Foraging in April. A bite-size foraging guide

Foraging guide to the edible wild plants of Britain.

13 of our top wild Foods to find foraging in April!

Foraging in April will be getting interesting from now until winter! With the higher sun providing longer days, April possibly brings us more wild plants than the first three months combined.

Many wild foods like this baby angelica, are making a reappearance now

So many wild foods are ready to be picked and experimented with at this time of year. Each week sees a plethora of tasty ingredients to explore in nature’s wild larder. In fact, some of the very best wild foods of the year are making a re-appearance now.

The following wild plants are arguably a few of the most tastiest to find and identify when you are out and about. Given even just a little warmth, around 12 or 13 °C, the rampant new growth provides us with almost innumerable opportunities for foraging in April.

To help you with your spring foraging planning, why not take a look at these colour-coded sets of season-by-season  harvesting charts, designed so you don’t miss a foraging trick while out foraging this month.  A guide to harvesting wild plants can be accessed in a previous article.

The foragers glossary has an extensive terminology. Many technical lnguistic dilemma have been solved there. If you are looking for more information and assistance with identifying wild plants, then my summary of the important plant families and their easy-to-remember patterns will be a great start.

 

13 great wild foods to find and try when foraging in April!

SpeciesWhere to lookWhat part to harvest
Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea)woodland clearaances and pathsleafy tops
Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica)rivers, hedgerows, wasteground, field edges, grave yardsnew emerging stem shoots
Ox eye daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum)grassy banks, grasslands, hedgerows, roadsides, wastegroundleaves, flower buds, florets
Common mallow (Malva sylvestris)woodlands, grasslands, roadsides, wastegrounds, hedgerowsleaves, flowers, seed pods
Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)hedgerows, woodlands, parks and gardensflowers
Sea purslane (Halimione portulacoides)estuaries and tidal river banksleaves
wild garlic (Allium ursinum)woodlands, hedgerows, parklandleaves, flower buds, flowers
Wild chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris)woodlands, hedgerows, lanestender young pre-flowering stems
Chickweed (Stellaria media)gardens, fields, hedges, wastegroundsleaves and leafy tops
Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) seedlingsrivers, streams, ditches, damp fieldsbaby seedlings
Lady's smock (Cardamine pratensis)damp grasslands, uncultivated fields, riversidesleaves, flowering tops
St Georges Mushroom (Tricholoma gambosum)grassy areas, verges, and hedgerowsfleshy cap

 

Woodland glades with coverings of stitchwort are a beautiful sight when foraging in April
Glades of stitchwort are a beautiful sight when foraging in April

Stichwort (Stellaria holostea). Lining hedgebanks, woodland paths and clearances. Often grows in dense stands with numerous  stems. The leaves and leafy tops taste a little like peas. Only the very top two pairs of leaves are palatable. The leaves soon gets tough and fibrous. The stems are topped by gorgeous flowers.

 

New and old ‘canes’ of japanese knotweed are  a wild food highlight when foraging in April

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica syn Polygonum cuspidatum) Infamous invasive plant. Numerous sour stems available by end of April, for jams or tangy relish or booze or, well, lots more! Too much for this short entry. So stand by for an ‘in defence of…’ japanese knotweed article soon!

 

 

 

 

Ox eye daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum syn Leucanthemum vulgare)

Clumps of ox eye daisy can get much larger than this, as some places will reveal

Closely related to a cultivated salad variety of Chrysanthemum, this tasty, aromatic plant offers clumps of spoon-shaped leaves.  Look out for the striped flower buds and large daisy-type flowers from the end of the month / beginning of May. Not all Chrysanthemums are edible!

 

Demulcent, soft mallow leaves are commonly as large as an average mans hand.

Common mallow (Malva sylvestris)  Grows in most places in the UKLarge soft mucilage-rich leaves, high in minerals and vitamins. Use smaller ones for salads or larger ones for soup. Flash fry for a second in hot oil for mallow poppadom. Look for showy pink-purple flowers with five petals, and round edible seed pods (cheeses) to follow.

 

Almond-scented blackthorn flowers. Cyanide compounds help create the scent, more noticeable on sunny warm days

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) The last of the  almond-scented blackthorn blossom can be found at the beginning of the month. Sprays of white flowers should still be evident amongst the hedgerows. The flowers are excellent to infuse into custards and syrups.

 

Sea purslane (Halimione portulacoides) The seaside should never be far away from our thoughts as foragers. The welcome return of vibrant fresh growth on sea purslane, will perk up your local patch. The fleshy, salty, grey-green leaves are a wild food delicacy in my eyes and well worth the time spent in processing the finest leaves. Read more on sea purslane in this article

Other estuary and coastline-loving plants are featured in this short youtube video

 

Wild garlic / Ransoms (Allium ursinum) What would foraging in April be without the numerous garlics? The wild garlic loves the Atlantic seaboard climates, these being much damper than found in Eastern Britain. Carpets of wild garlic leaves and flowers cover the woodland floors in April.

 

 

Wild chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris) This is the month when you can feast on their sweet, succulent, and gently-scented young flower stems. Read up, this is not a plant family to mess with, so get to know the carrot family first.

 

Chickweed (Stellaria media) Tonnes of flowers are a common scene from chickweed in March and April. If it gets very hot for long in the spring or summer, chickweed won’t be found so much. Look in and around any cultivated land and on disturbed soils pretty much everywhere.

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) Another invasive plant that we can help control through eating if taken up as a national hobby. Back in its homeland, people ate the seeds.  I think the tiny, just-germinated seedlings are also great, before they open any true leaves. These fleshy microgreens will be found in extensive carpets by water.

 

Lady’s smock (Cardamine pratensis) Stumbling across a meadow of Lady’s smock when out foraging in April, is a treasure to behold. Delicate hues of light pink/lilac sparkling  in the sunlight. They have what was once known as cruciform flowers, each with four petals that reach approximately 10-12 mm wide.  The sparse leaves are pinnate, refining in form greatly on the stem. The whole plant is hot and peppery.

 

Mushroom foraging in April

St georges mushrooms are only found in grassland and a highlight when foraging in Apri
St Georges mushrooms are a highlight of foraging in April

St Georges Mushroom  (Tricholoma gambosum) 

The return of this tasty edible mushroom is a welcome sight for many fungi enthusiasts. It signifies that the summer season is almost upon us, and with it,  the return of woodland and grassland mushrooms. Hunting St Georges mushrooms at this time of year becomes almost an obsession.

There are very few, if any, poisonous mushrooms up at this time of year, and none of them are found growing in grasslands, so St Georges are a pretty safe introduction to fungi hunting.

Deadly poisonous mushrooms that could potentially be confused with St Georges, are the destroying angel, or death cap.  They do not grow in grassland like St Georges, and their season is later in the year.

St Georges is only found in grasslands, and grassy areas by roadsides etc. This mushroom has an off-white, irregular shaped cap, usually around 8-12 cm wide. Its gills are a creamy white colour, and numerous. The spores from your spore print will be white.

It has quite a distinctive smell, resembling almonds or peach kernals. The fleshy cap holds up well to cooking. It develops a deeper flavour on drying and can be stored all year for use, as and when.

Remember that if you want to learn the practical skills of foraging, then my upcoming short courses are a great introduction! You can browse and book on them here.

For those interested in acquiring foraging skills over the course of a week, then take a look at this wonderful week long  family camp I work at, called HedgeUcation C.I.C. Be aware that the low-cost, limited number of tickets tend to sell quickly.

More foraging treats coming soon with the wild foods of May next up.

Happy foraging!

 

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