SCOTLAND has a wild larder ripe for the picking with a host of free goodies to eat raw or cooked.

The countryside, the coast, our own back gardens and parks can yield a delicious harvest – and growing numbers of Scots are discovering this through the joys of foraging.
It is currently Foraging Fortnight, which takes place online this year with virtual events such as cookery workshops and foraging walks from all over Scotland.

Now a partnership between the Orkney International Science Festival and LEADER, who fund rural development, is encouraging more Scots to get out and forage responsibly.
One of the experts is Terri Carmichael, resident forager for Wild Tastes at the Carmichael Estate in Lanarkshire. 
“More people are trying to get back to their roots and to nature since the pandemic started and we reconnect with nature,” she said.

“There are so many foods that are right on our doorstep that we see every day and can bring into our kitchens. They’re all packed with nutrients, far more than any sold in supermarkets.”

She recommends that beginner foragers look for a couple of items each season before building up their knowledge on walks with a forager to help them recognise plants and berries.

“This is the syrup season so it’s a great time to pick rosehips, hawthorn, rowan and elderberries,” she added. “Rowan and elderberries are toxic when raw, so you need to cook them – rowanberry jelly is lovely with venison and rosehip syrup is lovely on pancakes, porridge or cocktails, and both are high in vitamin C. 

“Hawthorn syrup is good for heart health and elderberry, which I make into syrup with cloves and cinnamon that lasts through the winter, stimulates the immune system, helping to ward off colds and upper respiratory viruses.

“Scotland has lots of wild areas of scrubland and woodland, as well as railway lines and parks, so it’s full of wonderful natural food.”

Mark Williams, who runs Galloway Wild Foods hosting foraging walks, private bookings and online mentoring, said: “September is the big month for mushrooms. There are so many types of edible fungi that have different textures and tastes.

“Beef steak fungus grows like brackets up oak trees. It’s rich in texture with a tannic, fruity taste. You can slice it into a carpaccio or dry it to make vegan ‘beef’ jerky. Birch polypore is really common in Scotland and is a great immune booster if you make it into a tea or tincture, while chanterelles, which are available all summer until November and I call ‘Highland gold’ are delicious cooked.”

Mr Williams also recommends gathering berries this season, from sloes to quinces and elderberries. 

“I make a balsamic-type vinegar from elderberries by infusing them in cider vinegar, and if you’re by the coast you can pick sea buckthorn berries, which are bright orange balloons filled with acidic liquid with a tropical tang. 

I make them into a cocktail with whisky.”

He has seen a huge upturn in interest in foraging since the pandemic.

“So many people have told me that they have learned so much about local plants and that they’ve connected with nature and slowed down, with more time to cook with foraged ingredients.

“It’s one thing to look at nature but foraging really allows you to connect deeply and intimately with nature. It’s all very well looking at Giant Pandas or tigers on television but there’s stuff just up the road in your local park that is just as exciting.”

While he’s been teaching about foraging for the last 15 years, Mr Williams has seen the trend take off in the last five years. Wild ingredients are becoming more fashionable in restaurants – Noma in Copenhagen is the most famous but in Scotland we have Forage and Chatter, Gardener’s Cottage, and Buck and Birch, all in Edinburgh, specialising in foraged food.

Natural ingredients gathered in Scotland are also used for flavouring food and drink products.

Charlotte Flower is a Loch Tay chocolatier who forages for ingredients such as Scots pine, wild mint, wood sorrel and elderflower to add to her gourmet chocolate.

Harris Gin uses hand-dived seaweed as flavouring while William’s Bros Brewing in Alloa uses foraged heather flowers and gooseberries in their beers. What was once sustenance – and often associated with poverty – is now becoming a luxury,” said Gina Rae La Cerva, author of Feasting Wild (Greystone Books).  

“The top restaurants in the world serve gathered weeds to their elite clientele. ‘Foraged’ flavours have become marks of wealth, refinement, and purity. It seems some shift is occurring in our desire for foods we can’t grow or produce ourselves. Eating remains the closest, most consistent relationship we have to nature.”

l Foraging Fortnight runs until September 13 at You can book walks around Scotland and online mentoring with Mark Williams at