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Summer loving: The Woodland Trust top plants to forage this season
Midsummer is a magical time for collecting edible wild plants. Spend warm days and light evenings foraging for ingredients to make interesting and delicious food and drinks. From fresh flowers and tender leaves to crisp seeds, here are some edible plants to forage this summer.
Ash is one of our commonest trees and together with privet is the only UK representative of the olive family (Oleaceae). The young, green, immature seeds of ash, known as keys, are edible and have also been used in herbal medicine. They often hang in generous bunches at this time of year.
How to use it: Pick the seeds early to guarantee success and boil the keys to extract their bitterness before pickling with vinegar, sugar and spices. There are several recipes online.
Woods in summer are often filled with the delicious scent of honeysuckle. This beautiful, fragrant wildflower has edible blooms that can be used to infuse a sweet, honeyed flavour into many dishes
How to use it: you only need a few flowers to capture their essence. Use them to infuse water to make refreshing tea, sorbets, cordials or jams and jellies. Make simple syrup with honeysuckle flowers that can be used to make vinaigrette, or add to cocktails, gin, champagne and chilled fizzy water. Don’t eat the berries – they may be mildly toxic, especially in introduced garden varieties.
The flowers (lime blossom) of lime trees have a sweet honey-like aroma and have been used as a food and medicine. The flowers have mild sedative and anti-anxiety properties and were administered in the field hospitals of the Second World War.
How to use it: gather lime flowers in full bloom in July. Add fresh flowers to salads or dry them and bake them into cakes and breads or use to make herbal teas. Lime tea has a sweet taste and is particularly popular in France where they call it tilleul. Its calming properties make it a good bedtime drink.
Petals from all types of rose are edible, and have a slightly fruity flavour that can be used to make syrups or jellies. Avoid any that may have been sprayed with pesticides.
How to use it: use the petals raw in salads. Infuse in vinegar, make jam or crystallise. Dry the petals and use in Middle Eastern and Asian dishes.
Pineapple weed. Also known as wild chamomile, this plant smells strongly of pineapple and has a sweet, pineapple flavour. Pineapple weed is not native to the UK and was first recorded in the wild in Britain as an escape from Kew Gardens in 1871. It became one of the fastest spreading plants in the 20th century.
How to use it: pick the flower heads when they are young, before they develop a bitter taste. The fresh or dried flower heads of pineapple weed can be used to make herb tea (similar to its close relative, chamomile) and the fresh flowers can be eaten raw in salads or cooked. Its leaves can be added to salads or just nibbled when you’re out walking.