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Foraging in July: nature's best summer food for foraging

Explore your inner hunter-gatherer by finding seasonal edible wild plants this month. You’ll find them along hedgerows, path edges, woodland and heathland. Get identification tips and ideas on which recipes you can use them in.

A wild food foray is a great way to connect us with our landscape, but please follow our sustainable foraging guidelines.

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)

Also known as blueberry and whinberry, these edible berries of heathland and moorland readily turn fingers, lips and tongues a deep purple. Collecting them used to be a common pastime in many parts of upland or western Britain.

Photograph of bilberry
Bilberry picking was once a common pastime. (Photo: John Keates/Alamy)

How to use it: bilberries are pleasant tasting when raw but are even better when cooked. They can be made into jam or lightly stewed with a little sugar and added to natural yoghurt, cream or ice cream. Use them to make a version of Scottish cranachan or a summer pudding or (if you have picked enough) use as a filling for pies, tarts and crumbles.

What to look for: the low shrubby plants grow on heaths, moors and sparse conifer woods with acid soil. Their fruit, the bilberries, resemble small blueberries and appear as early as the beginning of July, but August and September are the best months.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed is an overlooked but underrated weed with cleansing and healing properties and is packed full of vitamins and minerals.

Photograph of chickweed (Stellaria media)
Most gardeners will be familiar with chickweed. (Photo: Maxal Tamor/Alamy)

How to use it: its tender leaves can go in salads with lemon and olive oil dressing. Blend into homemade pesto, or use to liven up fish or chicken. The tiny white, edible flowers make a pretty salad garnish.

What to look for: it’s a tough, creeping annual common throughout the UK on waste ground and in gardens. It’s abundant throughout the year from spring to late autumn. Look for its small, white, star-like white flowers.

Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius)

This yolk-coloured fungus is one of the prettiest and best-flavoured of all wild mushrooms.

Chanterelle grows in a variety of woodland. (Photo: Tom Gardner/Alamy)

How to use it: chanterelle has a firm flesh and a peppery, slightly fruity taste and smells mildly of apricots. It is one of the few mushrooms that can stand washing. Cook in a little oil or butter and add to pasta or soak in vodka for a distinctive liqueur.

What to look for: from from July onwards for the golden, trumpet-shaped chanterelle in all kinds of woodland, from pine to mixed.  Its wavy shape distinguishes it from false chanterelle, which smells and looks like a more typical mushroom but just happens to be a similar colour.

Fat hen (Chenopodium album)

Don’t let its alternative names of dirty dick and pig weed put you off. This common and nutritious plant, also known as wild spinach, was a staple food of our ancestors. Its seeds have been found inside the stomachs of Danish bog bodies.

Fat hen is related to quinoa (Photo: Juniors Bildarchiv GmbH/Alamy

How to use it: its leaves taste similar to spinach and can be cooked it in the same way. Pick the tender leaves of the stems and lightly steam or boil. Blend it into a dressing with parsley, capers and olive oil or whip up a soup.

What to look for: fat hen is identifiable from its diamond- or goose foot-shaped leaves that are covered with a coating of faint white hairs. Choose tender leaves and flower heads from the top of the plant.

Mallow (Malva sylvestris)

The leaves, flowers and seeds are edible. Leaves are rich in protein, calcium, iron and vitamin C and in traditional medicine they’ve been used to treat constipation and diarrhoea, dry throat and chesty cough.

Mallow flowers are easy to recognise (Photo: Don Hooper/Alamy)

How to use it: the slightly furry leaves are best picked in the summer. They contain a resin which gives them a distinctive gummy texture a little like okra. It adds glutinous richness to the Arabic soup, molokhia, which is made from them. The mauve flowers have a similar flavour and texture to the leaves and are good addition to salads, while the seeds have a delicate nutty flavour.

What to look for: find it in open and sunny habitats along hedgerows and roadsides and in pastures and wasteland. Its geranium-like leaves are best picked in midsummer. When the flowers start to drop, look for the little pea-sized, green seeds that are worth a nibble.

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)

Meadowsweet has long been a hedgerow herbal medicine. It was important in the development of the drug Aspirin which got its name from the older scientific name for meadowsweet, Spiraea ulmaria.

Photograph of meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
Look for meadowsweet along ditches (Photo: David Chapman/Alamy)

How to use it: the leaves have a pleasant cucumber flavour and the flowers have a scent similar to sweet almond. Both leaves and flowers can be used to flavour home-made wines, teas, cordials and sorbets, why not try our favourite meadowsweet sorbet recipe.

What to look for: meadowsweet is in full flower in July. It grows best where there is moisture, so look for it along ditches and in bogs, marshes and at the edges of watercourses.

Strawberry, wild (Fragaria vesca)

Also known as Alpine or woodland strawberry, these distinctive fruits are tiny but full of flavour. Small woods can be dominated by wild strawberry plants but unless these populations are kept secret they can quickly become decimated by over-picking and uprooting of plants to transplant into gardens.

Photograph of wild strawberry
Wild strawberries are tiny but pack a flavour punch. (Photo: Sabena Jane Blackbird/Alamy)

How to use it: wild strawberries are small and it’s rare to be able to pick more than a handful. They are best eaten raw, on their own or with a slight sprinkling of sugar (and possibly a dollop of cream). To some people they’re superior in flavour to cultivated strawberries.

What to look for: wild strawberries are low-growing plants with 3-loped leaves and fruits that look like miniature cultivated strawberries. Look for them in deciduous woods, along hedgerows, and on rough grassland on chalky soils. The fruits ripen between June and August.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Also known as soldiers woundwort and staunchweed, yarrow was used traditionally to stem bleeding from wounds and nose bleeds and was used to treat fevers. This strong-smelling plant was popular as a vegetable in the 17th century.

Photograph of yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow is common hedgerow plant (Photo: Bob Caddick/Alamy)

How to use it: yarrow leaves are edible and have a sweet, medicinal and slight bitter taste. The younger leaves make a pleasant leaf vegetable in salads or when cooked like spinach, or in a soup. The leaves can also be dried and used as an herb in cooking.

What to look for: you’ll find yarrow growing in grassy habitats in fields, meadows, gardens and along roadsides. It has distinctive feathery leaves umbels of white to pink flowers from June to September. The leaves look a little like chamomile, pineapple weed and tansy but all three of these species are edible. 

Also in season this month: Cleavers, dandelion, garlic mustard, gorse flower, greater plantain, lime, nettle, sorrelwild rose flowers.

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