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Tasty morsels lurk in our hedgerows - by Dumfries and Galloway countryside ranger Tom Henry - DNG Online Limited
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Tasty morsels lurk in our hedgerows – by Dumfries and Galloway countryside ranger Tom Henry

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By Abbey Morton
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Tasty morsels lurk in our hedgerows - by Dumfries and Galloway countryside ranger Tom Henry

WE MIGHT not have the sun and warmth but there are still a few summery things out there if you are willing to brave the weather.

The hedgerows are sprinkled with the bright red of wild raspberries and many of the hills are covered in the blue of blueberries.
For me wild fruit is one of the best things about working outdoors at this time of year.
Being able to browse the undergrowth for the best of the crop is fantastic.
And as for the resulting rowan jelly, rosehip
jam and elderberry wine, it can be way better than anything you can buy in the supermarket.
Collecting wild food has caused a right row again this year with claims that promotion by TV chefs has caused areas
to be stripped of all edible mushrooms.
This has been going on for years and there are good arguments on both sides.
Dumfries and Galloway however is not the same as the New Forest or areas on the edge of London which can suffer from the sheer numbers of people.
On the other hand you should never take the entire crop when you are collecting. Remember, those fruits are food for birds
and animals as well as ourselves.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code allows us to collect wild berries and mushrooms for our own use.
Collecting them for
commercial purposes is not allowed so if you want to sell your wild fruit jam, make sure you have the landowner’s permission first.
Also you must not cause any damage while collecting so be careful not to trample plants or damage property.
You do also have to be careful when collecting any sort of wild food to make sure what you are eating isn’t poisonous or
contaminated.
Following a few basic common sense rules should ensure that you can enjoy the best of the forest fruit without an upset stomach afterwards.
With all wild food if you are not a hundred percent sure that you know what you’ve got, don’t eat it.
For example, Cow Parsley is a 150cm tall plant with umbels of small white flowers and pinnate leaves which can make a nice addition to salads.
Hemlock is a 150cm tall plant with umbels of small white flowers and pinnate leaves which is extremely poisonous. Personally, if I find a 150cm tall plant with umbels of small white flowers and pinnate leaves I leave it well alone.
Raspberries and blackberries are not normally difficult to identify and cannot easily be mistaken for anything else but there are still a few things to be sure of.
Firstly in any area where you get dog walkers and even those that you don’t it isn’t a good idea to pick fruit from below waist height and certainly not eat it without washing it thoroughly first.
Secondly you should only ever eat things that are whole and healthy. Any half eaten fruit or plants with great black spots on them should be avoided.
Of course the most dangerous of all are the mushrooms.
Every year people in Britain die from eating the wrong wild mushrooms and some of them can be very difficult to identify.
Does this mean we should never eat wild mushrooms?
Of course not, we just need to be with an expert when we collect
them, and the best way to do this is to go on a mushroom walk with a Countryside Ranger.
Luckily we are currently planning the Wild Autumn Festival which will be from October 9 to 26.
There should be lots of walks on wild food and mushroom identification as well as the wildlife walks and family activities so keep an eye on www.wildseasons.co.uk as we will be releasing the events schedule in the next few weeks.

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