Soapbox: Food for free; but at what cost?

Thu, 13/08/2009 - 08:17
Submitted by Guest

Recently there has been a lot of talk about how to find food for free and with autumn just around the corner, now is the time to start foraging.

But is this really a good idea? We all know that blackberries from the side of the road may have an unusually smoky flavour and any fruit on footpaths at dog height are a no-no, but other taboos are often less obvious. Swan is obviously off the menu, as is much of our British wildlife and many of us don’t have the heart to shoot and skin anything that is legal to kill, such as rabbit.

Ethics aside, I’m still not sure that foraging is a good idea.

On a personal level, the idea of eating for free at a time when food prices are high has an obvious appeal but what if everyone did it? There’s a reason why we are no longer hunter gatherers, we started farming for a reason. There are plenty of nettles for everyone to have nettle tea but as we’ve seen with the declining fish stocks, human populations are too high for everyone to help themselves.

There’s also something unbalanced about helping yourself to nature’s bounty: there’s no give, only take, it’s just not sustainable. Foraging isn’t an alternative to growing your own and its likely to lead to a tragedy of the common situation where we all loose out.

Then there is the impact on our birds and wildlife to consider; who feeds then when we’ve eaten all their food?

Having said that, living in a rural area gives me a distinct advantage over the city dwellers and an apple and blackberry crumble for free is rather tempting.

This Soapbox blog was submitted by Countryfile Magazine reader, Holly Foat (left).

Do you agree with Holly? Log in or register to leave a comment below or email us today.

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Ok to forage but even better to grow!

Sun, 14/03/2010 - 21:06
Mike Williams

I could not agree more with your article, nature provides us with a huge bounty but there is simply not enough for us all to help ourselves willy nilly.

I like nothing better than gathering some of natures seasonal treats such as wild garlic and watercress but it is far more rewarding to produce as much of your own food as possible!

Starting a veg patch is a great way to start visit

for some great tips on how to get started. Garden poultry is another great way to start producing your own food and you may want to check out

To find out how to do it.

Food for free

Sun, 23/08/2009 - 23:38

I agree that, with the current high prices, it's easy to think - 'free food'. There are also some good books about on the subject. And children learn about their environment by interacting, looking, smelling, touching, tasting...(see

However, as Holly points out, humans are already competing with wildlife, so why increase this. I am also worried that plants have been sprayed...

Let's perhaps stick to our growing our own fruit and veges, in our own gardens, using organic methods (?! but that's another story).

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