Mum and daughter foraging team make meals for free from food found in local forest

·Contributor, Yahoo Life UK
·6-min read
Eszter Balogh, 33, first started foraging as a child with her family and has continued the tradition with her daughter, Dora, 14 months. (Caters)
Eszter Balogh, 33, first started foraging as a child with her family and has continued the tradition with her daughter, Dora, 14 months. (Caters)

A mother and daughter foraging team have shared some of the impressive meals they make for free thanks to the food they find in their local forest.

Eszter Balogh, 33, from Oxford, first started foraging as a child with her family and has continued the tradition with her daughter, Dora Balogh, 14 months.

Balogh, who works as a photographer, loves cooking for her family, using foraged ingredients in all her recipes, but during the spring and summer months, she is often able to make entire meals for free.

"We've made loads of things, most recently some pine needle shortbread with pine needles we foraged," Balogh says.

"Another one is a mushroom burger made from Maitake mushrooms, with three cornered leek and elderberry glaze.

"We also made nettle and raspberry pancakes, which Dora loved because they were so colourful.

"I'm a photographer so I pride myself on how good the food looks."

Read more: Nature makes children happier: How to encourage kids to spend time outside

Eszter Balogh's daughter Dora foraging mushrooms. (Caters)
Eszter Balogh's daughter Dora foraging mushrooms. (Caters)

Many of Balogh's impressive creations look more like five-star restaurant meals than home-cooked recipes made with free ingredients.

She tends to go foraging once a week for around four hours and mainly collects mushrooms on her trips to the forest.

"Recently I've been getting things like oyster mushrooms, crow garlic and leeks," she adds.

"I especially love using wild garlic in my cooking.

"I use the ingredients to make things like salads as well as jams and preserves.

"They're all my own recipes, some of them I've adapted from other people to incorporate my own foraged ingredients."

Balogh loves cooking for her family and uses foraged ingredients in all her recipes. (Caters)
Balogh loves cooking for her family and uses foraged ingredients in all her recipes. (Caters)

Balogh says that she has been foraging for decades after first being introduced to it while living in Ukraine as a child and is now enjoying teaching her daughter the joys of hunting for fresh ingredients.

"I've been going out foraging ever since I was little when my grandparents would take me," she says.

"I stopped for a while as a teenager, when I had other things going on, but now I've got back into it so I can teach my daughter, Dora.

"I think it's so important to teach children about nature."

Read more: Easiest ways to get children into gardening

Eszter Balogh and Dora cutting out shapes from dough. (Caters)
Eszter Balogh and Dora cutting out shapes from dough. (Caters)

Thankfully, Dora seems to share her mother's enthusiasm and happily forages and cooks with her.

"She loves coming out with me, so I always try and take her when I'm going foraging," Balogh adds.

"She loves to help me cook with what we've found as well.

"She's still at the stage where she's copying everything I do in the kitchen.

"I think it's very important that we teach children how special nature is and they learn so much by experiencing nature themselves."

Mushroom Ramen Balogh made with foraged ingredients. (Caters)
Mushroom Ramen Balogh made with foraged ingredients. (Caters)

As well as encouraging her daughter to appreciate the food found in the big outdoors, Balogh also says she gets fantastic reactions from friends about her foraging.

"They all think it's amazing, especially when I've been able to feed my family for free," she explains.

"I've had lots of people get in touch saying they want me to teach them how."

"There are lots of poisonous mushrooms in the UK, and you need to be able to identify them all."

Watch: Get back to nature with foraging

Foraging: the basics

As Balogh points out there are many rules beginners need to consider when it comes to foraging.

Thankfully, expert hunters and gatherers love sharing their knowledge with novices, so there are plenty of websites to help you get your forage on.

Totally Wild UK has a great plant, coastal and mushroom guide, with easy-to-follow information on what is and isn’t safe.

Read more: The new rise of naturism: why we're better off in the buff

A mushroom burger Balogh made from foraged ingredients. (Caters)
A mushroom burger Balogh made from foraged ingredients. (Caters)

Meanwhile fellow forager, Lucy Buckle, who switched her 9-5 pharmacy job for full-time foraging, has also shared some tips on how to get started.

After being made redundant during the pandemic, Buckle decided to make a lifestyle change and in June 2020 became a full-time forager.

Buckle says that hunting for food in the wild has saved her hundreds of pounds on her household bills and she’s now paid to teach others her skills.

Here she provides a beginner's guide to foraging...

A pasta dish Balogh made from foraged ingredients. (Caters)
A pasta dish Balogh made from foraged ingredients. (Caters)

Buckle’s top foraging tips

Don’t munch on a hunch – always be careful to identify what it is clearly and if you don't know, then don't eat it.

Start with what you know – get a good guide book. Buckle recommends Wild Food UK foraging pocket guide book.

Start exploring close to home – forage locally, so you can keep an eye on the seasonal produce.

Be respectful – always leave 75% of potential forage behind for the plant itself and for fellow hunters. Try to pick up litter as you forage and aim to leave the park in a better state then you found it.

Buckle's foraging calendar

January – Winter mushrooms such as jelly ears and velvet shanks.

February – Nettles, great for tea and hedge garlic, perfect in salads.

March – Wild garlic, good for beginners, makes a fantastic pesto.

April – Sticky weed, salad leaves.

May – Wildflowers such as borage, tastes like cucumber, great in a gin and tonic or salad. Nasturtium are also edible, you can eat the leaves and flowers, they look beautiful and make a fancy salad.

June – Elderflower, great for beginners and kids, makes cordial. Mushrooms are good in June also.

July – Cherries, lots of cherry trees in Nottingham on every street corner, they are the first fruit you can harvest in the summer.

August – Perfect picking month for blackberries and plums, which are good to start with, as all types are edible.

September – Month of the mushroom. Especially great for boletes, a type of mushroom.

October – Great month for blewits, a nostalgic mushroom most people foraged with parents or grandparents. Easy to identify but only available for a few weeks in the month.

November – Pine needles for tea.

December – Nettles and winter mushrooms, three cornered leek, like an onion, it’s an invasive species so you can pick as much as you want.

Additional reporting Caters.

Watch: Forage for wild delights this winter

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