It’s summertime apparently. Or at least the calendar says it’s mid-June, but the weather is not in agreement. With it being windy, rainy and much colder than we would like, more people stay indoors, leaving us outdoor wanderers to enjoy the thriving summer wildlife in more peace. With plant growth at its fastest and most abundant during this time of year, there is plenty of edible wild food to be found. Here are just five common edible plants that can be spotted in June throughout most of the UK:
The tiny cousins to our favourite summer fruits, wild strawberries may look small in comparison to the garden and supermarket varieties we are so familiar with, but do not underestimate their often superior taste! A low growing plant which likes sunny or partially shaded spots in hedgerows and grassy banks, it is easy to identify as the three-part (trefoil) leaves, white petalled flowers and bright red fruits all look the same as a domestic strawberry plant, only on a much smaller scale. See if you can actually get any home without eating them all…
June is a prime time for rose blooms, both in the garden and in the wild. The petals from all roses are edible, just make sure first that the roses you are selecting will not have been treated with any pesticides, fungicides or anything else that you wouldn’t want to eat. Granted, rose petals are not exactly going to fill you up if you are hungry, but they are good for showing off by putting in summery drinks, decorating cakes and desserts or tossing into salads.
There are several types of both true wild rose and escaped garden roses that grow in the UK. Among the easiest to see and identify at this time of the year are the dog rose and the field rose. The dog rose scrambles up in hedges and among other shrubs. It can reach up to 3m tall, growing on thick woody stems with large curved thorns which help it grip as it climbs. The large flowers can be white or various shades of pink, and consist of five petals arranged around a yellow centre. The field rose has a similar but slightly smaller flower which is always white. Found in similar habitats to the dog rose, scrambling through hedgerows and shrubs, the trailing stems are thinner and weaker, with smaller thorns than its relative.
Also known as mayweed or wild/false chamomile, it is not an indigenuous wild plant of the UK, apparently it escaped from Kew Gardens around the 1800s and has thrived across most of the country ever since. This low growing plant favours poor and compacted soils, like field gateways, footpaths and waste ground.
A member of the daisy family, the leaves are feathery and highly divided. The flowers are green to yellowish dome shaped centres with inconspicuous petals around the edges, but they smell and taste a bit like pineapple, hence the name. Both the flowers and leaves can be eaten raw in salads or try infusing it into tea or cordial. However, some people have experienced allergic reactions to this plant, so it is advisable to only try very tiny amounts at first.
Just coming into season around mid-June, this bright green, pointy and nutritious succulent can be found growing in and around the mud of estuaries. The tips resemble miniature asparagus spears and it has a strong salty taste, courtesy of the environment it grows in. It can be eaten raw but it is often best very lightly steamed and should always be rinsed well before consumption to remove excess salt and grit. Often sold at a premium in supermarkets and restaurants, if you are willing to get a bit muddy and are very careful about where you forage samphire from, you can enjoy the nutritious plant for free. Avoid foraging from polluted estuaries and any areas where dogs may be exercised. Be very aware of the dangers of being trapped in mud or from rising tides.
Another coastal plant found on shingle, dunes and well-drained sandy soils close to beaches and cliffs, sea beet is distantly related to chard and beetroot. The green, leafy perennial plant also goes by the names sea/wild spinach, because the leaves and taste are said to be similar to spinach. The young leaves can be eaten raw or lightly cooked the same way as you would with spinach.
It grows in leafy sprawling clumps which can reach around 1 metre high, with the first young leaves emerging around April. The glossy firm leaves are oval to triangular shaped, often with a pointed end and with thick, fleshy and reddish coloured stems. From July, the plant sends up taller spikes of small, unremarkable yellowy green flowers.