Learning to forage at this year's festival
Visitors explored the Wild Garden and the art of foraging with expert guide, Kerry Bowness
Foraging was big news at the 2019 Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival, and The Wild Garden was the perfect place to start a foraging adventure.
Designed by Rossana Porta, The Wild Garden was located next to the Wild Garden Banquet, an exciting and immersive dining experience presented by Merlin Labron-Johnson. Merlin used plants from The Wild Garden to bring his menu to life.
Throughout the festival, there was the opportunity to roam The Wild Garden and explore the different plants that can be grown at home and brought into the kitchen. Helping visitors on their journey was wild food expert Kerry Bowness. She was at the show guiding groups through the Wild Garden and explained the safest ways to get started with foraging.
We caught up with Kerry before the show to find out more about foraging.
What is foraging?
"In simple terms, foraging is the art of finding and picking wild-growing edible plants or fungus for use as food. You don’t have to be out in remote woodlands to forage – anyone can do it in their local area, or even in a back garden," said Kerry.
"Foraging is a hugely rewarding thing to try – there’s nothing quite like eating food you have gathered yourself or adding fresh, natural flavours to your recipes. In Britain, a huge range of edibles can be found and identified easily in the wild, including blackberries, plums, bilberries, sloes and elderflowers.
"There are a few laws that affect where you can forage in the UK. On private land you’ll need to seek permission from the landowner. For sustainability, you should only forage for abundant, common species. It’s good practice never to take more than one third of what you find and, if there isn’t much in the first place, don’t take anything at all."
Can people forage safely in the wild in the UK, and what are the key dangers to be aware of?
"Correct identification is the key to safe foraging," admitted Kerry. "The UK has some deadly poisonous plants and fungi, so always be completely sure of what a plant is before consuming anything. The starting point for most on their foraging journey are blackberries, the fruit of the bramble, and, within the UK, similar-looking wild dewberries, raspberries and cloudberries are all edible.
"It’s also well worth going on a foraging course with an experienced instructor. There are lots of books and online resources available but having somebody physically hand you something you can touch, see and smell in its natural habitat is invaluable. Be wary of identifications made on social media – they often contain mistakes."
The RHS strongly advises that you do not attempt to forage for wild food unless accompanied by an expert.