Our guide on how and what to forage for in April in Britain, with a few key details regarding where each plant can be found, characteristics and recipe ideas.
Where to forage in Britain
Woodlands, hedgerows and the shoreline are good places to start your foray into foraging. However, you may discover local parks and even your garden provide foraging hotspots.
How to forage responsibly and safely
It is vital to avoid damaging wildlife habitats or rare species, so check you are allowed to forage in the area before starting to pick. When foraging, ensure you leave plenty behind for wildlife and only pick from an area with a plentiful supply. Only take what you plan to eat and take care to avoid damaging the roots of plants as you pick.
Take a good field guide with you and always be sure you can positively identify any plant before you pick it, and never eat any plant you are unsure of. Taking part in a foraging course with an expert is a good way to learn how to forage safely and responsibly.
Wild garlic, Allium ursinum
Wild garlic has a distinctive smell and white flowers/Credit: Getty
Also known as Bear leek, wild garlic is an edible plant that emerges in April and can be foraged right through summer. Use it when cooking to add great flavour to your favourite recipes.
The leaves and flowers are edible. Young leaves are delicious added to soups, sauces and pesto. Leaves appear in March and are best picked when young. The flowers emerge from April to June and can add a potent garlic punch to salads and sandwiches.
Birch: silver , betula pendula, and downy, Betula pubescens
The leaves of downy birch are rounder in shape than those of silver birch, but both can be found in the UK/Credit: Getty
Parts used: young leaves
This tree is native to the northern hemisphere, which may be why it is one of the most hardy and resilient trees in winter. In spring, young birch leaves contain especially high amounts of flavonoids, saponins and tannins – all valuable nutrients. These leaves are one of the first to unfurl and can be used to make a peppery, minty tea, rich in vitamin C. Birch leaves are simple with round corners and serrated edges. The leaves of downy birch are rounder in shape than those of silver birch, but both can be found in the UK.
Blackcurrant, Ribes nigrum
Use the leaves in spring and blackcurrant fruits in summer/Credit: Getty
Parts used: leaves (fruits in summer)
Blackcurrant is a woody medium-sized shrub native to Europe and Asia, which is grown for its small black berries, but it is also highly valued for its leaves. They are excellent at helping to support normal digestive function, and can be a useful appetite stimulant in times of illness. A small handful of fresh, young leaves can be made into a tasty tea with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory actions. They have palmate lobes and a serrated margin. All parts of the plant are strongly aromatic.
Common mallow, Malva sylvestris
Common mallow (Malva sylvestris, cheeses, high mallow, tall mallow) – plant species of the mallow genus Malva (family Malvaceae)/Credit: Getty
Parts used: leaves (flowers in summer and seeds in autumn)
This large, spreading plant can be found on roadside verges and along footpaths and its leaves can be used to make dolmas and as a replacement for spinach in almost any recipe. Adding the leaves to soups helps thicken them.
Common mallow leaves contain more than double the amount of protein per 100g than cultivated vegetables, such as spinach and kale, and contains fibre, calcium, magnesium, zinc and essential vitamins A, B, C and E. Identifiable by its five-lobed leaves – which appear on the stems – and more rounded leaves at the base of the plant. In June, its pink flowers can be seen on flowering spikes.
Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea
Ground ivy (creeping Charlie) – Glechoma hederacea, in amongst stone wall rocks/Credit: Getty
Parts used: leaves and flowers
This common perennial wildflower is found throughout Britain, aside from Ireland’s west coast and the Scottish Highlands, in damp semi-shaded woods, hedgerows or grassland. When used medicinally, this plant is a great expectorant and catarrh-clearing herb with additional anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties. To identify, look for its crinkly, opposite, heart-shaped leaves and slightly hairy stems with two to four purple flowers. It has a slightly musty, but minty, smell when its leaves are crushed.
Plantain, Plantago major
Plantago major plants/Credit: Getty
Parts used: leaves
In Britain, this plant is sometimes called ‘angel’s harps’ as, when the leaves are pulled apart, the fibres can be seen in a harp-like formation. This plant is common almost everywhere but the most acid grassland, appearing in meadows, grazed pasture, lawns, sea cliffs and sand dunes.
With anti-inflammatory properties, it is a versatile wound-healer and used extensively in herbal first aid for boils, splinters, pus, and dirty and infected wounds. It is also a restorative herb for mucous membranes of the respiratory system, which helps with many types of allergies. Its leaves are broad, large and oval with wavy edges and seven large nerves running through the whole length of the leaves.
Cow parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris
Cow parsley/Credit: Getty Images
Cow parsley is a member of the carrot family and is often confused Queen Anne’s Lace, although they aren’t the same thing. It’s an excellent herb to give your dishes a bit of a twist.
Garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata
Garlic mustard/Credit: Getty Images
Garlic mustard flowers in April, it’s also known as Jack-by-the-hedge and hedge garlic. Use it in sauces, dressings and soups to add a taste of peppery garlic.