The forager’s toolkit: essential equipment and tools you need for wildcrafting

Having the correct equipment and tools can be of great help when foraging or wildcrafting plants for food and medicine.

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Here is the list of the books:

Here is the list of tools and equipment:

Transcription of The Forager’s Toolkit

Today I’m going to take you through a beginner’s foraging toolkit, or a basic foraging toolkit. So gathering, what do we put our pickings into? I really like linen bags. They’re really easy. I fold them up. I can carry one with me all the time.

Linen, because I don’t particularly want my plants to sweat that much. Now, if I’m gathering medicines, then linen’s really important. I don’t want to be putting them into plastic bags. You can go foraging with a plastic bag, you know, a supermarket brand bag, if you really have to. However, plastic’s not very cool. This isn’t about Instagram showing off. This is about gathering our food. So linen first.

Berries – having just said that plastics a taboo – clip top buckets or tubs are really useful. Not essential. I’m trying to get away from plastic as much as possible.

Baskets – This is an old basket. This is enough for me to fill up and get a load of elderflowers, which I’ve been gathering this week. And I will show you at the end of the video, how I go about drying them. If you’re wanting to dry plants. If you are gathering something like elderflowers or flowers that have pollen on you’ll note, this has holes in, right?

So before you go gathering, you’ll need to line it with newspaper because you want that pollen. It also allows the plant and the flowers to breathe, which is important. Do not put them in plastic bags. Honestly, the quality will just deteriorate really quick. They’ll start sweating. The flowers will start sweating and you’ll end up with a less than perfect product

Secateurs – these are essential. You just gather and snip. These are Fiscars. I love these. I like tools. I used to be a cabinet maker. So tools and quality tools are important to me can get away with any old pair of old secateurs, but I like quality kit. Say you want to gather some Willow bark. Okay. You snip off the branches. These will slice through pretty thick branches.

Leaves – use your hands. If you have to use scissors, I haven’t got scissors cause I don’t use scissors. Even nettles. I don’t use scissors, either use a pair of gloves if I’m not feeling up to it or I use my hands.

I don’t really like wearing gloves because it removes me from the gathering process. It’s more a sensory thing. I want to be able to feel the plant in my hand. And one of the reasons I do that is that sometimes say with garlic mustard, you get the young stems coming through and they’re very flexible and you can only really feel which bit is flexible before it starts getting woody further down by bare hands. And I was sensory primal beings and gloves kind of remove us one stage from that. So only really, if you have to.

Roots – Bearing in mind, you need landowner’s permission to dig up roots in Britain.

It’s really important. You commit a criminal offence, otherwise. It looks like a knife. It’s not a knife, it’s a Japanese digging tool and it has measurements on here as well. So I use it a lot. It’s really, really stable. I can chop a root. It’s called a Japanese hor hori. I call it a Japanese digging tool. Japanese tools, Japanese saws, Japanese chisels are world-class quality,

Eyeglass – what a lot of people call an eyeglass, a jewellers glass. It’s actually called a Loupe. I use 10 X magnification. Okay. And the way that you work with the loop, often people will be looking at a loop like this. Thinking it’s a magnifying glass and it’s not a magnifying glass. Okay. Obviously it is a magnifying glass, but not in that traditional Sherlock Holmes, magnifying glass. And so you bring the eyeglass, your eye and you bring the plant towards you. Okay. Until you can see all the really fine detail, they’re really important. If you’re going to ID fans. So, how do you do that?

You get a copy of Francis Rosie’s wildflower key. It will rot your brain initially until your brain clicks and you get what’s going on. It’s very self-explanatory. Take your time. It’s really important to stop. Just trying to ID with photographs.

The problem with photographs is they don’t take you into the really fine detail. That’s important often to discern one species from another species, but I get photographs. I produce photo a photo guide, but it’s one book in your reference library to understand plants. And it’s about slowing down. It’s about taking one plan and getting to know it really well.

So, this is good to having your carrier bag in your backpack. This is a kind of hybrid. This is a mini key without really being a property. That’s a wildflower key. That’s what we call we key out plans. So this is a kind of one that I often recommend to beginners because it does have pictures in it. Yeah, it’s, it’s wild flower key, and it’s pretty good.

It’s pretty good. But you need a whole selection of books. And then Stacy, who’s got the big wild flag. It’s like a break there’s 5,000 species listed. So, you know, how do you narrow down? You find a plant it’s in flower and you want to know what it is? Well, Botany in a day and essential, absolute essential book.

Frank Cook, my plant mentor brought this book to Britain. It’s why people in Britain know about it, even if they don’t know Frank cookies and it’s not a wildflower key, it basically is the pattern method of plant identification. A herbal field guide to plant families of North America. It says, but it’s also for Northern Europe and very relevant for Britain.

So don’t let that put you off and essential book. You find a flower, you’ve got all these species of plants, best ways to know what family it’s in. Once you know what family it’s in. You can go just to the section in the books on that family and start trying to identify it. Must must, must get it for a little book on plant families, which is just absolutely delightful and not many people know about this.

It’s by faith Anstey and she’s the last up in Scotland. I think she does really beautiful books on encouraging you in a non botanical kind of. Academia kind of level, but basic, you know, plant people who are passionate and want to go a bit deeper. This is a beautiful little, um, you’ll find it somewhere online.

If you go to eight forward slash toolkit, I will, um, have listed where you can get it. Brilliant little book. Next, you go through this or you go through this and you are going to have to learn a vocabulary. So. I am hypervisual right. So if someone describes something pretty much, um, in a non visual way, which so much of botany Hays, I don’t get it.

I really don’t get it. I was crap at school and teachers used to throw me out because I just asked questions why all the time, um, which didn’t really help. So I’ve had to self-learn auto didactic. So when it comes to botanical vocabulary, I have hunted high and low for a book. That speaks to my cognitive way of learning because we all learn differently.

Some people are hyper visual. Some people can go through a wildflower Cade, and they’ll just get it. The rest of us have to look up what the words say in the book. Look them up in this. This is my go to vocabulary. Forget all the others. If you are a visual learner, Look at that everything is laid out. They describe it to you really well, not in this convoluted language, but they also have blooming drawings that show you what bit you’re meant to be looking at.

This is a godsend. Get it, if you just want a little guy to, well, what’s the food or the medicine once you’ve identified the plastic food or the medicine of that particular plant historically, then this person, Oh, that’s me. I’ve written this book, edible and medicinal wild plants of Britain and Ireland.

And. It’s a quick overview of 48 plants around Britain. He’s just starting out. Trust me 48. That’s way more than you eat. Normally, most people when they farmed plants, they between 20 to 30 species of plants. A knife. We need knives, cutting a STEM, a stoke, cutting a leaf off. We need a knife, but there are legal considerations.

When we carry these little beauties around with us. When I was a kid, you carry a pocket knife around, not a problem. Nowadays, everyone thinks you’re about to murder people. Um, so what’s the legal status. It has to be folding and it can’t have a lock. So those lovely open drives, they have a lock on them.

That’s illegal. All right. The other thing is, is the length of the blade. The length of the blade cannot be more than three inches. All right. That is a three inch blade. Perfectly legal providing it’s folding. And this is a rock solid pen knife. I used to love pen knives as a kid. Um, I don’t like those Swiss army knives.

This has got a lovely feel to it. And, um, I can’t remember who, who made it about the link will be eight forward slash toolkit. Right? Get yourself a knife, a tool. Again, these are tools. They’re not weapons. All right. They are tools. And they is an essential bit of the forages toolkit. If you need to peel bark, need to pillar and skins while you’re out foraging, just in case you want to kind of munch on something that is completely not for miss land.

What else? I show you a reader. When you look in one of these books or you look in one of these books, it’s going to tell you to measure bits of the plant. So these are essential. These are really cool. They’re metal. They go down micro, micro millimeters. So you can get really precise, even have a conversion chart on it.

If you’re old school and doing deal in inches, when I’ve gathered Herb’s I need to dry them. So you can put them on newspaper or muslin, but this is a drying rack. And when I’ve got them, I will lay them out. You know, decent, not all bunched up. And this is the quality that comes out in a normally when people dry all the flour, what happens is it goes really Brown and horrible.

This has retained its golden yellow color. This is multi-tiered. So that’s quite hard. And how long that is? That’s most, yeah, that’s six inches high. So we’re not bunching them up. We’re just laying. One lab. Okay. One layer, one layer, one that leaves blossoms, blooms, flowers, um, dry, anything in this and I’ll have it in a garage.

I don’t have a car, so there’s no horrible smells. And it’s called it’s very hot and or warm. So it’s a great drawing. This, these are the flowers dry within two days. Just thought I’d show you that you don’t need it. It’s just piece of kit that I have. That’s it. Thank you for listening.


    • Thanks so much Robin. I’m really grateful for your de-mystifying foraging and I very much look forward to attending one of your courses in the future. Cheers 🙂

    • Huh… Confused dot com. I certainly don’t feel like I’ve been scolded in any way shape or form from how Robin delivered his advice.

      Thanks for this Robin, great help!

      P.S. Do you have any idea when your foraging courses in London are likely to recommence?

  1. That was really useful, thank you. I do have your book but am ready to dive deeper and love studying and researching. As my foraging amounts to what I can stuff in many pockets when out walking with my dog, I do feel like maybe its time to get a knife (def) and carry a linen bag too. As ever Robin great info and this new world of weeds has been an amazing discovery for me, its like finding treasure every day.

  2. I really enjoyed this and you’ve rekindled my love of wild flowers and plants, sort of gone since I was a child when flowers and plants were an integral part of our lives. I like the way you talk on camera, seem like a nice person.

  3. Thanks Robin. I met a fellow forager this morning, and I’m just beginning, so having discovered where I can get my elder flowers from, I shall pack up a bag and off I go! Thank you 🙂

  4. I’ve made some elderflower cordial, but am very conscious of taking it, or anything else, very sparingly. Surprisingly, there’s very little elderflower where I am and I’m glad when there are plenty of flowers high up that no one can reach and it’s left for the wildlife! I’ve learnt to check the back of every nettle for eggs or caterpillars when I make nettle soup (your recipe is yummy!) and I never take any roots of anything (it’s good that you tell people not to; it is indeed against the law.)
    Foraging is fun and natural; like so many things in the wild, irresponsible people can spoil it for others. When mushroom foraging programmes were on TV some time ago, the fungi King Alfred’s cakes completely disappeared from some woodlands. I think you could continually remind people of the rule ‘no roots and only take where there is plenty.’ It’s not scolding; it’s protecting the environment! Looking forward to your next update

  5. Hi Robin very informative video well presented
    I would just like to ask how do you collect your herds / plants knowing there not contaminated with any nasties

  6. Brilliant! Am now trying to work out how many species of plants I eat… and have ordered a mesh drying rack, didn’t realise they were available in mesh form was going to get a metal rack style one – thank you Rob for another informative vid via email 🙂

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