Our guide on how and what to forage for in March 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.
Common sorrel Rumex acetosa
Common sorrel, also known as garden sorrel, is found throughout Britain, usually where there is iron in the soil. Sorrel has long been an important foodstuff, especially as flavouring. It has a sharp, lemony taste from the oxalic acid it contains and a few leaves can enliven the drabbest of salads. You can confirm identification of sorrel by looking at the leaves trailing edges, which end in points.
Pick a handful of sorrel and make this delicious, freshly foraged soup – delicious with warm crusty bread.
Cleavers Galium aparine
Fruits and leaves of cleavers can be used to add flavour to drinks/Credit: Getty
Parts used: all parts above ground (aerial parts)
From early spring, this plant forms dense carpets among hedges and grassy banks. Find the creeping, straggling square-shaped stems that grow along the ground and over other plants. Known as ‘sticky weed’, the tiny hooks on the leaves and stems cling onto everything! It has very simple leaves that are positioned in whorls of six to eight at intervals up the stem. After washing, add to a jug of cold water to add a light cucumber flavour.
Herbalists associate cleavers with the element of water; a reflection of its cleansing actions on the body. The plant is thought to aid in the flushing out of stagnant lymphatic toxins that can build up over the winter months. It is also thought to be a cooling and moistening herb, helping to relieve inflammation from the body.
Our beginner’s guide to foraging in Britain explains what you can gather in hedgerows, woodlands, along the coast and in the countryside.
Learn how to forage responsibly and safely, what’s in season each month and where to find it, plus tasty recipe ideas.
Gorse flowers: Common Ulex europeaus, Western Ulex gallii and Dwarf Ulex minor
Parts used: blossoms
These yellow petals, described as having scents ranging from coconut to almond, can be seen in all kinds of habitats, from heaths and coastal grasslands to towns and gardens.
There are three similar species of gorse in the UK: Common gorse is widespread, flowering from January to June; Western gorse flowers, in late summer and autumn, are found in western UK; Dwarf gorse flowers later and can be found in south-east England.
Add gorse flowers to your dough when baking your next loaf – the flowers keep their colour, leaving each slice speckled with gold. It has spiny branches with thin, spine-like, trifoliate leaves.
Guelder rose Viburnum Opulus
Parts used: bark (fruits in summer)
Easier to spot in August due to its bunch of bold and bright red berries, this springtime bark holds medicinal value. It has antispasmodic actions on the body and is used to relieve cramps, tense muscles and spasms. It is found almost everywhere in England, in hedges and along woodland edges, but becomes rarer as you move north and is almost entirely absent in Scotland. It grows to 4–5 m tall with opposite, three-lobed leaves that are long and broad with serrated edges and a wrinkled surface.
Dandelion Taraxacum officinale
Parts used: leaves (flowers in summer and roots in winter)
Dandelion is fantastic for stimulating digestion and liver function through its bitter leaves. They are a common addition to springtime salads and their bitterness can be counteracted with lemon juice. Its leaves and flowers have been used for centuries to treat eczema and other skin conditions. In winter, its basal rosette of toothed leaves are widespread on lawns, roadsides, disturbed banks and shores of waterways. In late spring, bright yellow flowers appear, which can be used for their anti-inflammatory and mildly pain-relieving actions on the body.
Sweet violet Viola odorata
Parts used: aerial parts
It is said that the Romans spent more time growing violets for their wine than growing olives. This colourful plant adds a purple and blue hue to most liquids, such as wine, tea, vinegar and honey. Its flowers are cooling and soothing (demulcent in action) and were used as a beauty treatment during Victorian times to keep skin youthful. You can see the bright purple flowers and heart-shaped leaves appearing in hedgerows, roadsides and lightly shaded woodlands.
The plant, native to Britain, is also known as Bear leek, Bear’s garlic, Broad-leaved garlic, Buckrams, Ramsons, Wood garlic and can grow to heights of between 45 and 50 cm.
The leaves and flowers are edible. Young leaves are delicious added to soups, sauces and pesto. Leaves appear in late 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.