Foraging is a fascinating skill that both deepens our relationship to nature and empowers our health. This article shares some interesting plants you can forage here in the UK in June.
Foraging is a wonderful way to connect both with nature, and nourish our health. We also want to spread the word about safe and ethical foraging, so please also read our article “A guide to safe and sustainable foraging” to learn how to practise foraging sustainably.
A useful link with images that can help with identification as well as botanical information is Wild Flower Finder.
In this article, Robin Harford shares some edible plants you can safely harvest from the wild in June.
Orache (Atriplex spp.)
Orache, specifically Atriplex prostrata, is a delicious variety among many in the Atriplex family. It pairs well with wild greens due to its mild flavour. The best time to harvest the leaves is before the flower stalk matures. After that, you can prepare these greens like spinach or Swiss chard. They make sumptuous pie fillings and additions to soups (2).
When mixed with dock and sorrel, the leaves form the foundation for a traditional soup, which improves its taste and nutritional value. Boil the leaves and season with butter. Young sprigs and leaves are also great in salads (3).
The mild flavour can turn into a tangy treat when lacto-fermented. In Georgia, they use the leaves in a dish called phkhali. Phkhali is a traditional Georgian spread or pâté made from vegetables (3).
Samphire (Salicornia spp.)
Samphire, a seaside plant, has had various local names throughout history. John Gerard, an English herbalist from the 16th century, called it crabgrass and frog grass. This salt-marsh plant was traditionally pickled in malt vinegar, becoming a tangy vegetable side dish.
On the coast of England, where it is abundantly harvested, it is commonly known as samphire, samfer, or samper. This plant, also known as glasswort, was traded in East Anglia, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, and Cambridge markets as a food item. Its popularity peaked when it was served as a delicacy at the 1981 wedding reception of the Prince and Princess of Wales.
The young shoots add a crunchy texture to salads. Alternatively, you can quickly boil them and serve them with butter, an excellent side dish for poultry or lamb.
To enjoy the tender flesh of glasswort, hold the roots and slide the stems between your teeth to separate the flesh from the central spine. If harvested at the right stage, the tough stem won’t have fully developed (4).
Sea aster (Aster tripolium)
Nowadays, people sometimes collect the succulent leaves of sea aster for pickling. Historically, it was marketed as rock samphire, indicating its similar use in cooking.
Although sea aster has yet to be widely used in diets, modern chefs are reviving interest. This plant is versatile; its leaves and stems can be pickled, cooked, or used raw in salads. The large leaves are tender and flavourful. Whether steamed or raw, they add a unique salty kick to dishes.
Sea aster is an excellent addition to salads, soups, and stews, with its leaves being the primary part used for cooking. In addition, a 2004 study by Khot et al. revealed these plants to be rich in protein, highlighting their potential for commercial use or as nutritious snacks (4).
Sea purslane (Atriplex portulacoides)
As a seaside plant, sea purslane can be pickled like samphire. Its thick, succulent leaves have a natural sea salt flavour and a crunchy texture, making them perfect for salads. You can stir-fry the salty leaves with meat or fish, or enjoy them raw or cooked.
Traces of this plant were found in burnt food remains from the late Neolithic period in northern Holland, suggesting its everyday use around 2500 BC (5). In Italy, this herb was traditionally eaten in salads or boiled. In places like Marche and Sardinia, it was included in fish dishes. The buds can be stored in vinegar and used as a caper substitute (5).
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
Meadowsweet was one of fifty ingredients in a drink called ‘Save’ that Chaucer mentioned in A Knight’s Tale (6). As Watts explains, the dried leaves were once used to lend an aromatic bouquet to mead, port, and claret (7). Foster and Duke describe the flavour of meadowsweet in drinks as resembling ‘wintergreen’ (8).
In addition, a 2017 study by Olennikov et al. on Meadowsweet teas revealed their high content of health-promoting compounds, suggesting them as a potential source for functional beverages (9).
Wild Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
The flowers of wild fennel, removed from their stems and sautéed, can be a lovely addition to salads or soups. Sauté the flowers quickly in a hot pan with a touch of olive oil, and season with salt and paprika to enhance the flavour (10). Historically, wild fennel was often served with fish, with a 1723 recipe from The Cook’s and Confectioner’s Dictionary pairing it with mackerel (11). In Catalonia, it’s used in soups, fish dishes, snail dishes, pork and wild boar dishes, and even pastries. Wild Fennel fronds are included in mixed green dishes in Greece and Italy.
- Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Accessed September 14, 2022. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1981/69/section/13
- Fleischhauer SG, Spiegelberger R, Guthmann J. Enzyklopädie Essbare Wildpflanzen: 2000 Pflanzen Mitteleuropas; Bestimmung, Sammeltipps, Inhaltsstoffe, Heilwirkung, Verwendung in der Küche. AT-Verlag; 2020.
- Bussmann RW. Ethnobotany of the Caucasus. Springer International Publishing; 2017.
- Harford R. Forage in Summer: The Food and Medicine of Britain’s Wild Plants. Eatweeds Press; 2022.
- Zanella L, Vianello F. Functional Food from Endangered Ecosystems: Atriplex portulacoides as a Case Study. Foods. 2020;9(11):1533. doi:10.3390/foods9111533
- Leyel CF. Herbal Delights: Botanical Information and Recipes for Cosmetics, Remedies and Medicines, Condiments and Spices, and Sweet and Savory Treats for the Table. Gramercy Pub. Co.; 1986.
- Watts D. Dictionary of Plant Lore. Elsevier; 2007.
- Foster S, Duke JA. Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 2014.
- Olennikov D, Kashchenko N, Chirikova N. Meadowsweet Teas as New Functional Beverages: Comparative Analysis of Nutrients, Phytochemicals and Biological Effects of Four Filipendula Species. Molecules. 2016;22(1):16. doi:10.3390/ molecules22010016
- Roberts M. 100 Edible & Healing Flowers. 2nd edition. Struik Nature; 2014. (11) Nott J. The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary. London; 1723.