Winter may not seem like the obvious season for foraging but this can be a magical time of year to make the most of what nature has in store. Belinda Blake, a registered nutritional therapist and clinic tutor for the Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION), a leading, independent education provider based in Richmond, London, gives her top tips of what to look out for.
Dandelion and burdock
Winter is a good time to harvest dandelion roots, which can be dried and roasted to make a delicious caffeine-free coffee. Also available at this time of year are burdock roots which are beautiful when fermented. It is important to note, however, that you must ask the landowner’s permission before digging up any plant in the wild (even a weed like the dandelion), but most gardens will provide a few dandelions to experiment with.
Although the hedgerows may lack the lushness of leaves there are still some delicious berries to be had. Among my favourites are hawthorn berries, sloes and rose hips which can be made into syrups, cordials, teas, jellies or fruit leathers to nourish us through the winter months. These colourful berries contain vitamins and polyphenols which offer valuable immune support at a time when we need it most.
Even in the depths of winter, you can still find some fresh greens. Where stinging nettles have been cut down, you will see new growth appearing throughout the year. The spring is the best time to harvest the leaves, but even in winter this new growth can make an excellent addition to winter soups and baking. Finally, chickweed, garlic mustard and the tender new tips of cleavers can be simply added raw to salads for a bit of vitality and crunch.
Always check the Foraging Code for full details on safe foraging and to ensure you comply with the law
About Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION) it is a leading, independent education provider and registered charity based in Richmond, London.
In addition to a range of courses for the public and healthcare professionals, ION delivers fully-accredited courses, validated and awarded by the University of Portsmouth.
ION employs academics all of whom are qualified and have expertise in specialist areas of nutrition. A list of ION representatives who are available for expert comment is available on request.
Founded in 1984, ION’s mission is to "educate and enthuse, instilling optimum nutrition as the foundation of health for all" with a food first approach designed to empower the public to support their health and wellbeing through nutrition.