You Can Forage for Wild Plants All Summer Long

There is surprising edible abundance in fields and forests at this time of year.

woman foraging

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There is great potential to obtain food from the wild, no matter where you live. As an avid gardener and permaculture expert, I forage throughout the whole year for food and other resources. What you get depends on the season. By the time summer rolls around, the fresh greens are not quite as palatable as they were earlier in the spring, and many of the autumnal fruits aren't ripe yet.

I will not be able to harvest blackberries, crabapples, sloes, elderberries, and other wild fruits for another month or two, though some of these may be nearing harvest where you live—but there is still plenty of wild food available. So even when you are busy in your garden at this time of year, you should still consider visiting the "wild larder" from time to time. Here are just a few of my favorite plants to forage at this time of year.

Always forage responsibly. Don't consume any plants that you have not identified with certainty. If you are unsure of the plant or if it's your first time foraging, consult with an expert.

Wild Raspberries (Rubus spp.)

In July and August, wild raspberries are one of the most abundant wild berries in my area. They grow in my garden, where I encourage them, and in the hedgerows and margins of the surrounding farm fields and woodlands. Wild raspberries are smaller and sometimes tarter than cultivated varieties, but they certainly are delicious—a real highlight of the foraging year. 

Wild Strawberries (Fragraria Vesca)

Another berry that I am lucky to have in my area is the wild strawberry. These small fruits really do taste better than garden strawberries, so if you see them, take full advantage of that wild bounty. It can only be had at this time of year.

wild strawberry plants

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Bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus)

I do not have to travel far to reach the upland areas where these berries grow in abundance. Bilberries, or blaeberries, are at their best in July and early August. They are not usually cultivated and, unlike blueberries that grow in gardens, are not easy to grow at home, so you will have to take a trip into the wild to enjoy them. There may be other Vaccinium species fruiting at this time of year, as well. It's worth getting to know the wild berries that grow in your region.

Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium)

One of the most vibrant plants of hedgerows and field margins at this time of year where I live is rosebay willowherb, also known as fireweed. I forage for fresh shoots in spring to use as a green vegetable, but I also like to harvest the petals in summer, as these can be used in making syrups and jellies.

Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica)

stinging nettle leaves
Nettle leaves are best eaten young; cooking or drying them removes their sting.

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Another of the most abundant weeds in my area is stinging nettle. For some, this might seem a disadvantage, but these are incredibly useful plants. I forage young shoots to eat in spring and, from mid-July through August, I forage for another reason—to collect the tallest and best nettles for their plant fibers. I peel the nettles and remove the woody inner core, then separate the strands of fiber and outer bark to dry. I use these to make natural cordage or twine, which is useful for a range of crafting projects which I can take on when I have more time later in the year.

Fat Hen (Chenopodium album)

While nettles are past their prime for eating in the summer months, fat hen is a foraged green that I continue to enjoy. It can be cooked, yielding a green vegetable that is practically indistinguishable from spinach. 

Plantain (Plantago major)

This is another spinach-like green that I harvest and eat raw in spring, but then cook as the season progresses. Pick large fresh leaves, remove the major veins, and boil. Use as you would use any other cooked green leafy vegetable.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow is a wonderful summer plant. The leaves can be used in moderation in salads or sauces, and used to make herbal tea. (This is its predominant use, more so than culinary.)

woman looking at yarrow plants
Yarrow flowers can be dried or eaten fresh on salads, soups, etc.

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Wild Angelica (Angelica sylvestris)

Unmistakable once its flowers appear in July, Angelica stalks are commonly sugared and used in confectionery. They can also be used in place of celery in soups and sauces. The leaves are flavorful and taste great added as an herb to soups and stews.

White Clover (Trifolium repens)

White clover flowers, which bloom over the summer months, add a pea-like taste to salads when picked young, or can be baked into breads. The nutritious leaves can be added—cooked and in moderation—to a range of dishes as a pot herb. When dried, the leaves impart a vanilla-like flavor to cakes and other baked goods.

These are just a few examples of the wild plants I like to forage in the summer, before the autumn arrives.