet enough
- Decant into clean sterilised bottles and leave to mature in a cool dark place for 2 months
- It will keep for years but we recommend you serve and enjoy!
Elderflowers will discolour quite quickly once picked so be ready to move quickly once you’ve started picking!
There are many different types of honeysuckle, unmistakable with their exotic flowers and sweet smell. Many honeysuckles are toxic to some degree, especially the leaves and berries, however the yellow and blush-pink flowers of UK native common honeysuckle are considered edible. As is Japanese honeysuckle with its creamy-white trumpet flowers, though this species is quite invasive and harmful to native plants so don’t worry about foraging for too much of this one if you find it!
This honeysuckle syrup is incredibly versatile and is delicious added to sparkling water and cocktails, or used to make a vinaigrette or jelly.
Wild honeysuckle syrup foraging recipe:
- Pick a large handful of fresh honeysuckle trumpets, ensuring they are all fully open and any green bits are removed
- Add 500ml of recently boiled water – enough to cover them – and leave to soak overnight before popping them in the fridge to infuse for a further day
- Strain through muslin into a large saucepan
- Add equal quantities of sugar (in grams) to liquid (in millilitres), plus the juice of ½ a lemon for every 500ml
- Slowly bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and simmer gently for 4 minutes
- Pour into a sterilised glass bottle and keep in the fridge for up to 1 month (alternatively pour into a plastic container and freeze for a longer shelf life)
For those of you who follow our Stories on Instagram, you’ll be familiar with just how obsessed I am with pineapple weed! Also known as Wild Chamomile, it was a revelation to me last year at the Abergavenny Food Festival when I joined a foodie foraging experience with the team from Eat Native. I instantly recognised this weed but its exotic taste had eluded me until now. It loves to grow in rough ground: pavement cracks, driveway edges and shoddy old farm tracks. Crush a flower between your fingers and you’ll be immediately rewarded with the sweet tropical smell of pineapple. That day I discovered the delights of pineapple weed panna cotta, served with a side of wild blackberry compote.
I can’t profess to have ever made a panna cotta of any type so I’ll let you use your own particular recipe. Simply infuse several flower heads of pineapple weed into the cream, and then continue with your recipe as usual (minus any other bold fruit flavours of course).
If panna cotta isn’t your thing, simply pick a few flower heads and infuse in hot water for a delicious and refreshing wild herbal tea.
This versatile wild plant is a forager’s dream, with the flowers, leaves, seeds and roots all being edible. Mallow is found in open and sunny habitats like pastures, as well as along hedgerows and roadsides.
Best picked in summer, the leaves are slightly furry and contain a resin which gives them a texture a little like okra. Perfect for thickening Middle Eastern style soups. The flowers have a similar texture. The flowers and buda can be pickled and the disc-shaped seeds, or ‘nutlets’, have a delicious nutty taste, perfect for snacking on.
Robin Harford has a great recipe for foraged Wild Celery & Mallow Harira soup.
Wild foraged fruits recipes:
Whether it’s a bowl of strawberries and cream at a picnic or bilberry-stained ankles on a moorland walk, nothing says summer more than delicious ripe berries. So what’s in season right now? Well both of these berries are perfect for foraging from July to September and both are incredibly versatile wild foods.
My personal favourite highlight of summer. I’ll head out to walk the dog through the forest and return hours later than planned with every bag and receptacle I could find fully laden with bilberries and sticky purple fingers to show me up as the bilberry thief I am!
Also known as whinberries, these delicious purple fruits look like small blueberries and can be found growing on low shrubs across heaths and moorland, and throughout sparse conifer woodland.
Whizz them up in a fruit smoothie, use to make a sticky fruit compote delicious with vanilla ice cream or make any one of a number gorgeous cakes, strudels and pies. These little gems taste great whatever you choose to do with them.
Foraged bilberry jam recipe:
- Rinse 900g of freshly picked ripe bilberries and place in a pan
- Add a squeeze of lemon, along with the pips, or an apple core (for the pectin)
- Remove any lemon or apple pips
- Stir in 900g of sugar and return to a simmer until setting point
- Spoon into sterilised jars and lid whilst still hot
- Enjoy on toast or with a croissant fresh from the over
These tiny berries are delicious and far superior in flavour to their larger cultivated cousin. They’re not too common these days but keep your eyes peeled along hedgerows and rough grassland on chalky soil to spot these ruby gems. You’ll rarely find more than a handful and even if you do, I guarantee you won’t make it home before you’ve succumbed to their extraordinary taste.
To serve: simply pick and pop in your mouth!
Wild summer leaves
There are many edible leaves around during summer which are delicious and nutritious. Yarrow and sorrel are two of my personal favourites. I’m often found returning from a dog walk clutching a handful of slightly wilted leaves, dashing to rejuvenate then in a bowl of cold water before I’m ready to make a refreshing natural tea and relax. Sorrel, yarrow, nettle tips and sprig of mint from the garden – my go to herbal tea when I need a natural pick-me-up.
Also known as woundwort and staunch grass, yarrow was used in Roman times to stop bleeding from cuts and wounds. In herbal medicine it is valued as an astringent for scratches, cuts and sores.
In food terms, yarrow is a bitter herb and as such it can be quite tricky to cook with. But used lightly as an addition to salads it brings an aromatic note. The first time I tasted it, the fresh leaves had been used as a seasoning in a delicious foraged recipe for mushroom broth, which was simply delicious. It’s also possible to dry the leaves and use them as a herb all year round.
This invasive weed is not native to the UK. It was probably introduced by the Romans as a pot herb and remedy for gout. But though it’s popularity as a herb dwindled, it continued to spread throughout the British Isles and is now a persistent problem for many gardeners (myself included). Once it takes hold it’s almost impossible to get rid, so why not embrace it as a food and lets eat our way through this problem plant!
It’s commonly found in shady spaces in gardens, hedgerows and woodlands. It grows low to the ground and forms a thick carpet of lush serrated, oval leaves, grouped in threes on a grooved stalk. It is part of the Apiaceae family, which contains some poisonous plants so be careful when foraging for ground elder and make sure you’re confident you have identified it correctly.
The young leaves and shoots of ground elder can be eaten raw in salads. They’re also delicious steamed and served with butter, like spinach. Also like spinach, throw a handful into stews or pasta to bring a little wild greenery to your dish.
Ash is one of our most common trees and alongside privet are the only UK members of the olive family (Oleaceae). Rather than the leaves, it’s actually the seeds of the ash tree that we’re interested in. When picked young they make a delicious pickle.
My foraging hero Robin Harford has a delicious foraging recipe for Pickled Ash Keys
Inspiration for wild foods
Over the last few years I’ve developed a real passion for foraging. Discovering the everyday plants all around that are so much more than ‘just plants’. They’re food. They’re what used to keep our ancestors alive. But we’ve grown so disconnected from nature that we rarely see this now.
I’ve been very lucky to work with some incredibly knowledgeable foragers through our adventure holidays, like our Wild Wellness Retreat. For me personally, learning to forage has opened up a whole new world, bringing more meaning to the changing seasons and getting me excited for when each plant will come into its own and there will be a different taste on the dinner table. Or a different taste on my walk at least, as usually I just scoff away as I’m out walking!
I hope this has inspired you to view the world around you differently too. Wherever you live, countryside, town or city, open your eyes next time you’re out and you will see at least some of the plants I’ve listed here in the summer. Pick a little. Have a nibble. And maybe try a foraging recipe or two.