Julia Russel, a practising herbalist based at Dacrelands clinic, Lancaster, writes about her virtual forage walks.
I love the verdant splendour as springtime unfolds and we discover a treasure trove of spring greens at our feet. Each year I run herbal and wild food foraging walks in Lancaster. Under normal circumstances I would have some scheduled in May, this being one of the best foraging months of the year.
Faced with the challenge to do things differently within the lockdown restrictions, I considered how I could still bring my foraging walks to people by other means.
Looking to social media, the most obvious choice was Instagram. As it is absolutely vital when foraging for food or medicinal purposes that you identify the plants with 100% certainty, the ability to include good clear photographs on this platform is a huge benefit.
Since starting my Instagram posts I have been able to share my knowledge just as I would on my walks. I share tips for recognising plants, provide information about their traditional and current uses, and share some wild food recipes.
So far I have only included plants found either in my own tiny garden, within Lancaster city centre, or along the Lune estuary where I often take my daily exercise. You may consider these plants weeds (such as dandelions, hairy bittercress or sow thistle), however they are nutritious weeds which could add vitamins and minerals to your diet.
Some posts cover commonly-foraged edible plants, like ransoms. Others explore leaves of common trees you may not have realised were edible, such as young leaves of the common lime. There is encouragement to dress up your spring salads with flowers from common plants you may have overlooked, such as ivy-leaved toadflax. I also aim to highlight the breadth of foraging uses. For example, with nettles I have focused on its use as a botanical dye.
My foray into virtual foraging aims to connect people with nature, whether or not they are currently able to get outdoors. For those who are heading outside, this might provide a focus for a daily walk – inspiring a closer look at the plant life on your doorstep. There is beauty all around us to be noticed – even in cracks in pavements and crevices in walls. I trust that my enthusiasm for plants and the importance of our connection to the natural world comes across in my posts just as it would if you had joined my walk.
To join my virtual walks, follow me on Instagram @juliarussellherbalist
You can also find out more about my work at www.juliarussellherbalist.co.uk