Leaves and shoots
Where can I pick leaves and shoots?
If you are after leaves and shoots from trees, it is important that you determine who owns the area you are foraging in, and ask for their permission. For example, the vast majority of spruce plantations are commercial, so it is possible that the pine forest you’re exploring is private property.
When are the leaves and shoots best?
The shoots on trees are best right before they open, and the leaves are best when they are bright green and have a matte surface. Spruce shoots are best when bright green, and soft and rubbery to the touch.
What kind of equipment do I need to forage leaves and shoots?
A pair of scissors and a container (or bag) is all you’ll need.
How do I pick leaves and shoots?
You can pick the fresh leaves directly from the tree or bush. Shoots from deciduous trees that have yet to open can be gently plucked off the branches with your fingers to avoid damaging the rest of the branch. Carefully snip off shoots just above the outermost light green spot. It can be tough on the plant or tree to have its leaves and shoots cut off, so always take a smaller amount from several branches or plants, rather than all from a single one. Put the plant parts in small plastic bags or containers, and avoid exposing them to direct sunlight. If you store the leaves in bags, wrap a wet towel around them to keep your harvest cool on the way home.
How do I clean leaves and shoots?
Rinse carefully and let them dry in open air.
What kind of equipment do I need to pick flowers?
Bring a pair of scissors to cut the stalks, as well as a basket with a moist kitchen towel in the bottom, where the flowers can breathe and avoid getting squished. You can also use plastic containers with a moist paper towel instead.
How do I pick flowers?
You can remove most flowers with your fingers, and only get the flower head without damaging the rest of the plant. Carefully put the flower heads on the moist surface. If you bring many flowers in the same container, separate them into layers with the moist paper towels.
How do I clean flowers?
The dominant flavor in flowers comes from the pollen and nectar, which are easily rinsed away. Instead of washing them, put the freshly picked flowers on a moist kitchen towel near an open window so small insects can fly or crawl away. Some flowers (like elderflower) have very bitter stalks, so cut them off as close to the flower head as possible, and remove any remnants of grass and withered leaves.
What kind of equipment do I need to pick berries?
Bring several shallow containers with lids. Segregate the berries by container, so the very ripe and soft berries that will easily get squished (ideal for jam or juice) go in one, and the sturdy berries you can use whole go in another. Be careful not to put too many berries on top of each other—those on the bottom will soon be crushed. If you are out picking raspberries, blackberries or sea buckthorn, which all have nasty thorns, bring gloves and wear long sleeves and pants to avoid cuts and scratches.
How do I clean the berries?
Clean the berries as soon as you get home by rinsing them carefully in a colander, and leave them out to dry on a piece of cloth. If you have a batch comprising both whole and smashed berries, put a dry dish towel over a cutting board, tilt the board, and pour the berries down the makeshift ramp. The smashed berries will have a tendency to stick to the tea towel, while the whole berries will trickle down and land on the table.
What kind of equipment do I need to pick fruit?
A fruit picker can be a big help when trying to reach fruits on trees—a ladder or a strong crate to stand on is also an option. Bring a basket or box to carry the fruits. If you plan to pick enough to fill several boxes, it helps if they can be stacked. Don’t pile your harvest too high, or the fruits on the bottom will be crushed. But they also need to be packed snug to avoid spilling during transportation. If you are moving the fruit over long distances, it is a good idea to wrap them in newspapers so they don't roll around and get bruised.
How do I pick fruit?
Fruits are ready for picking if you twist them 360 degrees and they let go of the branch without a struggle. If they hold fast, they are not ripe yet, and should be left on the branch. Ripe fruit has dark brown or almost black seeds, while immature seeds will be lighter. Be careful not to bruise the ripe fruits when picking them: even a small bump can attract mold.
How do I store fruit?
Every fruit has its own storage needs, but most prefer dry, dark, and cold places. Apples and pears keep for months if you store them correctly. Regularly check your fruits for mold, and remove any affected specimens as quickly as possible to avoid spoiling the rest of the harvest.
What kind of equipment do I need to forage nuts?
A ladder can be a big help to reach tree nuts, and it is a good idea to have a basket to carry your harvest.
How do I pick nuts?
It is preferable to pick the nuts directly from the trees, since they quickly develop mold and mildew once they fall to the ground. Ripe nuts will effortlessly separate from the branch when you pull them.
How do I clean nuts?
If you have gathered the nuts from the ground, they might be dirty and wet. Rinse them in hot tap water, and use a nail brush to clear any persistent dirt. Finally, give the nuts a bath in lukewarm water mixed with sodium benzoate to ward off fungus and mold. Let them dry on a kitchen towel for a couple of hours.
How do I store nuts?
Due to the moisture in fresh nuts, they don't keep for very long. To extend their shelf life, you should dry the nuts you don't plan to eat within a few days. Find a dry, warm place with good ventilation and hang them in a nylon stocking for two to three weeks—depending on the type of nut, and the level of humidity. Taste the nuts along the way, and stop the drying process when they have the right bite. Dried nuts should be stored in a cold, dark, and dry place.
What do I do if the nuts become moldy?
Storing nuts in an environment that is too cold will raise the risk of mold (especially with walnuts). Mold on the outside of a nut can be removed with sodium benzoate, but if there is mold on the inside, you have to discard it.
When should I forage for herbs?
Most herbs have several parts that are edible—as long as they are green—but different parts are good at different times. Initially, the herb will make leaves that are fresh and full of flavor. But eventually the herb will shift its efforts to flowering, often causing the leaves to become bitter and develop a woody consistency—especially if exposed to direct sunlight. Finally, at the end of its cycle, an herb will produce tasty seeds.
What kind of equipment do I need when foraging herbs?
Bring gloves in case you find stinging nettles, a vegetable knife or small pair of scissors for cutting tough stalks without destroying the plant, and bags or containers with lids of different sizes for storage. Finally, bring a backpack or basket to carry everything you harvest.
How do I pick herbs?
When it comes to weeds, you can bring home the whole plant and cut the stalk just above the ground. When picking herbs it is best to snip or cut right above a set of leaves on the stem, so the plant can regrow. Put the parts of the plant in the small bags or containers with a lid, and avoid exposing them to direct sunlight. If you’re storing your harvest in a bag, wrap a wet towel around it to keep the plants cool on the way home.
How do I clean herbs?
Clean the herbs with cold water as soon as you get home, dividing them into several batches for easy cleaning and to avoid squishing each other. A salad spinner makes it easy, but you can also use a strainer under running water. Be careful when cleaning some of the more delicate herbs, so they don’t break. Wash them carefully and put them on a kitchen towel to air dry for half an hour.
Do I need to be careful of anything when foraging herbs?
You can eat most herbs, but they are not all tasty, and a few are poisonous. Study toxic varieties in the area before you pick, and never take an herb if you are in doubt. Ramson, for example, looks a bit like the poisonous lily of the valley. Be particularly careful with plants from the carrot family, which comprises poisonous plants like hemlock, fool's parsley, or cowbane.
How do I store herbs?
Most herbs keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge in an airtight container. Put a moist piece of cloth in the bottom of the container, and don't pack the herbs very snug. Some herbs can be dried without losing any flavor, if you want to extend their shelf life. To do this, use a fan-assisted oven with the door open, using the fan but no heat. Turn them once in a while and in a day or two they should be completely dry. At that point, pack them in hermetic containers to avoid any fungus.
When is the best time to harvest seaweed?
Most seaweed is best in spring, before too much algae and shellfish start growing on the leaves, but you can pick seaweed throughout the summer in many places.
How do I recognize seaweed?
Seaweed does not have roots like a plant. Instead, it is attached to underwater rocks with suction cups. Because of this, you will never find seaweed on a sand bed. Instead, you may find long straws, that look like grass, growing in this type of ground. It is not seaweed, but seagrass—and it is not edible. Look for seaweed by coastal developments, along beaches with rock floors, or on reefs and rock formations. Even on a sandy beach, there might be rock formations in the water where seaweed can grow.
What kind of equipment do I need to pick seaweed?
It can be tricky to read the underwater landscape from above, so when you're picking seaweed, prepare to get wet. If you are not foraging during the warmest months of the year, you will appreciate a pair of long rubber boots or waders. During summer you can probably just roll up your pants and walk barefoot. Take along a pair of scissors too, for cutting the outer shoots of the leaves.
How do I pick seaweed?
Don't rip the seaweed off the rocks. Cut off or pick the outermost inches of the leaves, and leave the rest of the seaweed intact, so it can grow back. The types of seaweed that can be found near the coast (such as spiral wrack, bladderwrack, and gutweed) can be picked at low tide, without getting up to your knees in water. If you are in search of sea belt, which grows farther from the coast, you’ll need a diving mask and a snorkel. If the water is cold enough, a wetsuit may be necessary. Don't pick seaweed covered in small mussels and algae, as it takes too long to clean.
How do I clean seaweed?
Any excess sand, mussels, and algae stuck to the leaves after picking should be washed off in the seawater immediately. If you need to wash the seaweed again after coming home, you should make a saltwater solution with sea salt in a tub, and rinse the seaweed carefully.
Do I need to be careful of anything when foraging seaweed?
There is no poisonous seaweed—only different degrees of edibility. As a rule, avoid all plants growing on a sand bed or floating in the water, since they are usually not edible. Drifting seaweed is often dead. Only pick live seaweed stuck to underwater rocks, and never pick seaweed close to wastewater discharges or other places with a risk of the water being contaminated.
How do I store seaweed?
Seaweed keeps for a couple of days in the fridge, if you store it in a hermetically sealed container, but if you need to store it longer you should dry the seaweed, either in the oven or by hanging it up to dry for a couple of days. Place the seaweed in a fan-assisted oven at 120C until the flakes are crispy. If you store dried seaweed in an airtight container it has virtually no expiration date. You can always soak the seaweed again in saltwater.
What kinds of mushroom can I find?
There are many different types of mushroom, each with their own unique look. However, most mushrooms are identifiable by their stem and cap. Under the cap are either gills or pores. Pores are small holes, and gills look like strings going from the outer rim of the cap to the stem. Generally, mushrooms with pores under their caps (boletaceae) are edible and tasty, and there is virtually no risk in picking and eating them. You need to be more careful with gilled mushrooms: they can be delicious, but a lot of them have a foul taste, and some are poisonous. Many other mushrooms don't look like mushrooms at all, but can be eaten—if you know how to handle them.
What kind of equipment do I need to pick mushrooms?
A small knife, a brush, and a capacious basket are the most important tools for a mushroom hunt.
How do I pick the mushrooms?
Any mushroom with a thick stem (such as boletaceae) can be cut at its base. Mushrooms with more fragile stems should be picked by hand. Before putting it in your basket, carve open the mushroom to make sure it is not infested with worms.
How do I clean mushrooms?
Use your brush to remove leaves or dirt from the mushrooms before putting them in the basket. When you get home, you can clean them more thoroughly with the brush, but rinsing them in water should be a last resort: mushrooms soak up liquid, turning the springy meat dull and soggy.
Do I need to be careful of anything when foraging mushrooms?
Both the death cap and the European destroying angel are common, and potentially deadly. Less toxic mushroom varieties will give you stomach aches. In sum, only eat the mushroom if you are certain which type it is. If there is any doubt, there is no doubt: leave unidentified fungi alone.
How do I store mushrooms?
Fresh mushrooms should be stored in the fridge, in a paper bag or similar container that lets them breathe. Most mushrooms keep for three to four days when stored this way, but boletaceae quickly become flaccid and rubbery, thus demanding immediate consumption. A lot of mushrooms can be frozen or dried if you want to extend the mushroom season in your kitchen. Thawed or macerated mushrooms might not be as interesting as their fresh kin, but they are perfect in stews and risotto.
How do I dry mushrooms?
Not all mushrooms tolerate being dried, so first be sure their type is amenable to the process. Quick drying takes four to five hours at 50C in a fan-assisted oven. Cut the mushrooms into thin slices before putting them in the oven. Open the door once in a while to let the steam out. You can also dry the mushrooms on a heater for about 24 hours, or simply put them on a paper towel in a room with a draft for a couple of days. Dried mushrooms can be stored in an airtight container for about a year, and can be macerated in water in a couple of hours.
How do I freeze mushrooms?
If you want to freeze the mushrooms you should cut them into smaller bits and blanch or fry them for a couple of minutes. The frozen mushrooms will keep for up to a year, if you haven't used any fat in the frying pan. If you fry them in fat before freezing them, they only keep for half that time; the upside to using fat is that you can take them from the freezer and pour them directly into your dish.
Get foraging with VILD MAD
Foraging doesn’t require extensive training or expertise to yield safe, delicious bounty. All you need is a little planning, a thoughtful attitude, and the full use of your senses. Whether you’re after specific ingredients, or just the pleasure of spotting food during a stroll, this guide offers important information to consider before leaving home. To make your inaugural trip as fruitful as possible, do the following before reading the rest of the guide, and certainly before you start foraging.
• Select a few ingredients you want to find. Bookmark them in the app for ease of reference.
• Read the “Nature” and “Senses” sections related to each ingredient, and study the pictures carefully so that you can recognize your desired plants in the wild.
How do I harvest ingredients?
Some plants require special techniques and tools for proper harvesting, while others can be twisted or snapped free by hand. Read the relevant guide in the “Encyclopedia” section to learn whether you need specific equipment.
Do the seasons influence foraging?
Nature always has something to offer the intrepid forager, but exactly what you find will be entirely dictated by the time of year. In spring you will find a lot of tender herbs, seaweed, and a few mushrooms. In summer you can still pick herbs and mushrooms, edible flowers, and some berries. Fall is the season of fruit, berries, nuts, and herbs. In winter you can find a few herbs and a bit of seaweed. Some plants have multiple edible parts that become ripe in different seasons. Elder is a good example: you can pick the flowers during the summer, and the berries later in the year. Read about the development of each plant over the course of the year in the “Nature” section of its description. The VILD MAD app and the website will always display plants that are in season.
How do I forage sustainably?
Always be respectful of local ecology when foraging by following these simple rules:
• Take care of the plants you forage. Always read the “Nature” section for each ingredient, so you know how to forage without destroying the plant and ruining its opportunity to reproduce.
• Think about the plant’s life cycle and the next forager. Leave something for the next person, and never pick the last of anything. If all of the elderflowers are picked in the summer, there won’t be any elderberries to forage in the fall.
• Only forage what you need, and use everything you bring home. It is best to forage with a recipe in mind, so you know exactly how much of a wild ingredient you need.
• Harvest each species in an amount that matches its abundance. In other words, forage many plants of the plentiful varieties, but fewer of the more scarce varieties. Plants considered weeds, like stinging nettles and Japanese knotweed, can be harvested liberally. Conversely, show restraint with more scattered plants.
How do I find the plants I want to forage?
Two piece of information are necessary to find specific plants: the type of landscape in which it is found, and the particular conditions it needs to thrive.
• To break down where to find various wild foods, Vild Mad has different topographic categories, called foraging landscapes: cities or towns, open land, forests, and waterways.
• Once you know which kind of landscape to visit, you need to know what conditions the plant prefers, called the foraging place. Does the plant like sunshine or shade? Does it prefer moist or dry soil?
Both the foraging landscape and the foraging place for your desired ingredient can be found in the “Nature” section of its description. Once you are familiar with them, all you need to guide you is your senses.
How do I recognize wild, edible plants?
All plants have distinctive characteristics to the trained forager. If there is any risk of a plant being confused with something dangerous or undesirable, it will be highlighted in the plant’s “Nature” section. If your desired plant can be confused with anything poisonous, take extra care in learning how to spot the difference and avoid harvesting when you have any doubts.
When and where is it illegal to forage?
Information about foraging laws and regulations can be found under “Foraging rules” in the “Encyclopedia” section.
How does the weather influence foraging?
Before foraging, always check the weather forecast and consider the patterns of the last few weeks, as this affects ingredients in two ways:
• Although all plants are seasonal, the recent temperature, precipitation, and wind can affect plant development. These varieties can cause wild food to bloom earlier or later than expected.
• Weather also substantially impacts the condition of the ingredients when you find them. Recent rainfall or a long drought period can mean the difference between firm and flaccid herbs. Moist weather with high temperatures is perfect weather for mushrooms, but can be ruinous to others.
VILD MAD foraging rules
VILD MAD’s foraging rules are a streamlined version of Denmark’s law. Here you will find answers on how, where, and when you are allowed to forage.
The rules presented here are not an exhaustive guide to how to behave in nature; for that, look to the Nature Protection Law (“Naturbeskyttelsesloven”), the Access Act (“Adgangsbekendtgørelsen”), and the Field and Road Peace Act (“Mark- og Vejfredsloven”).
In Denmark, everyone is guaranteed access to natural areas and is allowed to move freely within them, but landowners – whether private or public– can expand access beyond what the law specifies. In protected areas, public access may be more restricted or more expansive than normal regulations guarantee.
So, you are allowed to spend time in any natural area in Denmark, but when and how you may forage depends on the type of environment you are in, and on who owns it.
As a general rule for all environments and forms of ownership, you are allowed to move around any natural environment from 6 AM to sunset, foraging herbs, berries, fruit, mushrooms, and flowers for your own consumption. In private areas, however, you are only allowed to forage what you can reach from the road or path, unless another agreement has been made. According to the Code of Jutland (”Jyske Lov”), which was drafted in 1241 but still applies today, you are allowed to forage as much as you can fit inside your hat. In contemporary terms, that would be the equivalent of a small plastic bag. You are not allowed to forage for commercial purposes, nor are you allowed to uproot or prune any plants.
Below, you’ll find information on what is permissible in different categories of natural environments. We call these environments ‘foraging landscapes.’
Foraging Landscape: Forests
(The Nature Agency: Forest)
In a public forest, you are allowed to forage anywhere, while in private forests you may only take what you can reach from the path. In public forests you are allowed to forage around the clock, but in private forests you are limited to the hours between 6 AM and sunset.
Foraging Landscape: Beaches and Salt Marshes
(The Nature Agency: Beaches and dunes
You are allowed to forage anywhere on a beach, and, as long as the time spent there isn’t excessive, in salt marshes as well. These rules apply at all times.
Foraging Landscape: Urban Areas, Grasslands, Field Drains, Hedgerows, Lakes, Streams and Rivers
(The Nature Agency: Uncultivated areas (commons, bogs, moors, non-cultivated meadows etc.)
You are always allowed to forage in uncultivated public areas, while foraging on uncultivated private areas is limited to the hours between 6 AM and sunset.
If the area is private, you can contact the owner, and ask for permission to forage at different hours. You can find the owner through your municipality or by accessing the website www.boligejer.dk, which identifies the owners of posted properties.
The most important rule is to be prudent and treat nature with respect and consideration. Both out of respect for the land’s plants and wildlife, and out of respect for the people who own and inhabit it, we should behave responsibly, and cherish our access to the land.
If you follow these simple rules, you can enjoy foraging with a clean conscience. Be aware that additional local restrictions may apply for reasons of security or public order, or to protect the environment. Don’t count on finding these restrictions on site; the best way to stay informed is by following statements and preservation documents issued by the municipality you want to visit, or by visiting www.boligejer.dk.
VILD MAD’s foraging rules are based on the Nature Agency leaflet ”Don't keep off nature.”
Did you eat something poisonous?
If you ate a wild ingredient and suspect it might be poisonous then call Giftlinjen immediately. See contact information below. Always bring the ingredient you ate as that makes it easier for the doctors and nurses to assess the situation. Giftlinjen cover all of Denmark and can be reached 24/7.