WITH spring definitely now sprung and the countryside looking its freshest, now is the time to get out into the woods and hedgerows to find some free and tasty wild treats. 

Those keen to discover nature’s larder for themselves, but don't know where to start, will be pleased to hear help is at hand.

Professional forager, Phil Leng, runs public and private courses in Marbury Park, which he says is one the best spots for finding wild food in springtime.

Phil's interest in foraging began with a fascination for mushrooms, which people often associate with the autumn, he says, but there are edible species available to pick and cook the whole year round.

He added one of the tastiest of all, the St George’s mushroom, is abundant around Northwich right now, and those enrolling on one of his springtime courses will be introduced to them, and may even get to try some.

Phil said: “Marbury Park is one of my favourite spots. There’s a great diversity there, with lots of different habitats – woodland, grassland, hedgerows, water habitat.

“The important thing for me isn’t whether people go on to picking stuff afterwards. It’s about them realising we’ve got to look after these habitats. It makes it relevant to them. 

Northwich Guardian: Phil alongside food he's foraged and preparedPhil alongside food he's foraged and prepared (Image: Phil Leng)

“It’s about entertainment, getting people engaged with nature, and just having a nice time.

“St George’s mushrooms are the thing to be going for at this time of year. I’ve picked and eaten mushrooms every month of the year - they’re not just a September and October thing.

“Marbury’s also a great spot great for wild garlic, sorrel, lime leaves, and garlic mustard.”

“You need know what you’re doing though. Take giant hogweed. The sap is phyto-photo toxic, so if you get it on you, then expose your skin to the sun, you can get dreadful burns.

“The effect has been known to carry on for up to seven years.”

Phil’s courses begin with a short talk about the law and what people are allowed to take and from where, then it’s out into the woods to start picking.

He also brings along foraged food and drinks he's made in advance, which can include hogweed and wild garlic soup, fruit leathers, and even elderflower champagne.

“I’ve always done bits and pieces of foraging, but it was mushrooms which got me into it in a big way.

“I’m also a climbing instructor, and I used to see them when I was out and about, so I thought I’d learn what I could about them. Now I'm hooked."