Wild food foraging
Wild food foraging – I guess that everyone has picked the odd berry here and there. Bushes are now full of juicy berries, soon you will find mushrooms in abundance. I must say, I have never picked wild mushrooms before. I would probably not be able to tell the edible ones from the poisonous ones. Well, some I might, but I would be too scared to pick the wrong ones and get horribly sick from eating them.
But I have picked wild fruits before, like blackberries or blueberries. Now is the perfect season for it. While we were on holiday in the Eifel, we’ve come across many blackberry bushes, full of juicy berries, during our walks. Of course, we could not resist picking a few. So good! But… is it allowed to pick berries in the wild? Or any other fruit? Or mushrooms for that matter? I could not help but look slightly anxiously around, whether someone was watching us when we picked those berries.
Is it allowed?
When we got home, I started a search on Google to see if I could find out what the law says about wild food foraging. Just recently, a Dutch newspaper (Telegraaf) published an article about serious fines for wild food foraging. And those fines can get pretty stiff, for up to € 4100,- or even imprisonment. I was fairly shocked. It also said that if you pick food for personal use only and just a small container, no one would probably say anything. But what if you meet that one nasty ranger who will give you a fine nonetheless?
I do understand that measures need to be taken. That wild food foraging is forbidden, is a measure to prevent bushes and crops are being ransacked. The berries, for example, are food for wild animals. If we take it all, there is nothing left for the animals. Or to prevent people from selling the wild fruits and mushrooms. On the other hand, if you are careful, don’t destroy anything and only take a few berries for immediate consumption, you’re not hurting anything or anyone.
It can even be a good thing to pick ripe fruits. As we’ve been on holiday in Germany and we did pick a few berries there on our walks, I checked out the rules and regulations they have for wild food foraging. In general, you are not allowed to pick anything from someone else’s property, no matter if it’s a garden or a field. Kind of logical, right. It’s theft if you do so. So keep your hands of it. The general rule for wild food foraging in Germany is: if it’s not agriculturally grown or cultivated, you may pick wild food for your own use and just in small quantities.
You have to watch out not to forage plants that are protected or grow in a protected nature reserve. Some municipalities publish a list of places where you can forage from ‘unused’ trees and bushes within the town’s boundaries. They want to prevent fruits and other (wildly) grown foods are simply rotting away and end up being thrown out. There are even websites(such as mundraub.org), where you can find places throughout the whole of Germany, where you can forage wild food (for your own use) legally.
Of course, I also checked out rules and regulations in Belgium. Unfortunately, I could not find anything conclusive. Wild food foraging is generally prohibited in most places, from private or provincial grounds and nature reserves anyway. Whether you are reprimanded, getting a fine or will even be prosecuted, probably depends on the ranger or policeman you encounter. It’s often not even allowed to take a little rock or stick out of the woods. What I don’t understand in that light of prohibition, at all, is that the Agentschap Natuur & Bos (Agency for Nature and Forestry) offers a ‘1-year Wild Food Foraging Course‘. It’s prohibited, but you can get a course of ‘how to’? Weird.
Well, in short, if you do pick a few berries and enjoy them, (probably) no-one will really care. But if you want to stay on the safe side and abide the law, ask the local authorities about their rules and regulations in regards to wild food foraging. Better safe than sorry!
Thank you for reading 🙂