The foraging recipes below are ones we have either discovered ourselves, modified to suit foraged wild food or even recipes that customers have sent us or told us about.
The most important rule for using wild food and foraged items is to ONLY pick the items you are absolutely sure you have identified correctly. If you have any doubt, leave well alone. One of the best ways to find out more about foraging is to come along on one of our foraging courses.
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We accept no responsibility for the use of incorrect ingredients. Allergies to wild foodstuffs are rare but they do occur, so if you have any history of allergy or problems related to certain plants then we advise you to give them a miss!
Nettles are one of the easiest wild foods to find in the U.K., and are packed with iron, vitamins and a strong taste. I make this dish for friends who are committed carnivores and who would never contemplate a dish without some form of meat – they are always amazed at the flavour! Although specific allergies relating to stinging nettles are rare, they do exist and you should check first before presenting someone with this dish.
It is possible to collect nettle tops without being stung (we show you how on our foraging courses) but most people will prefer to use rubber gloves.
The final cooking time is dependent on the amount of nettle tops you have prepared, and the size of the cooking dish. I normally check on the progress after 20 minutes or so, and serve once the cheese has turned golden brown.
This dish can be made at any time of year, but the sweetest young nettle tops (the top 2-4 leaves and stem of a plant) are found from April – June.
- Lasagne sheets
- White sauce (either bought or home made)
- 12 large cups of nettle tops (about a carrier-bag full)
- Pine nuts
- Olive oil
- Mozarella (or other cheese if you prefer)
1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C
2. Chop 12 large cups of young nettle tops (use gloves to prevent being stung!)
3. Place chopped nettle tops in large pan of lightly-salted boiling water. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.
4. Drain nettles and leave to cool. Once cool, add a small amount of olive oil and pine nuts.
5. Prepare 6-8 dried lasagne sheets as per instructions on the box, until al dente.
6. Lightly grease a small baking tin.
7. Add a layer of nettles, then a layer of pasta sheets. Then add a thin layer of white sauce, and repeat.
8. Finish with a layer of pasta sheets and a final layer of white sauce.
9. Loosely crumble mozzarella over the dish, and any remaining pine nuts.
10. Cover in foil and place in oven to cook for 20-40 minutes.
11. Serve (warm bread, a good wine or a salad are a perfect accompaniment)
This recipe is simple and rewarding for those who appreciate unusual drinks. Picking bilberries by hand can be tiresome so it is best to recruit a small army of children to help you get the quantity you need. If you pick the bilberries in late August/early September then the concoction should be ready for Christmas.
If you haven’t got the slightest clue what a bilberry is then come along to one of our foraging courses in late summer/early autumn.
- Bilberries (August-October)
- Caster sugar
- Take a half-empty bottle of gin (or vodka, or a mixture) and fill the bottle with clean, juicy bilberries.
- Add 2 tbsp caster sugar. Cork and shake well. (Those Grolsch-type bottles work well)
- Shake just once a week for a month, then taste the mixture and add a little more sugar if necessary.
- Continue with the weekly shaking sessions for another 2-3 months.
- Strain the gin and bottle: use the fruit in a pie.
Elderflower Champagne is a quintessentially British, slightly alcoholic drink. It takes no time at all to make and is a clear and wonderfully sparkling concoction.
You will need.
A ten-litre vessel – a large plastic bucket will work. Ensure that it is well washed out and preferably sterilised.
Strong bottles – these need to withstand the pressure of the carbon dioxide gas produced. Two-litre plastic drinks bottles work, but old screw-cap glass bottles work better and don’t let as much gas escape.
A large jug – about two litres in capacity.
A small jug – ideally, this should hold about 750ml and is to act as a bailer.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Standing Time: 24 hours
Maturing Time: two weeks plus
- 4 large heads of elder flowers – make sure that they are fully open, preferably facing the Sun
- 1kg of sugar
- 2 lemons
- 4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
- 10 litres of cold water
1. Wash the lemons and use the potato-peeler to peel the lemon rind off as thinly as possible. Remove any insects, leaves or other unwanted objects from the elder flowers.
2. Squeeze the lemons and put the juice into the ten-litre vessel along with the lemon rind and flowers.
3. Add the sugar and the wine vinegar. Be careful not to crush the flower heads too much with the sugar.
4. Pour on the water. Put a lid or cover over the top of the vessel and leave to stand for 24 hours. Stir gently every six hours.
5. Sterilise the bottles either using sterilising chemical tablets or boiling water. If you use chemical tablets, rinse the bottles afterwards so that the chemicals don’t kill the yeast in the champagne mixture.
6. Take the lid off the vessel and remove any large flower heads or bits of rind.
7. Use the small jug to bail some of the mixture through the sieve and into the large jug. When the large jug becomes full, place the funnel in the top of a bottle. Pour the mixture through the strainer into the funnel.
8. Once all the bottles are full, put the corks on firmly and place somewhere such as a garage where it won’t be too cold.
9.After two weeks the champagne is ready for drinking. However, the taste does improve with time and can be left for up to two years. It is probably best to leave it for six months to a year to mature, as this means the full taste will have developed, yet without any fizz escaping. (That’s assuming the caps have been done up properly.) Try to make as much as possible during the months of June and early July as this is when the flowers will be at their best. Typically, 20 litres should provide ample supply for a year’s worth of drinking for a family of four.
10. A more potent elderberry wine can be made using the berries of the elder tree. This can be made in the autumn and is great to drink in the winter.
When we make this recipe on our foraging courses, the resulting loaves are always tasty even though there are never two the same. Below is an exact recipe, but we always have good results with approximations on the day. If it’s too dry, add milk/ water. If it’s too wet add flour. It always turns out ok. By the time it’s been burned over the fire, consistency is the least of your problems.
But it always tastes lovely.
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup dry milk powder
- 1 tbsp. oil or 1 oz butter
The ingredients are mixed together with water, until the dough can be pushed into shape on a well-oiled baking tray. After kneading, add dried fruit or berries with a little sugar or honey or golden syrup. Alternatively add cheese and/ or onions.
Don’t make the loaf too thick or the centre will not cook quickly enough without the outside burning. Then cook on a tray over a hot fire and once browned on one side, flip over and bake on the other side.
Eat hot, with or without added butter or honey.
This honey bread is fabulous eaten on its own, warm or cold, or with butter and honey.
On our courses it is served, probably incorrectly with morning coffee and no one seems to mind.
It always gets eaten.
- 1 Egg
- 5 oz Milk
- 8 ½ oz strong bread flour
- 1tsp Easy yeast
- 1oz sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 1oz butter
- 4oz sultanas
- 2tbsp honey
Blend ingredients together and knead. Leave to rise twice in a warm area. Alternatively mix in bread maker on Basic Dough setting.
Add honey and fruit and leave to rise again then place in greased tin. Glaze with honey or melted sugar.
Bake for 25 minutes on medium setting.
This honey bread is fabulous eaten on its own, warm or cold, or with butter and honey.
The recipe also works well without the fruit and honey and left to rise 3 times. Do not glaze. This makes a light Brioche type bread.
Gooseberry and Elderberry Crumble
This is so delicious that its difficult to say anymore.
- Plain Flour
- Brown Sugar
- Ground Cinnamon
The best way to remove elderberries is by using a fork and pulling away from the stalk. The stalks are very bitter and will ruin the flavour of the crumble.
This is a really simple recipe and there is no need to precook the fruit,
Place 900g (2 lb., 4-5 cups) prepared gooseberries in an ovenproof dish, and sprinkle generously with sugar.
Add two handfuls of elderberries to the mix.
Remember to top and tail both fruits.
Top with crumble topping, made from 175g (1 ½ cups) plain flour and 85g (1/3 cup) butter, processed until they resemble fine breadcrumbs (you can run the fat into the flour by hand if you prefer). Stir in 55g (1/3 cup) brown sugar and ½ tsp. ground cinnamon. Bake at 180C/350F/gas 4 until the top is browned and the fruit begins to bubble – around 30 minutes.
Dandelion and Burdock
When this drink goes up your nose, it makes your head fizz.
Whatever happened to the Corona Pop Van?
- 2 pints Dandelion Flowers
- 6 Burdock plants
- 1 gallon water
- 2lb sugar
- 3 lemons
Trim the stalks from the dandelions (leave on the green sepals on for bitterness.)
Wash everything well and chop the burdock root, put into a fermenting bucket with a well-fitting lid.
Add the lemons.
Pour boiling water over the mixture and leave for 24 hours.
Then strain the liquid through muslin into a clean bucket.
Take some of the liquid and boil in a large pan, add sugar and stir until dissolved.
Return to bucket and allow to cool.
Pour into strong, screw-topped bottles e.g. sterilized cider bottles and leave for 3-4 weeks.
Very mildly alcoholic and a refreshing summer drink.
Rose Hip Syrup
These are the directions given by the Ministry of Food during the WW2 for 2 pounds (900gm) of hips.
- 2 pounds Rose Hips
- 3 pints boiling water
Boil 3 pints (1.7 litres) of boiling water.
Mince hips in a course mincer (food processor) and put immediately into the boiling water.
Bring to boil and then place aside for 15 minutes.
Pour into a flannel or linen crash jelly bag and allow to drip until the bulk of the liquid has come through.
Return the residue to the saucepan, add 11/2 pints (852ml) of boiling water, stir and allow to stand for 10 minutes.
Pour back into the jelly bag and allow to drip.
To make sure all the sharp hairs are removed put back the first half cupful of liquid and allow to drip through again.
Put the mixed juice into a clean saucepan and boil down until the juice measures about 11/2 pints (852ml), then add 11/4 (560gm) of sugar and boil for a further 5 minutes.
Pour into hot sterile bottles and seal at once.
Hints: If corks are used these should have been boiled for hour just previously and after insertion coated with melted paraffin wax.
It is advisable to use small bottles as the syrup will not keep for more than a week or two once the bottle is opened.
Store in a dark cupboard.
Because acorns have such a high level of tannins, they were peeled and soaked in running water for several days in order to remove the tannins. Now it is advisable to boil them constantly for 20 mins in order to remove tannins.
- 1 kg fresh, ripe acorns
Add the acorns to a large pan along with plenty of water. Bring to a boil and continue boiling, without cover for 15 – 20 minutes. Top-up the water constantly as the acorns cook. This is a short cut to lessen the tannins.
Drain in a colander, and allow cooling before peeling. The boiling process will make peeling the acorns much easier. Split the acorns and place them in a dry but warm spot allowing the acorns to dry out for at least 48 hours. After this grind the acorns in a coffee grinder. Spread the grounds on a baking tray and roast in a warm oven, stirring frequently and checking often to ensure that they do not burn. You are aiming for the grounds to be a brown coffee colour.
To make a drink use a cafetiére and add 1 1/2 tsp. per cup then pour boiling water over the grounds and make the drink, in the same way you would coffee. Add milk and sugar to taste and serve.
It tastes nothing like coffee, some say it tastes and smells a little of biscuits. It does not have the same kick as coffee, but is a nice drink anyway.
Dandelion root coffee can be made in the wild although it is very time consuming.
- Fresh Dandelion root
Dry out the Dandelion either in the sun or by the fire. They have to be brittle and snap easily. Then roast the roots over the fire until they are dark inside. Then finally grind them up between two stones. It’s a time consuming method but is fun to make. Dandelion Tea can be made by boiling and stewing Dandelion leaves in water. The drink is taken as a tonic.
Add honey or sugar to either to taste.