Branch out into foraging

Words by:
Nikki Bawn
Featured in:
April 2022

Foragers treasure all wild things – but trees are prized most by many, writes Nikki Bawn of Boggle Lane Foods.

The seemingly unlimited benefits and importance of trees to all living things cannot be understated.
Stop by a tree and imagine the stories it could tell. Some have stood tall for thousands of years and all possess hidden powers of healing, sustenance and endless resources that can benefit every aspect of our being.

They are our familiar friends who often go unnoticed but would most definitely be mourned if they were lost. Their natural grandeur signals each changing season, provides shady havens on hot summer days, refuge and fuel for warmth in winter.

We are blessed with a long list of ancient, native species in the UK. Our oldest tree is the yew and some living specimens that can still be found today are estimated to be between two and three thousand years old.
Most will know that trees provide habitats for crawling, climbing and flying wildlife. They are also the only place that special fungi, lichen and moss call home.

For humans, trees hide numerous powers of healing and nutrition in plain sight. From root to branch, using the sap, nuts, fruits, leaves and bark from different trees will bring surprising value to your foraging pursuits.

Here’s a list of some of the best trees and their bounty to help get you started:

• Ash (burns even when it is green), oak, birch, beech and cherry (which smells heavenly!)

Sap tapping:
• Maple, sycamore and birch (birch sap contains betulinic acid which has been used to help reduce tumours and fight cancer).

Medicinal uses:
• Alder – Leaf and bark teas are used to treat fevers and to clean wounds.
• Apple – Tree bark is used to treat fevers and apple cider helps destroy intestinal flora and decrease bacteria flowing to the bowels.
• Ash – Twig tips and leaves turned into tea can help reduce rheumatism, jaundice and gout.
• Beech – Bark tea to treat lung problems and leaf tea is used in poultices to treat burns.
• Birch – Leaf tea helps heal mouth sores, bladder and kidney problems, and gout. Bark added to bathwater is said to help skin rashes.
• Cedar – Bark tea is used to treat fevers, rheumatism, flu and colds.
• Elder – Bark tea is used to treat headaches, ease congestion and lower fever by inducing perspiration.
• Elm – Bark salve and poultices are used to treat wounds and draw out fever. Bark tea is very high in calcium and helps increase the healing of injured bones, sore throats, urinary and bowel issues.

• Leaves – Beech, silver birch and linden leaves can also be harvested when young and new for salads.
• Needles – Spruce, pine and fir trees have needles that can be foraged and simmered in water to make a tea that is very high in vitamin C but not yew trees, as these are poisonous!
• Nuts – Walnut, sweet chestnut, hazelnut and beech.

This list barely scratches the surface of the wonders to be found but I hope it will help to light a spark of new admiration and interest in our foliaged friends.

Quite simply, trees are a source of immeasurable benefit for literally every inhabitant on earth.

As always, please forage with care, positively ID your finds and do the necessary checks before using them, especially if you’re on medication. Nature can pack a punch so better to be safe than sorry.

For more information about learning to forage email

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