Updated: Nov 1, 2022
The most important foraging practice is to learn not to eat, nimble or lick until you are 100% confident it is edible. There are certain circumstances where you can taste it without knowing the exact plant (usually when you are certain what plant family it's in, and know that it’s a safe plant family) otherwise tasting without identifying is a risky business. Equally important, but not so immediately life threatening, is foraging etiquette. Below are some points about being a considerate forager (and a decent human):
Foraging is entering into a relationship with an ecosystem, place or plant community. This relationship is reciprocal. Each member gives and receives. With time and gentle observation you will find how you can contribute to the relationship, but in the meantime the next few points are some basic principles of reciprocity.
Pick litter! Simple. Take home at least as much litter as food.
Cause as little damage as possible. Follow deer and badger paths to minimise damage to plants or you can create and maintain your own paths.
Leave the vast majority of plants for other creatures and for the plans to regenerate. For example, if you see only a few plants then that population is not stable enough for any harvesting. In the words of Mark from Galloway Wild Foods, foraging is “thinning abundance”.
To avoid waste only take what you are able to process in the next 24 hours. Processing wild food can be laborious so only take what you know you’ll be able to prepare because it’s shelf life is drastically less than supermarket food.
As long as you harvest only the above ground parts of plants, foraging is legal except within Special Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSIs) where certain prohibitions exist to conserve specific rare populations in the area. More about protected areas and SSSIs, here, including a handy search function for you to look up your usual foraging grounds.
Finally, believe it or not our wild siblings want to be enjoyed, we evolved alongside them so do them justice by enjoying their unique flavours as best you can.