The ABC of Wild Herb Foraging

Wild herb foraging is easy to start, a low-cost hobby you can enjoy in the bosom of nature. Get familiar with the world of edible plants and enjoy the green superfood offered by nature!

The ABC of Wild Herb Foraging |

The ABC of Wild Herb Foraging

The spring sun is already smiling promisingly, and in some parts of the country, the new growing season is just around the corner. The first fresh shoots can often be picked already in early April if the snow cover gives way to spring nature's green wonders. We will soon be able to forage for the free, green superfood offered by nature, and the amazing herbal frenzy can continue until October. blog

Identify the Plants to Be Foraged With 100% Certainty

The most common wild vegetables and herbs growing in Finland are familiar to many and a lot of them are also easy to identify. However, every herbal enthusiast should be extra vigilant while foraging to ensure that only edible plants end up in one’s basket. Each plant is an individual, and thus the appearance can vary greatly between different individuals. Habitat and weather conditions also affect the appearance of the plant.

Accuracy should not be compromised, as there are also poisonous plants in our nature. Finland is home to 100 poisonous wild plants, a quarter of which are very dangerous. It is just as important to learn to identify poisonous plants as it is to identify edible ones.

It is recommended to check each foraged plant already at the foraging site and once more before preserving or preparing herbal food. The herb should be left unused if you have even the slightest doubt about its correct identification.

People with allergies should use all wild plants with caution and especially mycorrhizal plants such as hogweed. Keep in mind that some plants may interact or interfere with medications, and these should be investigated before the internal use of the foraged plant. It is a good idea to start using herbs in moderation so that the body has time to get used to wild herbs super ingredients.

Forage with moderation

Greediness can strike in the wild herb meadow. Delicious plants can be seen everywhere, and in a moment of spellbound charm, the basket fills up beyond abundance. It is good to remember that only a limited amount of herbal delicacies can be used. The herb season is long, so you will have time to replenish your stocks if necessary.

For certain plants, their growth rate and prevalence must be taken into account when foraging. Rare and slow-growing plants should be foraged with extra restraints. A good rule of thumb is that widespread plants can be collected from a single growing site so that 2/3 of the plants remain, and rare and slow-growing plants should be foraged so that the majority of the plants are left growing.

Nature should be left as untouched as possible, and its offerings should be respected. Leaves are collected before flowering, flowers just at their blooming, strong-smelling flowers in full bloom and roots in early spring or autumn.

In the past, people used to give a gift back to nature after foraging. Foraging can be made into a beautiful ritual by thanking nature for all it provides at the end.

Forage Only Prime

Everyman’s rights in Finland guarantee us the opportunity to forage plants from the wild without needing the landowner's permission. The foraging of woody plants and leaves still attached to the tree requires the permission of the landowner. On the other hand, fallen branches and fallen leaves may be foraged without the landowner's permission.

The forager should pay attention to the cleanliness of the foraging area. Herbs should not be foraged near busy roads, industrial sites, or high nitrogen areas such as near composts, barns, and outdoor toilets. Areas, where fertilizers and plant protection products have been used, should also be avoided. Plants in poor condition should be left to be used as part of the natural cycle.

Foraging blog |

Herb Forager’s Tools

A basket, paper bag, cardboard box, or sturdy canvas bag is needed to forage wild herbs. The different species should be kept separate. It is not good to collect foraged plants into a plastic bag. It’s a good idea to get a high-quality plant identification book. Old glass jars are good for the preservation of your herbs. 

Store the Plants Properly

Foraged herbs should be consumed or stored as soon as possible. When properly preserved, the herb retains its flavor and nutrients best. Plants do not need to be washed before use or preservation unless they are clearly dirty or dusty.

Drying should be done at a maximum temperature of 40 degrees, for example, in a plant dryer, hanging in bundles, in the oven with the oven door open, in the after-heat of a dry sauna, or on top of a newspaper at room temperature if the air in the room is dry enough. The herbs are ready to be canned when they are parched dry and break when crushed. It is a good idea to store the herbs away from light, in a dry place, in a sealed jar. Dried herbs, when stored correctly, can be stored for several years.

Most plants can be cut into pieces and frozen directly in freezer boxes or small freezer bags. Some plants, such as nettle, need to be boiled before freezing. It is recommended to freeze the plants in small portions. Frozen herbs remain good for about six months. Herbs can also be preserved by pickling and fermentation.
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Get Familiar With the World of Edible Plants

A novice wild herb enthusiast should start foraging herbs with a more experienced expert or attending a guided course. You can learn a lot from books, but you can only gather experience and certainty in nature by interacting with the plants.

If you haven’t had time for wild herb foraging yet, check out the wonderful wild herb products from METTÄ >>

Author: Helsinki Wildfoods

Photographs: Annika Hannus