Monday 14 August 2023

6 Tips For Foraging With Children

I am often surprised at this time of year at the amount of rotting fruit on trees and bushes. I don't just see it in wild places but in gardens too. Apple trees laden with fruit leaning over garden walls or pears scattered across the grass at the park that are mostly left untouched by humans. Why is this? Hundreds of us go strawberry picking at local farms during the summer but come autumn we have abandoned our hunter gatherer instincts in favour of the safety of the supermarkets.

Some of my favourite childhood memories revolve around gathering fruits from nearby orchards and wild places. I remember helping my mother make jam, a tradition I continue with my children. I remember my mother cutting apple upon apple, cooking them all down to make stew to freeze for winter months; she always has a tub of frozen apples to hand. 

I know times have changed and we have forgotten many of the ways of our ancestors but it is not too late to learn. Foraging for free food and learning to preserve it are good life skills to teach your children. You can learn to do this alongside them if necessary. I am sure you will all enjoy it!

Just a walk down the street or through a local park can lead to foraging opportunities. Apples, pears, plums, blackberries and damsons are just a few of the goodies you will find at this time of year. Why not make the most of this harvest season to get some free food and have fun outdoors! If you don't know where to start, here are some tips for foraging with children.

Take a bag or tub

You will need to take some bags, tubs or baskets to collect the fruit in. There is nothing worse than discovering a fruit tree abundant with fruit only to find out you don't have anything to carry the fruit back home in. It is always worth having a spare carrier bag with you (or even a stash of bags in the car) for spontaneous foraging sessions!

Dress appropriately

If you are from the UK, like me, you will know that the great British weather can be terribly unpredictable. Whenever you are going on any outdoor trip it is always worth taking a raincoat just in case the skies open and soak you. Also, make sure to wear appropriate shoes. Wellington boots may be necessary if you are walking through any muddy areas. Also if blackberry picking, it might be worth covering arms and legs to prevent getting badly scratched by the brambles!

Have a "check first" policy

It is really important to let your child know that they should check with you that something is edible before they eat it. Keep an eye on little ones who want to put everything in their mouths.

Avoid the roadside

Foraging is a lot easier and safer if you do it in a place that is away from the main road, particularly if you have little ones who are prone to running around and unaware of danger. Also, be aware that while safe to eat, blackberries from a busy roadside have been shown to contain a slightly higher level of the metals lead, titanium and palladium. Interestingly, supermarket blackberries revealed higher concentrations of lead and copper compared to rural locations.

Only pick what you need

It is important never to strip a bush or tree completely bare. Make sure your children know this. Remind them to leave some fruit for the animals. Also, leaving fruit to turn to seed will mean that there is a possibility of new bushes or trees growing in the future.

Make something yummy

Picking the fruit is only half the fun. When you get home, let your children help you to prepare the fruit for cooking or preserving. There are lots of things you can do to preserve fruit such as stewing it all down and freezing or cutting it into pieces to bottle. Teach your children how to make jam, a sponge decorated with fresh berries or a delicious dessert such as apple crumble. 

I hope this has given you some ideas for how to forage with children. There is quite a short window in which the fruit will be just right to eat, don't miss this opportunity!

Further articles of interest


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