There's something so lovely about wild food. Not just the way it tastes, but also the experience of foraging for it. It's late September, the trees are laden with berries, & what better way to spend a wet weekend than to take my little godson Jack elderberry picking.
Here is important point number one when it comes to foraging. Check & double check that what you're picking is genuinely edible. Berries can be extremely poisonous (Into The Wild anyone?) Mushrooms equally dangerous. If you are unsure, check with somebody who is sure. I have done lots of lovely foraging courses - these are great fun & teach you so much about wild edibles.
Elderberries must be eaten cooked. Unripe or uncooked berries or flowers from the plant can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Larger amounts can cause even more serious poisoning. You should also;
- Avoid these in any form if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Remember other parts of the elder tree, including the branches, twigs, leaves, roots, and seeds, are toxic. They contain a type of cyanide called glycoside
- Bear in mind it's a diuretic, be careful when you take it if you’re on medicines that make you pee more
In history, elderberries date as far back as 400 BC, and Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” called the elder tree his “medicine chest.” In folk medicine today, the elderberry is widely considered one of the world’s most healing plants.
The berries and flowers of elderberry are packed with antioxidants and vitamins that may boost your immune system. They can help tame inflammation, lessen stress, and help protect your heart, too.
Some experts recommend elderberry to help prevent and ease cold and flu symptoms. They have also been used as a treatment for;
- Joint and muscle pain
- Nasal infections
- Kidney problems
- Skin conditions
Speak with your doctor if you have any concerns.
Rosehips are another autumn favourite. I know a couple of places close to me where these brightly coloured edible fruits of the wild rose plant can be found.
Full of vitamin C, rose hips are used for stomach disorders, preventing irritation and ulcers, as well as diarrhea, constipation, gallstones, gallbladder ailments, lower urinary tract and kidney disorders, fluid retention, gout, back and leg pain (sciatica), diabetes, high cholesterol, weight loss, high blood pressure, chest ailments, fever, increasing immune function during exhaustion, increasing blood flow in the limbs, increasing urine flow and quenching thirst. You might also see rosehip listed on your natural skin care creams as topically it's wonderful for minimising scarring.
Hawthorn berries contain various organic compounds that interact with gut flora to improve the digestion of nutrients. The berries were a favourite of the Native American Indians as a heart tonic and they also used them for gastrointestinal complaints. Brilliant for heart health and absolutely packed with antioxidants. They enhance the antioxidant activity of vitamins A, C and E, improve circulation, strengthen capillaries, reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and have been shown to reduce histamine production, making them useful in the treatment of allergies.
Hawthorn Berry side effects are uncommon and only a few cases of mild nausea & dizziness have been reported. They can however interact with prescription medication. Hawthorn may affect blood pressure, and should not be taken with medications for high blood pressure, including beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers. Additionally, people taking digoxin should not take Hawthorn & it's not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.