How many edible plants could you find on a stroll through your local park? Residents of High Town got to find out recently, on a walk in People’s Park with Jane Simmons, aka The Hitchin Forager.
Starting at the park’s green flag, it took a matter of yards to find the first edibles tucked away in the grass. Plantain, with its distinctive veined and spear-like leaves, was plentiful.
Further up the hill into the woodland, we were introduced to the possibilities of lime flowers, wild cherries, elderflower, and hawthorn berries. Beneath the trees we found the bright leaves of garlic mustard, wild garlic, and woodland strawberries. The children were delighted to find that stickyweed is entirely edible and tastes (sort of) like peas, as well as being a useful weed for sticking surreptitiously to adults’ backs.
There’s more, including the wonderfully named stinking bob, but I won’t aim for an exhaustive list. The takeaway is that even an urban woodland can be full of wild foods. And while foraging is never going to replace a substantial number of calories and reduce our carbon footprints, it does give us a greater appreciation of the local landscape. When we understand more about the land we occupy, we care more about it. We build a greater connection to the earth, and perhaps we’ll be more inclined to act to protect it.