Excessive Foraging for Wild Mushrooms and Garlic a ‘Risk to Wildlife’ in UK
In the UK, experts have expressed concern that some foragers for wild mushrooms and garlic have been taking too many ingredients from protected sites, putting wildlife at risk, reported The Guardian.
The National Trust is concerned that people have been gathering foraged foods to sell them, damaging delicately-balanced ecosystems.
“Foraging brings us closer to nature and reminds us that we need to take care of it. That’s why the National Trust supports foraging for plentiful species of wild food, for personal use, in most of the places we care for,” the National Trust website says. “To protect vulnerable species and habitats we have to make sure that foraging takes place sustainably.”
The Trust adds that, in limited circumstances where they feel it is appropriate, special licenses will be issued for commercial foraging.
“If undertaken carefully and only for personal use, foraging can be good fun and help people connect with nature. However, excessive foraging, or foraging on protected sites, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), can be detrimental to our precious wildlife and negatively impact delicate ecosystems,” said Ben McCarthy, head of nature conservation and restoration at the National Trust, as reported by The Guardian.
A code of conduct has been written by the National Trust for those looking to pick ingredients like nettles and elderflowers from the nature reserves and gardens under the care of the Trust. It asks that they forage only for personal consumption, picking only what they know will be used.
The recommendation is to only pick one in every 20 plants from plants that are evidently common and abundant, and to never forage protected species.
People have been taking too much from National Trust reserves, and the Trust suspects some of these foods have been used in restaurants.
“We want everyone to enjoy the places we care for, but excessive foraging removes nature and beauty from places so others cannot appreciate them. Sadly, we have seen some examples of commercial and unsustainable foraging in recent years,” McCarthy said.
People are no longer allowed to forage for fungi on the nature reserves of the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), as it was reported that foraging groups had been picking mushrooms for commercial use.
“We see this problem every year, but I think it’s worsened – we’ve certainly had more reports. I suspect that is partly down to the cost of living crisis, and I fear commercial foragers are selling stolen fungi to restaurants for money,” said Roger Stace, BBOWT land manager for Berkshire, as The Guardian reported. “We are lucky to have some incredibly rare fungus species on our nature reserves, and if people aren’t trained they could be picking and destroying these rare species.”
According to BBC Countryfile Magazine, the leaves and flowers of wild garlic are edible and first appear in March. Flowers appear from April to June, and it is best to pick leaves when young. It’s easy to confuse wild garlic with the poisonous lily plant, so reading up on the differences in Countryfile’s Wild garlic guide is recommended.
According to the Countryfile May foraging guide, hawthorn, red clover and chickweed are also available for picking this month.
Other edible wild plants in season in spring in the UK include nettles, dandelions, chickweed, elderflowers and mallow, reported The Guardian.
“We must take from the earth responsibly so don’t forage the lot, and leave plenty for wildlife. You must have permission from landowners and know exactly what you’re taking as mistakes can be dangerous,” said Rob Stoneman, director of landscape recovery for The Wildlife Trusts, as reported by The Guardian. “Don’t be afraid to get out in the fresh air to gather wild and nutritious food – it’s great for the body but more importantly the soul.”
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