Here at Wild Food UK we teach the same rules that we follow. Without knowing them you could be damaging the local ecology, unwittingly breaking the law, or putting yourself or others in danger. Therefore with safety, sustainability and society in mind please see our 9 foraging rules below:
1. Never eat anything unless you are 100% sure it is safe.
The first rule of foraging is simple. Never eat anything poisonous! When foraging for wild food, you must be able to correctly identify what you are picking, otherwise you should not eat it. Never eat any wild food without multiple sources of positive identification – do not eat any wild plants or mushrooms just from viewing this website. SOME WILD PLANTS AND MUSHROOMS IN THE UK ARE DEADLY POISONOUS. Please pick responsibly, you should not pick a basketful first hoping its edible to research later, as you may be unwittingly picking a rare or endangered species.
2. The rules we teach only apply to the UK.
You should really, only apply these rules in the UK. Other countries and land masses have different plants and mushrooms that are poisonous and look very similar to some of our native safe species. The rules for foraging are different depending on what type of land you are on, but they mainly come from the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. With a bit of the theft act, some of the foragers code and just some things that we at Wild Food UK would like you to do, so that we know that you are foraging responsibly and sustainably.
3. The Countryside Act & Foraging.
The countryside act says that foraging the 4 F’s from common land is acceptable so long as it is for personal consumption only. The 4 F’s are fruit, foliage, flora and fungus, This means moderate amounts for you and your family only, and most obviously not for Commercial Foraging purposes. The rules on common land are basically; ‘take what you want for personal consumption’ but to pick with respect. Respect the trees, plants and mushrooms, the surrounding environment, wildlife that may have a dependence on with what you are taking, other people and their property. The countryside act also states that you shouldn’t uproot any plant from common land. In addition there are often localised Bylaws relating to picking in a specified area. To find out the local bylaws you need to look on park or borough websites, or check the backs of the big signs when you walk into a park. If you see something that relates to the removal of plants or fungi from the area then don’t do it. There are plenty of places where you can still forage so find one of those.
4. Our Picking Limits.
In regards to 3 of the F’s we go by what the countryside act says, picking responsibly for personal consumption. However with regards to fungus we go by what the British mycological institute said, which was that you should never pick more than 1.7 kg of mushrooms on any foray. We only see the fruiting body of a mushrooms organism; a bit like its apples; and each organism will produce thousands of mushrooms and each of those can produce millions or potentially even trillions of spores; or potential new mushrooms. So as long as everyone leaves at least half of what they find behind there should always be mushrooms left to procreate and for others to enjoy. As long as you are not digging the mycelium up from underground you are not harming the organism. Here at Wild Food UK we have also put a further caveat into the foragers code; that you never pick more than half of what you find of anything from anywhere. The pick no more than half what you find rule applies to all the plants and fruits too.
5. Wild Food UK SSSI Site Policy.
Please stay away from all Sites of Special Scientific Interest. These places are SSSI for a reason, such as a rare environment, butterfly, orchid, or even mushroom, and unless you really understand the SSSI nature of the site you may inadvertently do some damage whilst foraging. In our opinion at Wild Food UK, not enough of Britain is left for nature and for science, and we don’t need to forage on these sites so let’s not.
6. Nature Reserve Rules.
Nature reserves often don’t mind you foraging as long as you stick to the countryside act, use common sense and be considerate. National Trust properties are generally the same, but please ensure you check with the individual nature reserve or National Trust property first.
7. Farmland Rules.
Although farmland is private property you will often find that there are byways running across or around most of it. As long as you don’t leave the paths, observe the countryside act, and don’t touch anything that has clearly been planted, then you are ok to forage. If you stray off the byways you are likely trespassing on somebody else’s land and livelihood, so in essence you are breaking the law. The best thing to do if you see a foragable plant and you consider its placement somewhat ambiguous, is to find out who the farm belongs to and speak to them first. This of course comes with a warning, crops are often sprayed with nasties and if you are foraging around the edge of a sprayed field, be aware that your takings will likely be laced with chemicals that you should not touch or ingest.
8. Commercial Foraging.
Wild food became fashionable in fancy restaurants, this led to a gold rush in and around London’s green spaces, which resulted in an unstable quantity of fungi being removed from nature. Many boroughs reacted by enforcing complete picking bans through new local bylaws. Some famously restricted places are Epping Forest, Richmond Park, Wimbledon Common, Windsor Great Park and more. This of course has impacted responsible foragers and now foraging close to London could lead to a fine of up to £500 for picking 1 mushroom. The only place you can legally commercially forage in the UK is on private property.
9. Private Property Advice.
On private property you are not bound by the Countryside Act, however we still advise that you are sympathetic to the area and pick with respect, common sense and care. It is essential that before picking on private land, you have the landowner’s full permission. If you do see mushrooms on someone’s lawn, or a tree dripping with fruit that seem to be going to waste, then knock on that person’s door and ask if they wouldn’t mind you harvesting their bounty. You will likely be given a surprised look, but we have never had anyone upset by us asking. If they are willing, ensure you only pick what they are happy for you to take. Often people don’t realise what they have, and are pleased to be enlightened!
Endangered Mushrooms: https://www.britmycolsoc.org.uk/mycology/conservation/red-data-list
Countryside Act: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1981/69
Invasive plant species of particular concern to DEFRA: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/manage-threats-to-woodland-destructive-animals-invasive-species