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Foraging is a great way to spend time in nature, learn about the landscape around you and find free and healthy foraged food to enhance your wellbeing.
Following the general principles set out below should help ensure that your foraging is responsible and unobtrusive. These guidelines are aimed at people foraging for their own use, rather than those wishing to forage commercially.
The Foragers Association has an excellent guide for those wishing to supply businesses with foraged materials.
Be aware that this guidance and website is not designed to help you identify species. You should always check anything you are unsure of in a good plant identification guide and ideally, cross-reference it with a second source.
If you have any reservations about a species that you are trying to identify, do not harvest or consume that plant.
Safety is paramount when you are foraging, some plants and fungi are deadly and can resemble friendly counterparts, so only forage what you are completely confident in your identification of. If you are at all unsure, leave well alone!
Protect and Preserve
Be selective about what you harvest. Please bear in mind that any plants that you gather could be an important food or habitat source for animals and insects. Pick only what you will use, only harvest plentiful species and do not take everything from one plant, tree or area.
Be mindful and do not harvest any unusual or rare plant from an area.
When gathering, try to spread out over a larger area rather than exhausting one particular spot and if it’s clear that other people have already foraged in the same place then try to move elsewhere. This will allow the area to recover for future harvesting and a healthy eco-system.
Try to avoid excessive trampling of plants or soil. Step carefully and enjoy your surroundings.
Woodland, Field and Hill
If you are picking in an area used by livestock, stay well away from animals with young offspring, as they can be very territorial and protective.
You may want to avoid areas which are heavily used by dog walkers.
If you are gathering in an environment with a water supply which is close to livestock, be sure to correctly wash and cook any picked plants. Some plants such as watercress have a risk of liver fluke unless they are boiled. Be sure to research the correct preparation method for foraged foods, depending on the area from where you have harvested.
Be aware of changing weather and tidal patterns, you don’t want to be caught out by a rising tide if you are foraging on the seashore.
If you are gathering seaweed, cutting rather than pulling the plant will leave the headfast still attached to the rock and able to regrow.
Certain species such as Japanese knotweed are invasive and it is illegal to cause them to spread. Please ensure that you are familiar with your legal obligations, before foraging any invasive plant species.
Do also be aware that invasive species may have been treated (sprayed to eradicate it, for example). This may make them unsuitable and potentially harmful to foragers.
Find out more
We encourage that you read some excellent guides which have been created by other foragers about the craft to ensure you can enjoy harvesting wild plants fully.
Foraging in Scotland for your own use is permitted under the right of responsible access in Scotland. This right also comes with responsibilities, which are further explained with more information at https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/