Are Wild Raspberries Safe to Eat?

Wild Raspberries growing on plant

Yes, wild raspberries are safe to eat.

They are a joy to find, delicious and very good for you.

Just make sure you collect them from a clean environment, away from pollution etc.

Identifying Wild Raspberries

Appearance and Location

When I’m out foraging for wild berries, one of my favourites to find is wild raspberries.

They’re delicious and nutritious, but before picking any, it’s important to know how to identify them correctly.

Wild raspberries typically grow on shrubs, which can be found in woodland areas, hedgerows, and fields.

The shrubs can grow up to 2 metres high, so keep an eye out for them along your walks.

To spot ripe raspberries, look for their vibrant red colour.

They generally ripen in late summer, around July to August.

You’ll find them growing in clusters, making it easy to gather a good amount in a short time.

Distinguishing Features

Now, let’s focus on the unique features:

  • Leaves: Raspberries have compound leaves, which means each leaf is comprised of several smaller leaflets. A raspberry leaf usually has about 3 to 7 leaflets arranged in an alternating pattern along the stem. The edges of the leaflets are serrated, giving them a slightly jagged appearance.
  • Stem: Raspberries have a distinct, slightly thorny stem. While picking, you might want to wear gloves to avoid any pricking.
  • Flowers: Raspberry plants produce tiny white or light-pink flowers in spring. These flowers often appear in clusters, and their petals are quite delicate. Seeing these blooms is a strong early indicator of future ripe raspberries.
  • Fruit shape: Raspberries have a unique shape, often described as a small, hollow cone. This plump and juicy fruit is formed by a cluster of individual drupelets that surround a central cavity.

By observing these traits, you can confidently identify wild raspberries and enjoy them.

Just remember to be cautious and double-check your findings before consuming any wild berries.

Health and Nutritional Benefits

Wild raspberries are not only safe to eat, but they have numerous health and nutritional benefits as well.

Vitamins and Minerals

Wild raspberries are packed with essential vitamins and minerals.

They are a particularly good source of vitamin C, which supports the immune system and helps with iron absorption.

Speaking of iron, it’s another vital mineral that you can find in these berries, and it plays a crucial role in producing red blood cells.

They also contain vitamin K, which supports normal blood clotting and bone health, along with potassium and magnesium.

These minerals help maintain healthy blood pressure levels and support proper nerve and muscle function.

To summarise, here’s a table highlighting some of the key nutrients in wild raspberries:

NutrientBenefits
Vitamin CImmune system support, iron absorption
IronRed blood cell production
Vitamin KBlood clotting, bone health
PotassiumBlood pressure regulation, nerve function
MagnesiumMuscle and nerve function, bone health

Dietary Fibre and Antioxidants

As for dietary fibre, wild raspberries are a brilliant source.

Eating foods high in fibre is essential for maintaining good digestion, preventing constipation, and supporting a healthy gut.

Furthermore, wild raspberries are brimming with antioxidants, which are essential for maintaining good health.

One of the main antioxidants found in these berries is anthocyanins.

These compounds give raspberries their vibrant colour and also play a role in cancer prevention, heart health, and boosting the immune system.

In conclusion, wild raspberries are not only safe but offer plenty of valuable nutrients, making them a tasty and nutritious addition to any diet.

Harvesting and Safety

When and How to Harvest


Ripe wild raspberries can usually be found in the summer months, typically from June to August.

The ripe berries are easily identifiable with their vibrant red or dark purple colour.

It’s best to gently hold the berry between my fingers and give it a slight twist.

Ripe berries come off the stem easily, so be careful not to apply too much pressure, or else they might get squashed.

Potential Risks and Contaminants

While wild raspberries can be a delightful and nutritious addition to our diets, it’s crucial to consider the potential risks and contaminants.

Ensure you pick them from an area that is free from weedkillers, dog wee etc.

The above is not always easy to know, but use some common sense and you should be fine.

Preparing and Preserving

Cleaning and Storing

Once picked, ensure you give them a clean.

Rinsing them gently under cool water is usually enough to remove any dirt or tiny critters.

Next, I like to store them in a way that preserves their flavour and texture as much as possible.

It’s important to use a container that allows air circulation and keeps the fruit from getting squished – I find that shallow containers or a covered plate work best.

Remember that wild raspberries can vary in size, so smaller ones might get a bit soft and spoil quicker than larger ones.

To maximise their shelf life, I only pick and store ripe berries.

If I’m not going to use them right away, I’ll pop them in the freezer – they’ll keep well for several months, which means I can enjoy these well beyond the season.

Cooking and Recipes

Wild raspberries have a tart flavour and firm texture that make them a versatile ingredient in a variety of dishes. Here are some of my favourite ways to enjoy them:

  • Jam: Wild raspberries make a fantastic base for jams and jellies. Combine them with some sugar and pectin to create a delicious preserve that’s perfect on toast or swirled into yogurt.
  • Pies: You can’t go wrong with a classic wild raspberry pie. Combine the berries with a touch of sugar, cornstarch, and a bit of lemon juice, then encase them in flaky pastry and bake until golden and bubbling.
  • Smoothies: Blend wild raspberries with yogurt, a banana, and a splash of milk or juice. The result is a refreshing and satisfying smoothie that’s brimming with the goodness of fresh fruit.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should one look out for to identify edible wild raspberries?

When foraging for wild raspberries, it’s essential to look for specific characteristics.

Firstly, edible wild raspberries are usually bright red (once ripe).

The fruits grow on thorny canes with compound leaves consisting of three or five leaflets.

It is also common for the raspberry bushes to be found in well-lighted areas such as forest edges, meadows, and roadsides.

Is there a risk of confusion with poisonous berries when foraging for wild raspberries?

There is always a risk of confusion when foraging for wild berries.

To minimise the chance of picking poisonous berries, it’s vital to learn how to correctly identify wild raspberries.

Familiarise yourself with their appearance, habitats, and growth patterns.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to consult a reliable field guide or an experienced forager before consuming any wild fruits.

What are the differences between wild raspberries and blackberries?

While they may appear similar, there are some distinct differences between wild raspberries and blackberries.

Firstly, the shape of the fruit differs – raspberries are hollow and composed of several smaller drupelets, while blackberries are more solid and plumper.

The core of the raspberry is left on the plant when picked, in contrast to blackberries which maintain their core.

Additionally, raspberry canes are thinner and have a whitish-grey bark, while blackberry canes are more rigid with a darker bark.

Are there any particular times of the year when wild raspberries should be avoided?

Wild raspberries typically have a relatively short fruiting season, often in the summer months. It’s best to harvest raspberries during this time to ensure freshness and taste.

Outside of this season, it is recommended to avoid picking wild raspberries as the fruit may be overripe, rotten, or contaminated.

Is it safe for pets, such as dogs, to consume wild raspberries?

In moderation, wild raspberries can be a safe and healthy treat for dogs.

They’re a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins, and fibre, which can help support your pet’s overall health.

However, it’s important not to overfeed raspberries to your dog, as the high natural sugar content may lead to digestive issues.

Want more??? Take a look at my foraging articles here

Where Does Wild Watercress Grow?

Where does wild watercress grow?

Wild watercress can be found in most parts of the UK, although it is less common in the North.

It can be found in water courses such as shallow streams – as well as ditches.

It favours chalk streams, which in the UK, are predominantly found in Hampshire, Dorset, and Wiltshire.

Can you eat wild watercress in the UK?

Yes, you can eat wild watercress in the UK, but you need to be very careful.

Due to the risk of liver fluke, I would strongly advise you cook this, as (in my humble opinion) eating it raw is not worth the risk.

Can you get liver fluke/parasites from watercress?

Yes, you certainly can get liver fluke from eating wild watercress.

There is unfortunately a risk of ingesting fluke when collecting this plant which goes by the name of Fasciola hepatica.

These flukes are also known as Common Liver Fluke and Sheep Liver Fluke.

When eaten, Fasciola hepatica can cause a parasitic infection known as Fascioliasis.

The young worms move through the intestinal wall, into the liver, and then into the bile ducts where they mature into adults and go on to produce eggs.

This is all pretty nasty – but ultimately treatable.

Fasciola hepatica can be found on all continents, but excluding Antarctica.

You’re safe there 🙂

Given the above, I would recommend you steer clear of eating wild watercress raw, unless you are 100% sure there is no risk of these nasty flukes being present.

You can reduce the risk by sterilising the watercress in a chlorine-based solution, which somewhat defeats the object of picking wild foods in the first place.

As above, a surefire way of destroying any nasties is to cook the watercress.

This will render salads off the menu, but at least you have a healthy and safe way to eat this wild plant.

How do you identify wild watercress?

In order to identify wild watercress (Nasturtium officinale), focus on several key features, such as the colour and structure of the leaves, the appearance of the flowers, and the characteristics of the stems.

First, examine the leaves.

Wild watercress has dark green leaves, which typically have three to nine leaflets per leaf and arranged opposite each other.

The leaflets are oval or round in shape, slightly lobed, and measure about 3-5 centimetres in length.

Next, take note of the flowers.

Wild watercress blooms between April and October, bearing small clusters of white flowers.

Each flower has four petals arranged in a cross shape, with the petals measuring around 3-6 millimetres long.

These white flowers will often grow at the tips of the stems, providing further clues to the plant’s identity.

Lastly, inspect the stems.

Wild watercress has hollow, succulent stems, which are green or sometimes reddish.

The stems are thicker at the base and often become increasingly slender towards the top.

They are slightly ribbed and can grow either sprawling on the ground or partially upright.

Remember to use caution when harvesting wild watercress, as it can look similar to other toxic plants.

Always ensure you have correctly identified the plant to avoid any health risks.

By understanding the key characteristics of wild watercress, such as its leaves, flowers, and hollow stems, you can confidently forage for this plant.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does wild watercress taste like?

Watercress is a member of the mustard family and has a peppery, spicy taste to it.

Not everyone will like this taste (my children certainly don’t) but if it’s your thing, then it’s delicious.

I personally love it.

It tastes like it is really doing you some good.

Can you eat wild watercress in the UK?

Yes, you can eat wild watercress in the UK.

However, it is essential to carefully wash and prepare it before consuming, as it may contain contaminants or parasites.

What are the common habitats for wild watercress?

Wild watercress typically grows in slow-flowing, nutrient-rich freshwater streams and rivers.

It prefers semi-shaded areas with cool, clean water.

Are there any poisonous look-a-likes to be aware of?

Yes, it can be confused with fool’s watercress (Apium nodiflorum).

Fool’s watercress can be distinguished from wild watercress by its less aromatic scent and differently shaped leaves.

Where in the UK can wild watercress be found?

Wild watercress can be found throughout the UK, often growing in streams, rivers, and ditches in both rural and urban settings.

What does the wild watercress flower look like?

The wild watercress flower is small, white, and has four petals.

They grow in clusters at the ends of branching stems.

What are the hazards associated with consuming wild watercress?

Hazards associated with consuming wild watercress include contamination from pollutants such as fertilisers, pesticides, or animal waste, and the risk of liver fluke or other parasites if not properly washed/cooked.

What month is watercress in season?

Watercress is typically in season from April to October in the UK.

However, its availability may vary depending on local conditions and weather.

Watercress can be found in most parts of the UK. although it is less common in the North.

It can be found in water courses such as shallow streams (usually chalk streams) – as well as ditches.

It favours chalk streams, which in the UK, are predominantly found in Hampshire, Dorset, and Wiltshire.

Can you eat wild watercress in the UK?

Yes, you can eat wild watercress in the UK, but you need to be very careful.

I would strongly advise you cook this if you do decide to eat it.

Due to the risk of liver fluke, it (in my humble opinion) is not worth the risk.

Is it OK to eat watercress flowers?

Yes, watercress flowers can be eaten, just make sure they are cooked or you are sure of no fluke risks.

Looking for more foraging goodness? Take a look at my foraging articles here.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom: Potential Health Benefits and Usage Guide

Lion's Mane Mushroom

Lion’s Mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) are a unique type of fungus that can offer various potential health benefits.

Their distinctive appearance, with large, white, shaggy spines, resembles a lion’s mane, giving them their well-known name.

These mushrooms contain bioactive substances which can positively impact your body.

Some research suggests that they may help with cognitive function, support the immune system, and reduce inflammation.

However, further studies are needed to confirm these effects and the long-term implications of consuming these funghi.

Although Lion’s Mane mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine for centuries, their potential health benefits are only just beginning to be fully understood.

This mushroom has a history of being used in traditional medicine practices, particularly in Asia, where it is also known as yamabushitake.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom Overview

Physical Characteristics

The most striking feature of the Lion’s Mane mushroom is its appearance.

It has a white, globe-shaped fruiting body with long, shaggy spines resembling a lion’s mane, hence its name.

Lion’s Mane mushrooms have a tender and spongy texture with some bounce, making them a versatile ingredient in various recipes.

They offer an umami flavour and a meat-like texture, rich in nutrients such as iron and potassium.

Range and Habitat

Lion’s Mane mushrooms can be found growing wild on deciduous trees, particularly hardwoods like oak and beech.

They are native to North America, Europe, and Asia and prefer temperate forest environments with abundant wood substrates for growth.

In recent years, commercial cultivation has become popular, yielding petite cultivated Lion’s Mane mushrooms with closely-packed fine teeth.

The Lion’s Mane mushroom is not just a fascinating specimen in terms of its appearance and culinary uses but is also known for its promising medicinal properties and an intriguing piece of natural history.

Culinary Uses

Flavour and Texture

Lion’s Mane mushroom, native to Asia, particularly Japan, has a unique flavour and texture, making it an excellent addition to various dishes.

It boasts a taste similar to seafood, often compared to crab meat or lobster. The texture is dense and meaty, allowing it to be a suitable meat substitute in many recipes.

When cooked, Lion’s Mane can take on the flavours of other ingredients, making it a versatile option in the kitchen.

I recommended you cook with olive oil or butter to enhance the taste and highlight the natural seafood-like flavour.

Popular Recipes

Lion’s Mane mushrooms have made their way into numerous tasty recipes, showcasing their adaptability and delicious taste.

Here’s some recipe ideas:

  • Lion’s Mane ‘Crab’ Cakes: A twist on the classic crab cake, using Lion’s Mane mushrooms, breadcrumbs, and seasonings to create a seafood-inspired dish that is both delicious and vegetarian-friendly.
  • Spicy Cumin Lion’s Mane Mushrooms: This spicy cumin dish combines Lion’s Mane mushrooms with sesame, cumin seeds, and chilli powder, creating zesty kabobs that resemble and taste like meat.
  • Lion’s Mane Mushroom Risotto: A creamy and savoury risotto recipe incorporating Lion’s Mane, Arborio rice, white wine, and Parmesan cheese to produce a hearty and satisfying meal.
  • Hedgehog Mushroom and Lion’s Mane Mushroom Stir Fry: A delicious fusion of two unique mushroom varieties combined with Asian-style sauces and vegetables, creating a flavourful and nutritious stir-fry.

Remember, when it comes to cooking with Lion’s Mane mushrooms, you can experiment and incorporate them into your favourite recipes, replacing other types of mushrooms or even meat.

Cultivation and Storage

Cultivation Methods

Growing Lion’s Mane mushrooms can be a rewarding and healthy endeavour.

You can cultivate this edible mushroom in various ways, including using a mushroom growing kit or preparing your own substrate.

Lion’s Mane mushrooms are native to North America and Europe, and they grow in large snowball-like formations, sometimes weighing over 1 lb.

To start cultivating, you’ll need Lion’s Mane spawn, which consists of mycelium grown on a suitable medium.

If you’re a beginner, a mushroom growing kit is an excellent option, as it provides everything you need to begin the process.

Alternatively, you can prepare your substrate, such as hardwood sawdust or logs, and inoculate it with the spawn.

It’s essential to maintain proper temperature, humidity, and light for optimal growth.

Lion’s Mane mushrooms typically grow well in temperatures between 16-24°C with 75-85% humidity.

Make sure the mycelium is fully colonised before inducing the fruiting stage, which usually takes 14-21 days.

Purchasing and Storing

While Lion’s Mane mushrooms may not be commonly available at typical grocery stores, you can sometimes find them at specialised food markets or shops offering exotic produce.

Another option is to purchase them from online retailers who supply fresh or dried Lion’s Mane mushrooms.

Once you have your mushrooms, proper storage is crucial to maintain their freshness and taste.

Fresh mushrooms can be stored in the refrigerator, ideally in a brown paper bag to allow for airflow.

Dried Lion’s Mane mushrooms can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, and rehydrated when needed.

Remember to prioritise sustainability.

Choose responsibly sourced materials when cultivating Lion’s Mane mushrooms or purchasing them from suppliers.

Traditional and Medicinal Uses

Chinese Medicine

Lion’s Mane mushrooms, or Hericium erinaceus, have been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes in China for centuries.

In traditional Chinese medicine, they are believed to support digestive health and maintain the overall function of the immune system.

Consuming Lion’s Mane mushrooms can provide you with a range of benefits, from supporting cognitive health to reducing inflammation throughout your body.

While research on these mushrooms is still ongoing, preliminary findings suggest that they may contain potent bioactive compounds that offer various health-promoting effects.

For example, they are a good source of polysaccharides, known as β-glucans, which have been shown to possess immune-boosting properties.

Japanese Medicine

In Japanese medicine, Lion’s Mane mushrooms, known as yamabushitake, hold a similar status as a medicine and a culinary delicacy.

The mushroom has been traditionally consumed to improve mental clarity and neurological health.

The potential neuroprotective effects of Lion’s Mane can be attributed to the presence of two unique compounds, hericenones and erinacines.

These compounds are believed to stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF) production, a protein essential for the growth, maintenance, and survival of nerve cells.

Moreover, Lion’s Mane mushrooms are also revered for their antioxidant properties, which may help in protecting your cells from oxidative damage and reducing the risk of various chronic diseases.

Incorporating Lion’s Mane mushrooms into your diet could offer you many benefits, from supporting your immune system to enhancing your cognitive health.

However, it’s essential to remember that, as with any dietary supplement or alternative therapy, you should always consult a healthcare professional before incorporating new foods such as this.

Health Benefits and Applications

Cognitive Function and Brain Health

Lion’s Mane mushroom has been linked to improved cognitive function and brain health.

Research suggests that it may protect against dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases by stimulating the production of nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

These proteins support the growth and maintenance of neurons, helping improve memory and cognitive function.

Additionally, Lion’s Mane mushroom may also help relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, as it contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can reduce inflammation in the brain.

Heart Health and Disease Prevention

Lion’s Mane mushroom may have potential benefits for heart health.

The polysaccharides in this mushroom have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels, thus lowering the risk of heart disease.

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in Lion’s Mane may also help protect against damage to blood vessels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Digestive System and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of Lion’s Mane mushroom may also benefit your digestive system.

Research shows that this mushroom can protect against stomach ulcers, as it inhibits the growth of H. pylori, a bacteria commonly responsible for ulcers.

Furthermore, Lion’s Mane may have potential benefits for those with inflammatory bowel disease, as it can reduce inflammation in the gut lining.

Cancer Prevention and Treatment

Lion’s Mane mushroom contains compounds called hericenones and erinacines, which have shown potential for cancer prevention and treatment.

These compounds stimulate the immune system and may help slow the growth of cancer cells, particularly for gastric and colon cancers.

Nerve Growth and Damage Repair

Lastly, Lion’s Mane mushroom may aid in nerve growth and damage repair.

Research has shown that it can promote the regeneration of damaged nerves and improve nerve function.

This makes it a potential treatment option for those with nerve damage or neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

Interactions and Risks

Allergic Reactions

Lion’s Mane mushroom is generally considered safe, but like any new food, some individuals may have an allergic reaction.

If you experience symptoms such as difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat, or other signs of an allergy, stop using and seek medical attention immediately.

Additionally, if you have a history of allergies, asthma, or skin sensitivities, consult your healthcare professional before eating Lion’s Mane.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the health benefits of Lion’s Mane mushroom?

Lion’s Mane mushrooms contain beneficial plant compounds that may offer various health benefits.

Some research suggests that these compounds can stimulate the growth of new brain cells, improve depression and anxiety, and support gut health.

Can you consume Lion’s Mane mushrooms daily?

Yes, you can consume Lion’s Mane mushrooms daily as part of a balanced diet.

However, it’s essential to listen to your body and consider any potential side effects or allergies before incorporating them into your daily routine.

What are the potential side effects of Lion’s Mane mushroom?

While Lion’s Mane mushrooms are generally considered safe for consumption, some people may experience side effects.

Symptoms include: upset stomach, dizziness, or skin irritation.

It is always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement or dietary change.

Is Lion’s Mane mushroom legal in the United Kingdom?

Yes, Lion’s Mane mushrooms are legal in the United Kingdom and can be found in speciality shops, and online retailers.

How do you cook and eat Lion’s Mane mushrooms?

Lion’s Mane mushrooms have a unique texture often compared to crabmeat.

They can be sautéed, grilled, or added to soups and stews.

To cook, simply clean and slice the mushrooms. Then cook them in a oil or butter until they golden and tender.

They can be seasoned with salt, pepper, and your preferred herbs and spices.

What are the nutritional properties of Lion’s Mane mushroom?

A 100-gram serving of Lion’s Mane mushrooms provides approximately 43 calories,
2.5g of protein, 7.6g of carbohydrates, and 0.3g of fat.

They also contain small amounts of various vitamins, such as thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, biotin, and folate.

Want more? Take a look at our fungi articles here.

How Long is Crawfish Season?

How Long is Crawfish Season?

Crawfish season technically lasts from November through to July, but this is only in a very exceptional year, with a warm, wet winter.

The standard crawfish season is between spring and summer, with their peak season falling between February and May.

What is crawfish?

Crawfish, also known as crayfish or freshwater crustaceans, are small lobster-like creatures that dwell in freshwater habitats such as rivers, ponds, and swamps.

These crustaceans are popular for their delicious taste and are similar in appearance to their marine relatives, lobsters.

Crawfish come in various colours, ranging from brown to green, becoming bright red when cooked.

There are over 500 species, each having unique characteristics, but they all share traits such as an exoskeleton, a pair of large front claws and a segmented body with multiple small legs.

What month is best to eat crawfish?

Crawfish season typically lasts from November to July, with the availability and quality of crawfish peaking during the warmer months.

As you plan your crawfish boil, consider that the most reliable and enjoyable times to eat crawfish fall between late February and May.

During these spring months (March, April, and May), you’ll find the best-tasting crawfish in various locations, including southern states such as Louisiana and Texas.

The warmer and wetter the winter season, the earlier crawfish season begins, and the better the overall harvest.

Crawfish cuisine and preparation

Crawfish Boil Ingredients

A classic crawfish feast involves boiling live crawfish with a rich blend of spices, vegetables, and sometimes meat.

Here are the key ingredients you’ll need:

  • Sack of Crawfish
  • Potatoes
  • Corn on the Cob
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Bay Leaves
  • Lemons
  • Andouille Sausage (optional)
  • Crawfish Boil Seasoning (optional)

Preparing Your Crawfish Boil:

To prepare a crawfish boil, start by filling a large 5-gallon pot half-full with water.

Add the garlic, bay leaves, lemons, and crawfish boil seasoning to the pot.

You may also add other spices, such as salt and additional bay leaves, to enhance the flavour.

Bring the water to a boil over a high heat, then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes.

Next, stir in the onions, potatoes, corn, and Andouille sausage, if using, and cook for another 15 minutes.

Ensure the crawfish are cleaned properly by rising them under fresh water.

Add them to the pot.

Gently stir in the crawfish, bring the water back to a boil, and let them cook for 3-5 minutes, or until they turn a bright red colour.

When the crawfish are cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove them and the other ingredients from the pot.

Son a large platter or a newspaper-covered table for a more rustic, communal experience.

Now doesn’t that sound tasty…

Crawfish behaviour and habitiat

Crawfish, also known as crayfish or crawdads, are freshwater crustaceans commonly found in slow-moving or still water sources such as streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, swamps, and marshes.

These creatures typically hide under rocks or logs, and they construct burrows when the water temperature is too low for their comfort.

They often burrow into the mud at the bottom of these locations, using their strong claws to dig and create a safe space for shelter and reproduction.

As a vital part of the freshwater ecosystem, crawfish serve as both predators and prey.

They primarily feed on aquatic plants, algae, insects and small fish, contributing to the overall health of the ecosystem by controlling the populations of these species.

Are crawfish good for you?

Yes, crawfish are considered a healthy food to eat.

A serving of crawfish contains around 70 calories and is packed with 14 grams of protein, making them an excellent choice for those looking to maintain or lose weight while still getting a significant amount of nutrients.

In addition to being protein-dense, crawfish also contain essential vitamins and minerals that can be difficult to obtain through other food sources.

For instance, crawfish are a good source of B vitamins, iron, and selenium. These minerals play a crucial role in maintaining strong bones, producing red blood cells, and supporting immune function.

Here are some of the nutritional benefits of crawfish:

  • Low in calories
  • High in protein
  • Low in total fat
  • Rich in B vitamins
  • Good source of iron and selenium

Keep in mind that crawfish, like most other shellfish, do have slightly higher cholesterol levels.

However, when consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, they can be a valuable and nutritious addition to your meals.

When enjoying crawfish, try to opt for recipes that use minimal added fat or sodium, as these can counteract some of the health benefits that they offer.

Boiling or steaming crawfish is a healthier option compared to deep frying or heavily seasoning them.

Can you eat crawfish raw?

The simple answer is no; it’s not recommended to eat crawfish raw.

Although some people assume that eating seafood raw can be a delicacy, doing so with crawfish can pose serious health risks.

Firstly, raw crawfish can contain harmful bacteria and parasites that can result in food poisoning or other illnesses.

The most common risk is the consumption of raw shellfish carrying Vibrio bacteria, which can cause severe illness or even death in some cases.

Cooking crawfish thoroughly will significantly reduce these risks, as the heat kills off harmful microorganisms.

Another reason to avoid eating crawfish raw is the texture.

Crawfish have a slightly tough and stringy texture when uncooked, which can be unpleasant to consume.

Cooking them not only improves their taste but also makes the flesh tender and easier to eat.

To enjoy crawfish safely and at their best, it’s essential to cook them properly.

A common way to prepare them is by boiling with spices and seasonings, which enhances their flavour.

Allowing them to cook within 3-5 minutes until they turn bright red ensures that they’re fully cooked and infused with deliciousness.

Do you eat the vein in crawfish?

You might come across a vein in the tail.

The dark vein is essentially the crawfish’s digestive tract and it might cause you to wonder whether it is safe or tasty to consume.

While the appearance of the vein can be off-putting, it is not harmful to eat.

However, if you prefer, you can remove the vein before consuming the tail meat.

This video shows you how:

What do crawfish do at night?

Crawfish are nocturnal creatures, which means they are most active during night-time.

At night, crustaceans forage for food and engage in their daily activities.

Since they are primarily scavengers, they take advantage of the darkness to search for plant and animal matter on the bottom of rivers, ponds, and other freshwater habitats.

To ensure their safety, crawfish make use of their excellent camouflage skills.

By hiding among rocks and vegetation, they can easily avoid predators, such as fish, birds – and you 🙂

Crawfish also engage in territorial battles and mating rituals.

These encounters can result in brief yet intense bouts of wrestling using their powerful claws.

During the day, crawfish prefer to hide in burrows at the bottom of their habitat.

These burrows provide them with a safe and sheltered space to rest and avoid potential threats.

Additionally, female crawfish use these burrows as a safe haven to protect their eggs and young offspring.

Are crayfish and crawfish the same thing?

Yes, crayfish and crawfish refer to the same type of freshwater crustacean.

The terms crayfish, crawfish, and crawdad are used interchangeably by people from different regions to describe this animal.

There is no biological difference between them.

Crayfish are closely related to lobsters and have a similar appearance.

They are members of the superfamilies Astacoidea (Northern Hemisphere) and Parastacoidea (Southern Hemisphere).

With over 500 species, more than half are found in North America.

These crustaceans typically live in fresh water, such as well water, spring water, and conditioned tap water.

They prefer depths of more than 15 centimetres, with the water covering their back.

How do you catch crawfish?

Catching crawfish can be an enjoyable outdoor activity for your friends and family.

Step 1

First, choose the right time!

Make sure you are hunting for them in season. As above, the best times are usually Late February, through to May.

Step 2

Find your location.

Crawfish are usually found in freshwater sources like streams, rivers, and lakes.

Step 3

Prepare your equipment.

To catch crawfish, you’ll need a trap, some bait and some rope. A variety of bait options can be used, such as pieces of fish or an old chicken carcass.

Step 4

Bait your trap and carefully place in the water.

Tie off your trap to a secure point, such as a tree branch etc.

Now it’s just a case of waiting.

Step 5

When ready, retrieve your pot, which hopefully now contains some crawfish & empty into a bucket.

You can now re-bait the pot (if necessary) and place back in to hopefully trap some more.

Crawfish FAQs:


What do crawfish taste like?

Crawfish are often described as a mix between lobster, crab, and shrimp.

Their taste is somewhat sweeter and more tender than their relatives from the ocean.

Do you eat the vein in crawfish?

As with shrimp, you can choose to remove the vein.

It is not harmful, but some diners prefer not to eat it for aesthetic or textural reasons.

Want more; take a look at our foraging articles.

How Long Does It Take for a Morel Mushroom to Grow to Full Size?

How Long Does It Take for a Morel Mushroom to Grow to Full Size

It can take anywhere from two to five years for the mycelium to become established and produce a good colony of morel mushrooms in the wild.

Once the mycelium are established though and conditions are right, morels can first appear within a few days after a heavy rain event, growing to their full size in just another day or so.

Monitor any discovered morel patch regularly in order to catch them at the perfect moment for harvesting following rainfall.

Morel Mushroom Basics

True Morels Vs False Morels

When foraging for morel mushrooms, it’s essential to understand the difference between true morels and false morels.

True morels (Morchella spp.) are highly sought-after edible mushrooms, while false morels (Gyromitra spp.) can be toxic when consumed, especially when eaten raw.

True morels have a distinctive honeycomb-like cap, while false morels feature a wrinkled, brain-like texture.

Always examine the cap and stem: true morels have a continuous, connected cap and stem, while the cap of a false morel is often loosely attached to the stem.

Additionally, always cross reference with at least two trusted field guides, to ensure you have the correct type before you consume

Species of Morels

There are several species of true morel mushrooms, with Morchella esculenta being one of the most common and widespread.

This species features a pale, yellowish cap with a distinctive honeycomb pattern.

Other species of morels include:

  • Morchella deliciosa: This morel species has a similar appearance to M. esculenta, but its cap is more uniformly round with a slightly darker colour.
  • Morchella elata: This darker brown morel is typically found in coniferous forests and has an elongated, conical shape.
  • Morchella rufobrunnea: Recognisable by its reddish-brown cap, this morel species can be found in grassy areas and open woodlands.

There may be more than 80 different species of Morchella, but not all are edible or commonly found in the wild.

While hunting for morels, it’s crucial to learn the distinguishing characteristics of the species found in your region and take caution to avoid misidentifying and consuming potentially harmful lookalikes.

Growth and Life Cycle

Morel mushrooms have a fascinating growth and life cycle.

To understand how long it takes for a morel mushroom to grow to full size, it’s essential to consider its life cycle.

The entire lifecycle of a morel mushroom can be as brief as two to three weeks.

Before the morel mushroom starts popping up, the mycelium forms beneath the soil.

The mycelium is a network of thread-like structures that absorb nutrients from the soil and help the mushroom to grow.

Once the mycelium is established, it can take as little as six days from the time shoots appear until full-sized mushrooms are ready to harvest.

The fruiting body of the morel mushroom, which is the part you harvest and cook, begins to emerge above the soil as the temperature and moisture levels become optimal.

The ideal conditions for morel growth are daytime temperatures in the low 50s (10 deg C) and nighttime temperatures in the mid 40s (4.5 deg C).

Cloudy, overcast conditions with scattered rain can extend the growing and harvesting period.

The weather has a significant influence on the growth of morel mushrooms.

In summary, the life cycle of morel mushrooms is relatively short, with the fruiting bodies taking just a few weeks to grow under the right conditions.

However, it takes many years for the mycelium to become established in the first place, which is why wild morel patches are so valuable to foragers.

Trees and Morels

Tree species play a crucial role in morel growth.

Many morel mushrooms grow in a symbiotic relationship with specific tree species, exchanging nutrients for carbohydrates through their root-like threads called mycorrhiza ^.

This connection is particularly important when understanding where to find and how morels grow.

Elm Trees

Elm trees make for excellent morel hunting grounds, as they provide an ideal environment for the mushrooms to grow.

Look for dying or dead elm trees with bark starting to fall off, as this is where morels typically thrive.

Oak Trees

Oak trees are another common host for morel mushrooms. Search for mature oak trees, specifically those with spreading limbs that allow sunlight to filter through.

This dappled light creates the perfect conditions for morels to grow.

Deciduous Trees

In general, morel mushrooms favour deciduous forests.

These forests contain a diverse range of tree species, increasing the chances of encountering morel-friendly environments.

When exploring deciduous woodlands, also look for poplar, ash, and sycamore trees, as they can also host morels.

Apple Trees

Old apple orchards can be a hidden gem for morel hunters.

Morels often grow near the roots of these trees, so pay close attention to the ground surrounding them.

However, be cautious of pesticides in old orchards and always thoroughly clean any mushrooms found in these areas.

Identifying Places for Morels

To increase your chances of finding morel mushrooms, it’s essential to identify the preferred habitats of these elusive fungi.

Morels typically grow in forests and wooded areas, where they can be found thriving among leaf litter, pine needles, and early season vegetation.

In the early part of the season, which is typically late March in many regions, keep an eye out for south-facing slopes.

These areas tend to warm up faster than other parts of the forest, providing an ideal environment for early season morels to emerge.

As the season progresses, heading into late spring, begin searching for morels in north-facing slopes and valleys.

These spots tend to have cooler temperatures and retain moisture longer, offering perfect conditions for morel growth.

Pay close attention to areas where the ground is covered in decomposing leaves and moist soil.

When scouting for morel habitats, consider these great places to start your search:

  • Near the bases of dead or decaying trees, particularly elm, ash, and oak.
  • Areas recently disturbed by logging or forest fires, as morels often grow in abundance following these events.
  • Beneath apple, cherry, and plum trees, as morels are known to favour their roots.
  • In proximity to riverbanks and streams, where the soil is consistently damp and nutrient-rich.

Remember, patience and persistence are key when searching for morel mushrooms. Keep exploring different locations within your chosen spot, carefully inspecting the ground and surrounding vegetation.

As your knowledge and experience grow, you’ll become familiar with the ideal habitats and conditions for finding morels, making your future hunting expeditions increasingly successful.

Harvesting and Enjoying Morels

When you head out to collect morel mushrooms, bringing a few essentials can help you effectively find and preserve these tasty morsels.

One useful tool is a mesh bag, which allows spores to disperse as you collect morels, increasing the likelihood of future morel growth in the area.

As you find morels, it’s a good idea to gently twist and pull them from the ground, avoiding damage to the surrounding area.

Make sure you store your fresh morels with care, as they have a delicate, meaty texture that can be easily bruised if mishandled.

Cooking and consuming fresh morels is a delightful culinary experience. Before you cook them, make sure to clean the mushrooms thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris.

Some popular ways to enjoy morels include:

  • Sautéing with butter or oil
  • Adding to pasta dishes or risotto
  • Using in a creamy soup

Regardless of your preferred method of preparation, make sure to cook your morels fully, as they should never be consumed raw.

In summary, morel mushrooms require just a few weeks to grow to full size, and with proper harvesting techniques like using mesh bags, you can enjoy these delectable fungi at their best. So grab your gear, stay patient, and get ready to cherish your fresh, meaty morel mushrooms!

Safety Measures

When foraging for morel mushrooms, it’s crucial to follow some essential safety measures to ensure you’re picking the right ones.

First, familiarise yourself with the appearance of genuine morel mushrooms.

Morels can be identified by their distinctive honeycomb-like structure on the cap and are usually 2 to 5 inches in size.

Double-check the mushrooms you find to ensure they have these characteristics.

Be careful when distinguishing between edible morels and toxic lookalikes. False morels can be harmful if consumed, so it’s vital to observe the differences between them.

While true morels have a hollow stem, the toxic ones have a solid or cottony interior stem. Always cut open the mushrooms you pick to verify their identity.

Here are some tips to stay safe while hunting for morel mushrooms:

  • Never consume wild mushrooms without proper identification.
  • Learn to recognise toxic mushroom species in your area to avoid accidentally harvesting them.
  • Seek guidance from experienced foragers or local mycological groups.
  • Start by hunting for morels in well-known, established areas, where you’re less likely to encounter harmful mushrooms.
  • Use a mushroom identification guide or app as an additional resource, but never rely solely on technology for identification.

Remember, even edible mushrooms can cause adverse reactions in some individuals.

When trying a new type of wild mushroom, it’s recommended to taste a small amount first and wait for any potential effects before eating larger quantities.

By keeping these safety measures in mind, you can enjoy the process of foraging for delectable morel mushrooms while minimising the risk of ingesting harmful or toxic varieties.

Looking for more? Take a look at our foraging section.

Are Wild Strawberries Safe to Eat?

Wild Strawberry - Are Wild Strawberries Safe to Eat?

Yes, wild strawberries are safe to eat.

Wild strawberries (Fragaria Vesca), also known as woodland strawberries, are native to North America, as well as the UK and mainland Europe.

Their season is usually around the summer months of June, July and August, but sometimes extends into autumn.

These wild berries have white flowers with five petals and produce small red fruits with a sweet flavour.

What Are the Health Benefits of Wild Strawberries?

Wild strawberries are not only safe to eat but also offer numerous health benefits.

They are rich in vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient that helps boost your immune system and fight off infections.

In addition to vitamin C, wild strawberries are also a good source of antioxidants and flavonoids.

These help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals and inflammation.

Consuming foods rich in antioxidants, such as wild strawberries, can help prevent diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.

Furthermore, wild strawberries are low in calories and high in fibre.

What Is the Difference Between Wild Strawberries and Mock Strawberries?

You might have come across wild strawberries and mock strawberries.

While both plants produce small red berries, they are not the same.

Wild Strawberries

Wild strawberries (Fragaria Vesca), also known as woodland strawberries, are true wild strawberries that grow in North America, UK and mainland Europe.

The wild plants have white flowers with five petals and yellow centres. The leaves are green and have toothed edges.

The fruit is small, red, and has a sweet flavour. Wild strawberries are usually in season in late spring to early summer.

Mock Strawberries

On the other hand, mock strawberries (Potentilla Indica), also known as false strawberries, are another type of wild strawberry that you may encounter, but a lot less tasty.

Mock strawberry plants have yellow flowers with five white petals and yellow centres. The leaves are similar to wild strawberry leaves, but the edges are not toothed.

The fruit is also small and red, but it has a bland taste and lacks the sweet flavour of true wild strawberries.

Mock strawberries are usually found in gardens, rather than the wild.

While both wild strawberries and mock strawberries are edible plants, they have different health benefits and potential allergic reactions.

True wild strawberries are a good source of vitamin C and can be used in fruit salads or eaten fresh.

Mock strawberries, however, do not have the same nutritional value and can cause allergic reactions in some people.

Therefore, it is important to know the main differences between wild strawberries and mock strawberries before consuming wild berries.

If you are foraging in the United States, you may also come across the large but tasteless Chilean strawberry (Fragaria Chiloensis).

Again, this is perfectly edible, but will not have the flavour of the wild strawberry (Fragaria Vesca).

Wild Strawberry vs Regular Strawberry

The main differences between wild strawberries and regular strawberries are their size, appearance, and taste.

Wild strawberries are much smaller and have white petals, with regular strawberries being much larger.

Wild strawberries have a sweet flavour, while regular strawberries can vary in taste depending on the variety.

Regular, shop bought strawberries are a cross between the large but flavourless Chilean strawberry (Fragaria Chiloensis) and the small, but very flavoursome Virginian strawberry (Fragaria Virginiana).

This is how we now have a large, but also flavoursome strawberry when purchased in supermarkets and the like.

Due to being produced en masse, regular strawberries, unless organic, may have been treated with pesticides and other chemicals during cultivation.

As with most things, wild is usually best.

Where Can You Find Wild Strawberries?

These delicious and nutritious berries can be found in many parts of North America as well as the UK and mainland Europe, particularly in the summer months.

Wild strawberries can be found in a variety of locations, including woodland areas, meadows, and even in your own backyard.

They are typically found growing close to the ground, and can be identified by their small white flowers and sweet aroma.

While you can find wild strawberries growing in the wild, it is important to exercise caution when foraging for wild plants.

Are Wild Strawberries Invasive?

Wild strawberries are not invasive plants.

They are native to North America and are found growing in the wild in many areas of the United States.

While wild strawberries are not invasive, they can spread easily and may be considered a weed in some areas.

Can I Make Tea from Wild Strawberry Leaves?

Yes, you can use wild strawberry leaves to make tea.

To make wild strawberry leaf tea, simply gather a handful of fresh leaves and rinse them well.

Then, boil some water and pour it over the leaves. Let the tea steep for a few minutes, and then strain.

You can sweeten the tea with honey or sugar to your liking.

While wild strawberry leaves are generally safe to consume, it’s important to be aware of any potential allergic reactions.

If you have a known allergy to strawberries, you should avoid consuming wild strawberry leaves or making tea from them.

Overall, wild strawberry leaf tea can be a tasty and healthy addition to your diet, especially in late spring and early summer when the plants are in season.

Wild Strawberry Habitat

Wild strawberries are native to North America, UK and Europe and can be found in woodlands, meadows, and other natural areas.

They grow in a wide range of habitats, from sea level to high elevations, and are often found in areas with moist, well-drained soil.

Summary

In conclusion, wild strawberries are considered safe to eat, assuming you have identified them correctly and are not allergic.

While you can find wild strawberries growing in the wild, it is always important to exercise caution when foraging for wild plants and make sure you know exactly what your eating.

Want more? Take a look at our other foraging articles.

When are Oysters in Season in the UK?

Oysters in a bucket - When are oysters in season in the UK?

Oysters are in season in the UK from the 1st of September to the 30th of April.

So the colder months of autumn, winter and spring.

The general rule is that oysters, as well as other bivalves, should only be collected and eaten when there is an ‘r’ in the month.

What months should you eat oysters?

Oysters are best eaten in the colder months of September, October, November, December, January and February.

This is not to say that you can’t eat them in the other warmer months, but be aware that they may not be in their peak condition due to them spawning and the water quality not always being the best.

Where do the best oysters come from in the UK? Where to find wild oysters in the UK

The best oysters come from the cleanest waters.

However, each area is said to impart its own different flavours and therefore, it is a matter of opinion as to which area produces the best oysters flavour-wise.

The main commercial oyster bed locations in the UK are in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Kent and Essex.

Oysters from Pyefleet in Colchester are the most highly prized commercially and as such command the highest prices.

The west coast of Scotland is also highly regarded for oysters.

Be warned though, all oysters in Scotland are the property of the crown estate and a permit must be obtained before collecting wild ones.

Unfortunately, this permit will not be freely given.

If you are collecting yourself, then the above will be of little consequence.

Rest assured that as long as the oysters are in season and from clean waters, will be tasty – regardless of location.

The 5 golden bivalve rules

These are unashamedly stolen from John Right’s book – Edible Seashore and are a great set of rules to keep in mind when foraging for filter feeders (bivalves).

It’s also a great book to grab if you have an interest in coastal foraging.

1. Consult the locals

Talk to local fishermen and check with local authorities about the water quality in the area where you are looking to collect oysters.

2. Only collect from obviously clean areas

This sounds fairly obvious, but it needs to be said…don’t collect from narrow estuaries, harbours, marinas, or outflow pipes.

Oysters are filter feeders, so use your common sense on this one.

3. Only collect shellfish when there is an ‘r’ in the month

Whilst not relevant to every situation, this rule does have good reasoning behind it.

If the month doesn’t have an r in its name, then it’s one of the summer months and is when the mussels are most active (filtering lots of water), as well as the warmer water causing algal blooms and more bacteria being in the water.

As oysters are filter feeders, the above does not exactly help matters.

4. Always thoroughly cook the oyster

Unless you are 100% certain that your oysters come from grade-A waters, the only way of being sure that you have killed all bacteria and viruses is the cook them thoroughly.

Cooking will not however remove any algal toxins, which is why you need to be very careful about the time of year you collect and know the waters.

Simply put, just like mussels, don’t eat raw oysters unless you are 100% sure of the water quality and even then you risk it.

Cooking minimises this risk.

5. Always check for signs of life before cooking

Check that the oyster shut tightly when you tap them on the side of the cooking pot. If not discard.

Equally, if confident enough to go down the raw route, it’s always a good idea to smell the oyster once you open it. It should simply smell of the sea.

Oyster On Rocks - When are oysters in season in the UK?
Some foraged oysters and other finds

Where to find wild oysters in the UK – Where can I pick oysters in the UK?

Oysters are considered a rare find these days for the coastal forager.

They can be found in the South of England, Devon, Cornwall etc, as well as the Thames estuary and Solent. Northern Ireland also.

The West Coast of Scotland has relatively good numbers of oysters.

However, due to Scottish Law, you are forbidden from collecting native oysters, as they belong to the Crown.

You can get a permit, but these are not easily obtained.

You can of course find wild oysters in other parts of the UK, but the above locations are the main strongholds.

Are oysters good for you?

Yes, fresh oysters (from clean waters) are good for you.

They contain:

  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin D
  • Iron
  • Magnesium.

All of the above can contribute towards a healthy diet.

Can you eat oysters all year round? Why can’t you eat oysters in the summer?

No. Oysters should not be eaten in the summer as this is when they spawn and are not in their best condition.

Additionally, the water quality is not always great in the summer due to algal blooms etc, which is why oysters are usually only eaten in the colder months.

Do you chew oysters? How do you eat oysters?

This all depends on if you are eating them raw or not.

If eating raw, then you generally don’t chew the oyster and just swallow it straight down.

If eating cooked, then you chew the oyster before swallowing.

Are oysters better raw or cooked?

If eating raw, you may want to swallow the oyster straight down, without chewing.

When served in a restaurant, this is the general way they will be served to you.

You do usually put some lemon or tabasco on though to add to the flavour because the simple fact is – they don’t really taste of much!

However, as you are collecting oysters yourself, you get to choose their ‘end game’.

Having eaten them both ways, I personally believe they taste better cooked, fried in butter, or grilled in their shell on a barbeque/fire.

When cooked, they taste like a ‘fluffy cloud’, which is quite nice and my recommendation if you manage to locate any.

Added to the above argument is that unless you are certain that you are certain you have collected oysters in grade-A waters, then it is always safer to cook them.

Can you eat oysters straight from the sea?

Yes, you can eat oysters straight from the sea, providing that you are confident they are from clean waters and have followed all the usual precautions listed above.

Can you eat too many oysters?

Yes. Just like most things, you can eat too many oysters.

Oysters contain high doses of vitamins and minerals which can be too much for the system.

Stick to normal quantities, such as 3-4 oysters and you should be fine.

Are there pearl oysters in the UK?

Yes, there are ‘Pearl Oysters’ in the UK as such, but not the type that you would be making any jewellery from.

The most common type of oyster found in the UK is the Pacific Oyster (Crassostrea gigas) and our native oyster (Ostrea edulis).

Both can apparently produce a small pearl, but it is not often noticed and usually eaten.

Proper ‘pearl oysters‘ (Pinctada margaritiferus) are found outside the UK – mainly in China -and are produced commercially for this purpose.

Final word

Please exercise restraint when picking oysters and only take what you are going to eat that day.

They take a few years to reach maturity and if they are over-exploited, this will have an impact on future populations as well as the local ecosystem.

Disclaimer:

Collecting oysters brings with it its own set of dangers.

This comes from both environmental conditions, such as tides, wind, sun etc as well as the risk of getting it wrong and giving yourself food poisoning etc.

Please treat the above as a general guide only and cross reference with other trusted information sources, before you harvest and eat any oysters.


Hungry for more? Take a look at our other coastal foraging articles which include mussels, razor clams and samphire.

Can You Pick Mussels Off the Beach in the UK?

Can You Pick Mussels Off the Beach in the UK?

Yes, you can pick mussels off the beach in the UK.

However, you need to be very cautious!

In the UK, the general rule of thumb is that you should avoid harvesting them during any month that doesn’t have an ‘r’ in it.

So, refrain from collecting them in the warmer months of May, June, July and August.

The reason for this is that algal blooms are more likely to be present during these summer months and as mussels are filter feeders, they can ingest these algae, which can be toxic to humans if we then go on to eat them.

The 5 golden bivalve rules

These are unashamedly stolen from John Right’s book – Edible Seashore and are a great set of rules to keep in mind when foraging for filter feeders (bivalves).

It’s also a great book to grab if you have an interest in coastal foraging.

1. Consult the locals

Talk to local fishermen and check with local authorities about the water quality in the area where you are looking to pick mussels.

2. Only collect from obviously clean areas

This sounds fairly obvious, but it needs to be said…don’t collect from narrow estuaries, harbours, marinas, or outflow pipes.

Mussels are filter feeders, so use your common sense on this one.

3. Only collect shellfish (mussels) when there is an ‘r’ in the month

Whilst not relevant to every situation, this rule does have good reasoning behind it.

If the month doesn’t have an r in its name, then it is one of the summer months and is when the mussels are most active (filtering lots of water), as well as the warmer water causing algal blooms and more bacteria being in the water.

As mussels are filter feeders, the above does not exactly help matters.

The mussels are also not at their peak condition at this time of year, so all things considered this old adage has a bit of truth behind it and you are usually best off waiting for the cooler months (with an ‘r’ in).

4. Always thoroughly cook the mussels

Unless you are 100% certain that your mussels have come from grade A waters, the only way of being sure that you have killed all bacteria and viruses is the cook the mussels thoroughly.

Cooking will not however remove any algal toxins, which is why you need to be very careful about the time of year you collect and know the waters.

Simply put, don’t eat mussels raw unless you are 100% sure of the water quality and even then you are risking it.

Cooking your mussels minimises the risk.

5. Always check for signs of life before cooking

Check that the mussels shut when you tap them on the side of the cooking pot. If not discard.

Equally, once cooked, only eat the ones that have their shells open.

Can you take mussels from the beach legally?

Yes, as long as local bylaws allow, you can take mussels from the beach in England and Wales without having to worry too much about permissions.

You still need to make sure that you collect them from an area where they are regularly covered by the tide (known as the intertidal zone), and ensure that the water quality is good before harvesting.

It gets a bit more complicated in Scotland as technically all mussels are owned by the Crown.

If you are following the rules, then you should seek permission from the Crown Estate before gathering them.

In reality, if you are just harvesting mussels for your own use, then you are very unlikely to find yourself in trouble and the collecting of wild mussels for personal use is generally tolerated.

Oysters are a different matter though, so it may be a good idea to follow the rules in Scotland if you are collecting these.

How do you harvest wild mussels?

Check with your local authority to see if any kind of license is needed.

Once you know you have permission and once you have found some, whether that be on some rocks or other structure, it’s as easy as getting hold of one and gently twisting it off.

Try not to dislodge the others in the process and just select the mussels that you want.

Is there a size limit on mussels?

This varies depending on the area and local authority, but generally speaking, the minimum in the UK is 45mm, which should be taken along the longest section of the shell.

Any smaller than this and you are damaging the next mussel generation and there is not going to be much meat inside either, so keep your collecting to the adult sizes.

How do you clean mussels from the beach?

An alternative method for processing mussels is soaking them in salt water for 20 minutes and then discarding any that float to the surface.

As mentioned below though, live mussels can potentially have air trapped in them, so this method errs very much on the side of caution.

You can then also tap any open mussels on the side of the pan/bucket etc and they should close up.

If not, then they are dead and should be discarded.

You can use a knife or similar utensil to pull the mussel beards away, leaving you with some nice, clean mussels ready for cooking.

Are some mussels poisonous?

They can be if they are filtering in unclean water and have picked up toxins.

This is why you need to be confident of the water quality in which the mussels you are collecting have been living.

Are mussels a healthy seafood to eat?

Yes. Mussels are considered a healthy seafood to eat.

They contain many beneficial vitamins and minerals including:

> Protein – Mussels are a high-quality, high-protein food, with similar levels to that of red meat.

> Iron – Mussels contain a healthy dose of iron, which is known to be good for your blood system.

> Vitamin A – which is great for your skin, immune system and eyes.

> B12 – an essential vitamin for your heart and overall health.

So yes, all in all, mussels are a great addition to your diet and have many health benefits.

How can you tell if mussels are fresh?

Assuming you have collected them from a clean water area, then follow the below.

If any float discard them and then tap any open mussels on the side of the pan/bowl and they should close. If not, discard these also.

Once cooked, eat only the mussels that have fully opened.

If you follow the above you shouldn’t go too far wrong, but do make sure to check out the 5 golden rules towards the top of this article.

Can you pick mussels off rocks?

Yes, you can pick mussels off the rocks; that is where you are most likely to find them.

One of the best times to collect them is a low spring tide when the water drops considerably.

You obviously need to be very wary of your surroundings though and take all necessary precautions.

Can you pick mussels in June? Can you eat mussels in the summer?

Although you technically can pick mussels in June in the UK, it is not advisable.

Remember the advice of not picking mussels when there isn’t an R in the month.

So May to August.

The reason for this is that the mussels are generally in poorer condition due to spawning during the summer months, as well as the warmer weather usually bringing in the algal blooms.

These can then be taken in by the mussels filtering system, with the risk of this toxicity then being passed on to you when you eat them.

It must be said that this risk is low, but it is a risk all the same.

So the safest bet is to keep it to the colder months when the mussels are in better condition and the algal blooms have disappeared.

Do mussels float in water? Should I discard mussels that float?

They can do if they have air trapped in them, however, they will usually sink.

There is an old method of checking mussels whereby they were soaked in water and if they floated they were discarded as they were thought to be dead, but as you can see, this is not always the case.

Live mussels can float too.

This does provide a belt and braces approach though.

How do you open mussels?

If you want to open up live mussels for cooking via an alternative method, such as frying them etc, then, as long as they are large enough, you can open them up with a knife as shown in the video below

Summary

Can You Pick Mussels Off the Beach in the UK? Yes, you can! But you need to be aware of the risks.

Follow the 5 Golden bivalve rules above and treat your harvest with care and you shouldn’t go too far wrong.

If you are interested in coastal foraging, then be sure to also check out our popular article on Limpets, which can be found here.

Also, I would recommend taking a look at John Wight’s book (River Cottage), Edible Seashore.

It has lots more info and facts for the coastal forager to get their teeth into.

You can find a copy here.

Other mussel FAQs

When is mussel season UK?

The mussel season in the UK runs from September, through to April.

These are the colder months of the year.

Remember the old adage about not collecting/eating mussels when there is an ‘R’ in the month.

Do you eat the whole inside of a mussel?

Yes, you can eat the whole inside of a mussel. Even the black bit!

All of the insides are edible, so, as long as the mussel is fresh, don’t think too much about it and enjoy the flavours.

What is the black stuff in a mussel?

The ‘black sack’ is the undigested plankton and other microscopic creatures that are still within the mussel’s digestive tract.

As long as you are collecting from a clean area, then this black stuff is perfectly safe to eat and just adds to the flavour.

Don’t think about it too much and get stuck in!

Are mussels freshwater or saltwater?

In the UK, there are both freshwater and saltwater varieties, although similar, they are different species.

Saltwater mussels (Mytilus edulis) are usually found on rocky shores, submerged structures and occasionally attached to seaweed.

This article focuses on the saltwater variety (UK).

There are however multiple freshwater mussel varieties in the UK.

These being:

> Duck Mussel (Anodonta anatina)

> Swan Mussel (Anodonta cygnea)

> Painter’s Mussel (Unio pictorum)

For more info on the freshwater mussel varieties (UK) the Nature Spot site has some good info here.

Is it cruel to cook mussels alive? Do mussels feel pain?

This is a matter of opinion.

Although some would argue that it is cruel to cook anything alive, the fact is that unless you intend to eat them raw (in which you will kill them by eating), in order to eat them in the standard way, you need to cook them somehow.

What happens if you eat mussel beard?

Nothing happens! Mussel beard is edible, if not that tasty, so don’t worry if you eat any.

However, the best bet is to clean them off beforehand.

Do mussels have eyes?

No mussels do not have eyes as such, but they are thought to have sensors that can tell the difference between light and dark, so as to be able to close up if they feel threatened.

Disclaimer:

Collecting mussels bring with it its own set of dangers, both from environmental conditions, such as tides, wind, sun etc as well as the risk of getting it wrong and giving yourself food poisoning etc.

Please treat the above as a general guide only and cross reference with other trusted information sources, before you harvest and eat any mussels.

When is Samphire in Season in the UK?

When is samphire in season in the uk?

Marsh Samphire is in season in the UK between the months of June and September, although it may vary slightly depending on your location.

Midsummer’s Day is the traditional start of the samphire picking season.

There are thought to be a few different varieties of Marsh Samphire in the UK, the most common type you will find is the bright-green Salicornia europaea.

If the Marsh Samphire you are collecting has a purple tinge to it, it may well be the variety Salicornia ramosissima.

Both varieties are edible and tasty.

Where does samphire grow? Does samphire grow in the UK?

Marsh Samphire grows all around coastal areas of the UK.

You will usually find it wherever you have salt marshes and/or mud flats.

It is not a particularly hard plant to find or identify and when you find some, there will usually be much more of it around.

I can vouch that it is very prevalent in Norfolk and Suffolk, so if you are nearby, it is worth exploring.

It is also quite prolific in Wales.

Is picking samphire illegal?

It is technically illegal to uproot samphire without permission.

You don’t want to do this anyway, as you don’t eat the root of the plant, only the tips.

Uprooting also damages the habitat, so please try not to do this.

How to harvest Samphire

Take some robust scissors with you and snip the tender tops off of the plant and store them in a basket or bag.

Other than paying attention to the safety aspect of being out on the marshes, it’s as simple as finding a decent patch and snipping off the tops.

Although you can store it, like with all wild foods, only take what you need.

You can always come back another day!

Is samphire seasonal? Is samphire available all year round?

No, as above the UK season runs from approx June through to September.

Outside of these months, samphire disappears, usually with the frosts in autumn.

You may be able to purchase samphire in the shops outside of the traditional UK growing season, but this will likely have come from abroad.

Is samphire good for your health? How healthy is samphire?

Yes. Marsh Samphire contains a number of vitamins minerals and antioxidants that are considered to be especially good for your health.

These include minerals magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium, along with vitamins A, B and C.

Samphire also contains fucoidans, which are anti-inflammatory and have antioxidant effects.

Do I need to cook samphire?

No, you do not need to cook Marsh Samphire.

It can be eaten raw. However, it is also very tasty when cooked.

How to cook samphire

Steaming for around 5 minutes is the best way to cook samphire.

Once served, it benefits from having a dob of butter melted over it, but is by no means essential.

If you have a younger plant, or just have the more tender tips, then you can just eat whole and enjoy.

If you have a more mature plant, you will find that it has a stringy/woody middle section along most of its length.

You can easily deal with this by running the steamed samphire through your front teeth while holding on to the base.

This strips off all the tender flesh and leaves you with the stringy fibrous part in your hand which can be discarded.

Can you eat samphire raw? Can you eat samphire cold?

Yes, Marsh Samphire can be eaten raw (cold).

If you are going to eat it raw, make sure you go for the tips of the plant only, as these won’t have the stringy central fibre in them.

You can eat there and then, on the marsh, or save for later.

One of the best ways to consume samphire tips is to add them to a fresh salad.

The samphire gives the salad a new dimension, of saltiness and iodine, but you can overdo it, so just use a few.

Is all samphire edible? Can you eat rock samphire?

In the UK, both types of samphire are technically edible, these being Marsh Samphire which we are discussing here and Rock Samphire.

Although linked by name, they are actually very different plants and species.

Marsh Samphire is usually the variety Salicornia europaea and rock samphire Crithmum maritimum.

However, although Rock Samphire is deemed edible, most will not like the flavour as it contains aromatic chemicals, one of which is pinene, which is an ingredient of turpentine, hence why it tastes so awful!!!

If you are after good samphire for eating, go for Marsh Samphire, as this is the variety that is known for its culinary credentials.

Is samphire a seaweed?

No, samphire is not a seaweed.

It is actually a member of the goosefoot family, and looks more like a small cactus without the spines!

Marsh samphire generally grows on tidal mudflats, sometimes quite prolifically, and looks quite different to seaweed.

This extremely meditative video from Andy Ballard shows him foraging for Marsh Samphire on the Bristol Channel.

What does samphire taste like? Does samphire taste like seaweed?

No, samphire does not taste like seaweed. It has its own flavour, which is actually very pleasant.

It’s more like salty asparagus, which is delicious, but the salt can be overpowering if you eat too much of it, so take it steady.

How many calories does samphire have?

Samphire contains around 25 calories per 100 grams consumed.

This is for samphire when served on its own, such as when steamed/boiled or eaten raw.

If adding other ingredients, then this will obviously change accordingly.

How many carbs are in samphire?

Samphire contains around 1.5g of carbohydrates per 100 grams consumed, which is pretty much made up of dietary fibre.

Therefore, there are hardly any carbs in Marsh Samphire.

Is samphire the same as sea asparagus?

Yes, in other parts of the world, Marsh Samphire is known as sea asparagus.

In other locations, it is also known as samphire greens, sea beans, crow’s foot greens and beach asparagus.

Does samphire have iodine? Is samphire high in iodine?

Yes, samphire does contain iodine.

However, it doesn’t contain anywhere near as much as some seaweeds do, so samphire wouldn’t be classed as high in iodine as seaweed – although it’s a pretty decent level.

For comparison, samphire contains approx 90 micrograms per 100 grams.

Some seaweed contains approx 250,000 micrograms per 100 grams.

However, it must be noted that adults recommended daily iodine intake is 140 micrograms per day, so a decent portion would easily get you up to this.

Does samphire contain iron?

Yes, samphire contains iron. It also contains vitamin C and calcium.

Samphire also contains antioxidants, which in combination with the other vitamins and minerals make it an extremely healthy plant to eat and a great addition to your diet.

Is samphire good for you?

Yes, as long as it has been collected from a clean environment, samphire is very good for you.

As mentioned above it contains:

  • Vitamin C
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Iodine
  • Antioxidants

It is low in fat, low in carbs and makes for a delicious and nutritious foraged find.

Where to buy samphire in the UK

Not liking the sound of all that mud? You can always purchase some samphire first to see if you like it.

Samphire has become quite a trendy thing to eat over the last few years, so you may see it on the menu at good restaurants.

If you live near the coast, you may be lucky enough to have it available at a local shop or stall.

Failing that, some supermarkets now stock it, including Waitrose, so you should be able to get hold of some one way or the other.

Summary

So, when is samphire in season in the UK?

Usually between the months of June and September. with Midsummer’s Day being the traditional start of the season.

Keen to pick up some more free foraging goodness???

Take a look at our foraging section for more articles on such things as limpets and gorse flower.

Common Limpet Foraging – The Ultimate Guide

Common Limpet - Coastal Bushcraft Foraging

Found on rocky shorelines across the UK, the common limpet is an almost guaranteed find for the shoreline hunter and is a handy addition to any foraging trip. 

With that in mind, let’s look at some limpet facts…

What are limpets?

Limpets are small, cone-shaped creatures that live on rocks in the inter-tidal zone.

They are usually spotted at low tide clamped to rocks and should you try and pick one up, will nearly always clamp down and become immovable. They are seriously impressive in this regard.

In this clamped state, they don’t really do a lot, but once the tide returns, and they have submerged once again, they ‘spring to life’ and start going about their business of feeding on their chosen home.

There are two main types to be found in Britain, the common limpet and the slipper limpet.

Today we will focus on the common limpet.

What do limpets eat?

At high tide, the limpet feeds by slowly moving around its chosen rock, feeding on algae and similar vegetative marine life.

Although classed as herbivores, they are also thought to eat small creatures like young barnacles etc.

What is the scientific name for limpets?

The scientific name for the common limpet is patella vulgata.

Patella vulgata are the European common limpets and as the name suggests – are of the Patella genus

These are marine gastropod molluscs and are in the Patellidae family.

Can you eat common limpets? Are common limpets edible?

Yes, you can eat common limpets providing you follow the advice below.

Although I can say with confidence that there are certainly tastier wild treats to be had, the limpet is certainly worth knowing about from a wild food perspective, even if that said food does sometimes resemble the texture of pencil rubbers.

Are limpets healthy to eat?

Yes, as long as they were a healthy limpet when you collected them and you have stored and prepared them correctly, limpets are a high protein snack, with many many other vitamins and minerals to boot.

Do limpets have eyes?

Yes, the common limpet has a left and a right ‘eye‘, but there is little research on what they can actually view with these.

They also have two antennae for feeling their way around and sensing. The combination of the two helps them build up a picture of what is around them when hunting for food.

Can limpets swim?

Juvenile limpets spend the first part of their lives as free-swimming planktonic creatures and therefore do technically swim.

Once they mature though, they find a home that they like and stay put.

Fully grown limpets do not swim. They use their foot to travel across surfaces.

Where are limpet shells found?

The common limpet can be found in coastal areas all over the British Isles

They are not usually hard to find and are generally located in shallow water, on rocks or cliffs that are within the intertidal zone.

What is unique about the intertidal coastline?

The intertidal coastline or intertidal zone is unique in the fact that it is submerged by seawater around 2 times a day.

It is essentially the section of shoreline that is between the high and low watermark.

This area is fully submerged at high tide and then dry again at low tide.

Creatures and plants must therefore be able to survive in both of these states.

This makes for a special environment that supports many different creatures including limpets, starfish, sea anemones, sea stars, mussels, winkles, crabs and many more.

How do you identify a limpet?

What does a limpet look like?

The common limpet is cone-shaped and easy to identify. There will often be many limpets attached to one rock, in varying sizes.

Their shape and ability to tightly attach themselves to rocks allows them to remain in place – even whilst getting pounded by strong waves.

Do limpets bite?

No, well they wont bite you anyway.

Limpets have a super tongue which they use to feed with. This is known as a radula.

The radula is similar to a tongue, but has rows of tiny ‘teeth’ attached.

As you can probably imagine, this radula is extremely tough, as it needs to be able to scrape food off rocks when feeding.

Indeed, UK engineers discovered that the teeth attached to this are made from the toughest biological material that has ever been tested.

Impressive stuff!

Limpets will generally stay in a localised area and not stray too far from their home, which they will always come back to when the tide goes back out.

Over time, this can cause an indentation on the rock which is known as a ‘home scar’. 

The limpet clamps down on this section of rock, using its powerful ‘foot’ and remains there until the tide comes back in and it’s ready to move and feed again.

How do you forage for limpets?

Common limpet collected in bucket - Seaweed - common limpet foraging
A little seaweed and water helps keep the limpets fresh

Common Limpets can be collected all year round.

Ensure that the area you intend to forage from has a regular and strong tide to ensure that the limpets are regularly submerged.

Also, check that the local area has good water quality and is free from pollutants.

The common limpet is an important part of the ecosystem, keeping the rock’s algal growth in check.

It is vital therefore that you do not gather too many from one area, as an imbalance can occur.

Good practice would be to take only one from each rock or immediate area, leaving the others to carry on their good work.

If there is only one on a rock, then leave it be. Do not over-collect in one area.

Fill your bucket or collecting vessel with fresh seawater and place some carefully collected seaweed in as well if available.

This will help to keep your limpets fresh.

How do you remove limpets from rocks?

A variety of tools can be used to prize the limpet away, including an old chisel or sharp implement such as a knife etc, but a rock will usually do and is usually readily available.

One thing to know when collecting limpets is that you only really get one good chance at them.

Although they will be stuck to the rock when you approach them, they are not usually ‘fully clamped’.

A sharp whack from one side will usually dislodge them.

If you do not manage to dislodge them on the first whack, or they sense you coming, they will fully clamp down on the rock and you will have a hard time getting them off the rock, no matter how hard you try.

They are unbelievably strong.

You can follow up with a second strike very shortly after the first one, but if this fails, leave them alone or you risk damaging them, as they will now have fully clamped down.

Your best bet is to go and find another to work on.

When collecting them myself, I generally have one hand holding the dislodging rock and my other hand is placed on the opposite side of the limpet, ready to catch the dislodged morsel before it disappears into the brine below.

In a good area, it is not hard to quickly collect a bucketful. Remember, do not take more than you need.

If your camp is based nearby, you can always return if necessary, or visit another spot.

Can you eat a limpet raw?

The common limpet is edible and can be eaten raw, but you’re probably going to want to cook it.

Check that the limpet is still alive, especially if it has been a while since collection.

You will see it moving, so it’s not hard to check this. 

Are limpets tasty?

I’m going to get straight to the point here and say that limpets probably aren’t going to on your top 10 list of bushcraft cuisine.

The fact is that they are usually chewy, really chewy – no matter what you do to them!

The flavour isn’t bad, it’s like a chewy mussle, but the texture isn’t always great – well never great actually!

Some say not to cook them for too long, but they seem to be chewy whatever you do to them, so just expect that to be the case.

One way to combat the chewiness is to finely chop them and add them to other dishes so that they are more easily consumed.

This can be done after they are cooked and then added to a curry or stew etc.

They will certainly add a new dimension to the dish!

Caveats aside, they are definitely worth a try and can form a great addition to other foods if prepared in a certain way.

If you want to cook them on their own, try cooking them upside down, straight on the embers of your fire.

If you have the luxury, try adding some olive oil and some garlic to add some flavour and cook until the oil starts to bubble.

Remove from the shell, remove the black part if you wish and enjoy.

I can guarantee you will remember the experience.

What do limpets taste like?

Limpets have a taste of their own, but to give you a rough idea – they taste a bit like a chewier version of a mussle and are equally sweet in taste.

Can you fry limpets?

Yes. You can fry them in their shells, or for a more direct method, you can remove them from their shells, tenderise them with a meat hammer or similar and then fry.

You can fry them as is, or coat them in a flour mixture first, depending on your preference.

Safety whilst common limpet foraging

As with all foraging, there is a degree of risk involved.

Coastal foraging brings additional dangers.

Apart from the food safety side that is mentioned above, the actual collection part can be risky in itself.

You are usually stepping on or wading through rocky areas when foraging, contending with slippy, jagged surfaces and possibly waves.

Common sense goes a long way here.

Take great care with your foot placement and move slowly and deliberately.

A wading stick may prove useful.

Wear appropriate footwear, something that will protect your feet from the sharp rocks and provide you with some grip.

Avoid standing on rocks with a slimy green surface. The last thing you want is a fall in this environment.

Be aware of the tides. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the moment, only to realise that the tide is a lot higher than you thought, with your access back to dry land now cut off.

As with most things, preparation is key here.

Plan your route and enjoy the forage!

James

Bushcraft Hub

What’s your favourite way to eat limpets?

Let us know in the comments below.