A short guide to Foraging in February in the UK.
Foraging in February. Returning light and life reflected in February’s wild food.
This is a small selection of the wild foods to look out for when foraging in february, with advice on harvesting, preparation and use.
As we pass the ancient festival of Imbolc on the 1st and 2nd of February, it becomes more apparent that the days are finally and noticeably getting longer. We foragers anticpate and keenly sense the returning light and first stirrings of re-growth that will soon produce the long-awaited wild food delights of spring following another long dark, if not freezing winter.
The beginning of February has long carried significance. Numerous cultures stretching back thousands of years have celebrated this time of year, when life begins to stir in the belly of Mother Nature again. With the increasingly longer days, and although still dependent on the weather on the ground, foraging generally starts to step up a gear in tune with natural cycles.
To assist your foraging planning, take a look at these season-by-season, colour-coded, harvesting charts. Featuring more than 80 species, the charts offer an instant reminder as to which plants are available to harvest. There are eight different plant parts covered. With this seasonal foraging guide you can expand your harvesting and foraging skills.
The following wild foods are just some of the increasing number of species that are available when foraging in February. A couple of common poisonous plants are included too, as they are plants that you will undoubtedly come across again and again. They are vital to learn. A summary guide to Britain’s toxic and poisonous plants can be found here.
These February highlights should provide you with ample food for thought, and hopefully lots of wild ingredients to kick start creative festive ideas in the kitchen. Get more wild food inspiration with these wild food recipes.
13 great wild foods to try foraging in February
|Species||Where to look||Which plant part to harvest|
|wild garlic (Allium ursinum)||woodlands||leaves, leaf stalks, flower buds|
|wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosa)||woodlands||leaves|
|winter purslane (Claytonia sibirica)||damp grasslands, riverbanks||leaves|
|wild chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris)||woodlands, hedgerows, lanes||leaves, leaf shoots|
|Gorse (Ulex europeas)||heath, cliffs, scrub, woodland edges||flowers|
|Lords and ladies (Arum maculatum)||Woodlands, hedgerows, shady lanes||NONE! All parts deadly poisonous.|
|Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum)||wasteground, riversides, hedges,||NONE! All parts deadly poisonous.|
|Darwins berberis (Berberis darwinii)||amenity planting from parks and gardens||flowers|
|Primrose (Primula vulgaris)||woodlands, hedgerows, grassy areas||leaves and flowers|
|Lesser celandine (Ficaria verna)||woodlands, grassy banks, hedgerows||leaves and tubers|
|sweet violets (Viola odorata)||hedgerows, shady grassland, cliffs, woodlands||leaves and flowers|
|Sea beet (Beta vulgaris)||estuaries and coastlines||leaves|
|Scarlet elf caps (Sarcoscypha coccinea)||Woodlands on mossy logs||fruiting body|
Identify two poisonous plants – hemlock (Conium maculatum) and lords and ladies (Arum maculatum).
Mushroom foraging in February Scarlet elf cap (Sarcoscypha coccinea)
This strikingly coloured mushroom immediately became a favourite of mine following a few winter woodland trips with my arch foraging buddy Anna. Having lived in Bristol for a few years I was lucky enough to be just a short bike ride away from the ancient Leigh woods, on the far side of the Avon gorge.
As a saprotrophic fungus, feeding on decaying cellulose, the scarlet elf cup requires woodland with fallen and decaying tree limbs. Therefore it loves the ancient Leigh woods, where trees have grown, died and slowly rotted for millenia, and are typically covered in thick coats of moss.
They can be found anytime from January to April, dependent on weather and location. Most specimens are typically just larger than an old 50p coin, although individuals 50-60 mm in diameter are not completely rare.
It is often a little fiddly to clean, but are worth the bother. One of the things I like about this fungus is that it holds its colour and texture on cooking. A vegetarian friend suggested it had the texture of bacon rind, and gave her teeth a similar workout as whenshe used to eat meat. I eat them raw as well, cut into thin strips, where they give a lot of colourful life to salads.
I use them in pies with other mushrooms, again because of their colour and texture.
More foraging highlights will come in March, as the foraging year really gets going.
In the mean time, if you are wanting plant I/D help in the field, take a look at my foragers friend field-guide style, waterproof cards. My regular foraging courses are a great way to learn some of the practical skills and arts of the forager. Browse through the courses here.