Foraging in June. ‘At-a-glance’ monthly UK foraging guide

A bite-size guide to Foraging in June. Britain’s wild food, herbal medicine, and edible fungi.

13 of the best species to find and try when out foraging in June.

When you are out foraging in June, you wander a landscape utterly transformed by all the fresh new growth and fertility of the previous few weeks.

Now that the days are at their longest, the majority of plants have climaxed their pollination and fruit-setting.

Approaching summer solstice, plants are found to be concentrating their resources, by re-directing their accumulated and stored energy inwards, nourishing their ripening fruits while these in turn protect the developing embryo in the seed.

The following 13 species are easily found, when you are in the right habitat and setting…

To help with your foraging skills all-year-round, my handy, pocket-sized, waterproof plant identification cards can back up your foraging know how. Designed specifically for help ‘in the field’, the bullet-point information and characteristic photo’s should enable you to find and identify the plants at various times of the year. 

If you have already read the summary guide to the plant family patterns, then many of these plants might well look familiar.

Some of the best and easiest foraging in June will be done in the urban environment and at the coast. Our early flowering fruit trees and shrubs start bearing in towns and cities when the evenings are long, in the latter part of June.

In park-lands, gardens, and also found lining numerous residential streets, our wild cherry fruits (Prunus species) will be ready in mid to late June. These are soon followed by Cherry plums (Prunus cerasifera). It is impossible to tell whether you will get a sweet cherry until you try. Some are bitter, some are sweet. Just suck it and see!

You can find lots of Berberis and Mahonia fruits in town, where they are typically planted as evergreen distractions from the harsh developments they border. Read more on urban foraging in my short guide

In June woodlands, you will see that the rose petals and elder flowers, recently found in abundance at the beginning of the month, quickly fade away later on. These are replaced by the delicious first early wild raspberries and strawberries.

The nettles will be seeding up and down the country, unless they have been strimmed or mowed. If they have been cut you will find nettle patches to extend your nettle leaf season. The leaves on these ones are spring-like in freshness and make just as good eating. A full length article on nettles was published last year.

Coming along soon will be ripened brown nettle seeds, which are great sprinkled on salads.They seem to give me increased energy. This is a plant that was traditionally assigned by Astrologer-physicians to the planet Mars.

13 of the best wild foods and medicines to find when foraging in June.

SpeciesWhat to harvestWhere to look
Sea campionLeaves, flowersCoastal cliffs, sand dunes, grass banks
Sea sandwortLeaves, leafy topsSand dunes, shingle beach margins, estuaries
Mahonia fruitsFruitsAs an amenity planting in numerous settings
YarrowFlowersgrasslands,
hedgerows, parkland
Wall rocketsLeaves, flowering tops, flowerscoastal areas, waste ground, grassy areas
MeadowsweetFlowers and flowering topsriver and canal banks, watermeadows, meadows
Wild strawberryFruitswoodlands, hedgerows, grassy banks
Mallow 'cheeses'FruitsAll over UK in various settings
Hogweed broccoliFlower budsAll over UK in verious settings
Estuary peasFruit (seed pods)Estuary tributary banks, salt marsh, coastal settings
Wall bellflowerLeaves, flowersAny urban wall
Marsh samphireYoung stemsflat estuaries, salt marsh
Chicken of the woodsFleshy young cap'Numerous tree species, especially oak,

 

Sea campion, in its typical cushion habit, and full of flowers in the summer. Its leaves are good all through the spring

Sea campion  (Silene maritima) A clump-forming, fleshy-leaved relative of chickweed. Also known as S.uniflora. This fleshy leaved plant will be found mostly at the coast. The leaves have a juicy succulence and mild pea favour (to my palate), with little bitterness. 

 

Sea sandwort is a delicacy when found on sand.

Sea sandwort  (Honckenya peploides) Small coastal plant, usually found on sand dunes, estuaries and areas of wasteground near the sea. This small perennial plant has fleshy, cucumber tasting leaves, although this seems to be dependent on where it grows. The best flavours I’ve found are from plants growing in sand. The plants I found on grazed mudflats seem to be more bitter.

 

mahonia fruits will be ready by solstice. They are recognisable from their purple-blue yeast bloom, oval shape and tart taste. They are one of the urban highlights when foraging in June. The fruits contain many seeds.
Mahonia fruits will be ready by solstice and are definitely one of the urban highlights of foraging in June.

Mahonia fruits (Mahonia x media, et al)  If you like your fruits tart, you will love Mahonia and Berberis plants. The range of species produce various shaped berries, from oval to spherical. They are purple/blue, with the yeast bloom covering. Mahonia fruits are high in pectin and make a great addition to jams. For me, they are always a highlight of urban foraging in June. With dates and molasses, Mahonia fruit combines to produce a stunning ketchup.

Yarrow flowers are best picked just before this stage, as the buds burst open

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)  Very common aromatic herb of grassy settings. The baby leaves are good in salads and the whole plant, especially the flowers are a super-useful wound herb, and a renowned digestive bitter. It’s the only plant used in more than 5000 years by the Chinese for their oracle, the I Ching. Read more on yarrow here.

 

These rocket leaves contain far more of a peppery punch than any shop bought variety

Wall rockets (Diplotaxis tenuifolia and D.muralis) These are two of the punchiest rockets you are ever likely to eat. Both of these two species have yellow flowers, 1 cm across. The rockets will grow in a number of settings, especially in and around urban areas, although predominantly in south eastern and southern Britain.

Unfortunately for our cousins north of the border, the perennial and annual wall rockets are almost absent in Scotland, except for a few spots here and there. In Wales they are only occasionally found, dotted along the coast.

 

Meadowsweet flowers will be laden with salicylic acid, and provided the eventual source material for aspirin

Meadowsweet  Once found, never forgotten. For me it was at least. In full flower, and with its frothy creamy sprays of tiny flowers, this plant looks and smells divine especially when the sun is out. Meadowsweet is a common sight of waterways, hugging the banks the length and breadth of Britain. If you can find the last of the elder flowers with the first of the meadowsweet flowers, your champagne can reach new levels! Read more about this remarkable game-changing herbal medicine.

 

Wild strawberry fruits are so sweet and exquisitely fragrant, they completely eclipse the garden variety in terms of flavour

Wild strawberry  Since the beginning of May, the white and yellow flowers have been out en masse in many parts of the country. The small, red, conical fruits should be ripe and ready by second half of June. There is no cultivated strawberry that can match the fragrant sweet flavour of wild Fragraria fruits.

 

Mallow flowers are quickly followed by the round seed pods, known by many as cheeses.

Mallow ‘cheeses’  Following the mallow’s showy pink-purple flowers, are the fantastic little seed pods. When picked young, green and crunchy, the mucilage rich seed pods are a great thickener, used in making soups and meringues. They can also be dusted in flour, tossed in oil and fried.

 

Hogweeed flower buds will all soon be open so gather while you can in June

Hogweed broccoli  It’s rare not to find hogweed when out foraging! This plant is probably the second most common member of the carrot family.

In the early part of June there are still plenty of tender young flower buds to harvest. Get to them by removing the tough protective sheath. With the tender flower stem still attached, these make a great replacement for broccoli spears. They can be made into tempura and battered, or steamed and served simply with butter/olive oil and cracked black pepper.

The pungent estuary peas swelling on scurvy grass flower heads

‘Estuary ‘peas’ The various scurvy grass species are found mostly in coastal settings. On salt marshes and estuary tributary-stream banks, you can find lots of racemes of the little fruiting pods on just-flowered specimens. The ‘estuary pea’s are slightly smaller than petis pois, and make a great caper substitute when steeped in a white wine vinegar infused with some spices.

Wall bellflowers have large blue flowers and small, toothed, evergreen leaves. They are easily spotted in many streets of our towns and cities

Wall bellflower A common sight of urban streets, the bellflower is in full flower now, and makes an easily found salad to compliment your summer meals. The crisp leaf has a mild and only very slightly bitter flavour when I have tried in spring. The bitterness may rise in hotter, drier, summer months. The flowers are wonderful tossed in salads, used simply as a garnish or frozen in ice-cubes for cocktails. 

 

Wiry looking samphire stems emerging from shallow mud flats in late spring

Marsh samphire  This plant’s niche in ecological terms is being the first with roots to stabilise silt deposits from the slower moving water of estuaries. In effect, it kicks off the process of creating land, claiming it from the tidal river and sea. Knowing this, I pondered on the unrelated Japanese knotweed and its role as the first plant colonising lava deposits in Japan. I see many similarities.

There are annual and perennial species of samphire. The annual plant is a gourmet vegetable. Samphire can only be found on estuary mud flats and salt marshes. Harvest with scissors, cutting the fleshy stems above the silt. If you harvest by hand, inevitably you will pull up this shallow rooting plant.

In the right setting, you will find an abundance of samphire. Even if you live a fair trek from the coast, go! Finding always beats buying for excitement and flavour. In the UK, shop-bought samphire will come mostly from Israel.

Mushroom foraging in June

Chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)            Gourmet fungi foraging in June.

I found this gorgeous, but out of reach Chicken of the woods growing on willow in Oxford on the Mill stream when foraging in June a few years ago.
A tantalisingly out of-range Chicken of the woods growing on crack willow in Oxford. I Found this when foraging in June along the river Thames Mill stream

The first chicken of the woods of the year are a special treat. This bracket fungus has distinctive colouring, and you really shouldn’t be able to be mistake it with other fungus here in Britain.

If catching the sunlight, the bright orange/yellow flesh of COTW can really dazzle. When young, the orange cap contrasts with the lemon yellow colour of the spore producing underside. As an older specimen, COTW loses its colour and vitality.

As a saprophytic fungus, COTW can be found on standing trees, alive and dead. The ecological role of saprophytic organisms is to decompose cellulose material in trees. In the case of this fungus, it produces a characteristic square-shaped, brown ‘cubic rot’. When you are out foraging in June and see a proud tree, covered in chicken of the woods, it’s a clear sign that the tree won’t be standing for very much longer!

This became evident one year out foraging with my arch foraging buddy Anna. She had found a large Oak with many separate stacks of COTW all the way up the trunk.

We harvested what was in reach and thanked our lucky stars.

When returning to the tree the next year, we found it again…but now two thirds of it was on the ground. The fungus still appears on the standing third, and continues to give a good yearly harvest.

Harvest the fungus with a knife. I cut about an inch or two away from the trunk on the younger specimens. Leave a bit more on the older, tougher specimens. When fresh, the different ‘shelves’ will exude quite a bit of juice as you cut and handle them. On cutting or tearing the fungus, you will see the similar fibrous texture of cooked chicken.

Using the softer margins and leaving the harder, older material found at the wood, you can replicate the texture, and to some extent, the flavour, of chicken. It has to be seen and tasted to believed. It is best either well-marinaded or cooked in some liquor. COTW readily absorbs oil and will cook dry if not allowed to swoosh around in some juice.

CAUTION! A small percentage of the population are known to get unpleasant reactions to chicken of the woods. As mentioned elsewhere in this website, test your tolerance first!

To preserve the fungus it needs to be cooked and frozen or pickled. Drying it produces poor results.

More wild foods and medicines are coming soon. If you want to learn more about the arts and crafts of wild food foraging then book on a foraging walk or course today!

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