My name is Helen McAra and I'm a wild food forager with a particular interest in the mindfulness aspect of foraging. I've been foraging since I was tiny, learning lots from my family about all the edible plants in our local woods and fields. Since then I've foraged for a lot of different wild foods and learned so much from expert foragers. I love the peacefulness combined with the excitement of finding something delicious - and free!
I live in rural Hampshire in the heart of the South Downs National Park. I run most of my courses in Hampshire, Surrey and West Sussex where we are blessed with a huge amount of woodland and hedgerows. I am a member of the Association of Foragers.
Our courses are relaxed with an emphasis on fun and finding some easily identified plants and fungi that taste delicious. We never know exactly what we'll find and that's part of the fun but we will find all sorts of edible wild foods.
"A thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a few hours .... and a perfect introduction to the wonderful world of foraging."
We all know we feel better if we've been out in the countryside for a walk, research shows that it improves both our physical and mental health. Foraging provides a perfect opportunity to add fun, food and mindfulness to a lovely walk. Searching for edible plants or fungi allows you to switch off and focus on 'hunting'. You get a chance to really look, smell, feel and hear what's going on around you and immerse yourself in the natural world. You even get a chance to taste some delicious wild food too. Sharing this with people who are having fun, whether that is new acquaintances or a group of friends, means you will be able to relax and enjoy a great time. By being aware of our senses and our feelings when we forage we both improve our own health and re-connect with the natural world; after all we are part of nature and that connection is vital for us all.
Sustainable foraging is at the heart of our ethos. We share our natural environment with every other living thing and it is our responsibility to keep that in mind at all times. This means that we only pick what we can eat or preserve that day, we never clear pick the wild food we find, but leave loads so that some of the seeds, spores, flowers and fruit can carry on with the job of reproduction, as well as feeding other animals.
Helen is a member the Association of Foragers, which is an international professional foragers association, promoting sustainability and ecological stewardship through teaching and harvesting wild plants and fungi for use as food, drink and medicine. All members are proposed and seconded by two existing members who know them personally and have checked their foraging knowledge.
All AoF members follow the association's set of foraging principles (https://foragers-association.org/principles) that seek to ensure safe, sustainable, legal and considerate foraging practices - abiding by these principles is a condition of continued membership of the AoF. Every member is strongly connected to the natural world partly because their life, livelihood and food absolutely depend upon the protection of nature, but largely because they love the natural world and are deeply connected to it.
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