Special interest post: Foraging

Written in June 2022

It's been a while since I posted anything, and much of that in-between time has been spent studying or foraging, which is one of my special interests (also called SpIns in the community). In terms of study I've finished the 6 non-medical NAS modules, started and almost finished the OU Understanding Autism course and started a Chigaco University Neurobiology course (introductory level). The latter looked interesting, and before I knew what I'd done I'd signed up and started week 1. It's a Coursera one, which is free unless I want to get the certificate of completion. I also did a UCL Research Methods postgrad module through Coursera for fun a couple of years ago. I'd recommend it as a good place to find proper online courses that aren't just badly re-hashed Wikipedia pages stamped as “The Centre of Excellence” or something equally as trite.


Foraging is one of my special interests. I have several and they come and go, sometimes holding my attention solidly for a few weeks, and others which wax and wane. Foraging is one of the latter, because it's seasonally dependent and there are times when there's simply nothing I want to pick. I forage for food, I have foraged for decorations (wreaths, pinecone decorations for the Christmas tree, for example) and this year I am starting to forage for medicinal plants.


I foraged some comfrey earlier this week which I am drying to infuse in oil, to which I will add some beeswax to make a salve for joint pain and arthritis. Both mum and I live with those so we'll be good guinea pigs to test the effectiveness of them. I'm also going to forage some plantain leaves and do the same to make a salve for bites, stings and nettle rashes (again, we both react quite strongly to these so we'll know if the home-made stuff works!). Hedge woundwort is another one that looks useful, so perhaps I'll combine that with the plantain and make a super-salve.


Plantain is probably my standout star of the year so far. It's prolific, and now I know what it looks like I see it everywhere. The seed heads, fried, have a strong mushroomy taste that works really well with wild garlic (another favourite) and the leaves are a bit like spinach, sauteed they're lovely but also delicious chopped and stirred into a chilli or a stew. The leaves are also great for bites and stings, I love this plant!


Much of my foraging before this year has been hedgerow fruits for jam and gin infusions, plus wild garlic in the short window it is available. This year I have cast my focus wider to find more flowers and green plants I can do things with. I've booked a foraging course next week where I hope to learn a few more plants to look out for. So far this year I have made:


  • Gorse flower vodka and rum
  • Rose petal vodka
  • Wild garlic butter
  • Wild garlic pestiche (play on pastiche, because I can't eat pine nuts so I made it with toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, therefore it lacks either of the two main ingredients of pesto)
  • Hedge garlic pestiche
  • Pickled wild garlic seeds
  • Rose petal sugar
  • Comfrey balm (in progress)
  • Honeysuckle syrup
  • Gorse flower vodka
  • Gorse flower rum


I've also foraged wild garlic and plantain for same-day meals and had it while camping, in stir fries and in a chilli. Pictures of my foraged handiwork below:


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