Foraging with kids is always fun, and as far as I see it, always educational.
Today we went foraging for 20 Elderflower heads so that I can try to make some Elderflower champagne. I’ve meant to for years, even bought all the kit a few years ago, but I had to dig it out of the attic and give it a good wash today, as it’s never been used before. We’ll see how it goes!
But this post is about foraging, and why I take my children foraging when I know grownups who still won’t venture beyond blackberries, maybe, out of fear of picking something wrong and poisoning themselves and others.
There are two things that I believe foraging teaches children, beyond the obvious point of plant identification and learning what’s edible or not.
The first is risk management and the second is attention to detail.
The patch of forest where we foraged for Elderflowers today is just like any other wooded land, except it also suffers from landslides in parts. We’ve been to that forest enough that the children know which paths are safe to take and which are to be avoided. They even know which of the safe ones are best avoided after heavy rains. As we were walking through the woods today, they kept reminiscing… “remember the picnic we had here”, “remember that time C and I hid behind that tree” etc. While they’ve learned to recognise and adjust their plans based on the risks offered by the land around them, foraging offers another valuable lesson in life: brambles and nettles.
We have some fantastic Elders around, but many of them are surrounded by knee-high nettles or thickly enmeshed in brambles. Just like life, when something looks full of easy bounty, it’s worth stopping to look at the ‘dangers’ first, to make sure you’re well equipped, and have everything you need to come back out unscathed.
The other valuable lesson in foraging was perfectly illustrated today by the large volumes of Yarrow around the forest. On first glance, the kids were very excited at the easily reachable ‘elderflowers’ until I pointed out the difference between the Yarrow, growing up out of the ground on a single stalk, and the Elderflower, topping off the branches on a tree. While yarrow is edible, and is good for a lot of things, it makes a pretty poor Elderflower Champagne!
So those were the lessons we took from #30dayswild on day 2 : be alert, be aware, be safe, pay attention, and enjoy the bounty on offer.