Queer Foraging Tours: A guide to getting started, with Isaac Marsh

The Winner Breaks First: Queer Foraging Tours offered people the chance to join local artist Luke Beech and the Hull Queer Foraging Club on two walks around the city’s natural environments to capture the changing of the seasons and discuss the themes at the heart of Beech’s exhibition, Winner Breaks First.

We caught up with Queer Foraging Club member Isaac Marsh to learn a few “do’s and don’ts”, handy reading recommendations and friendly groups to join so that you can start foraging safely and respectfully.

What should I know before I start foraging?

One of the best places to start is by reading the Foraging Code.

Provided by Wild Food UK, the 9 rules help keep you, others, and the environment safe from harm and the wrong side of the law while foraging. In particular, the Foraging Code outlines where you can forage and how much to take as to not harm the environment or take things that belong to someone else.

A key thing to remember is “not to pick and ingest anything if you don’t 100% know what it is. We don’t have many deadly poisonous things here, but there are plenty of things that can make you extremely ill and even cause lasting problems. People don’t need to be scared of our friends in the wild, but it’s important (like any relationship) that it starts with understanding and respect. Luckily, most of the really tasty wild things are abundant and easy to recognise! If folks aren’t sure about what something is, take a photo, and ID it when you get home or on an app.”

What should I do if I can’t identify something?

“When ID-ing something you don’t know, it’s good to try and get confirmation from three separate sources if you can. I highly recommend people join groups like ‘Wild Food UK’ on Facebook, where it’s really useful to be able to crowdsource your IDs. These are also amazing places to see the incredible creative things that people do with the things they forage!”

How much should I take?

“The second good rule of thumb is to observe your picking limits. The general rule of thumb is to never take more than half of what you find – fruits, fungi etc. For our urban environment, we are really informed by queer ecology and seeing ourselves as being in solidarity with the other animals and plants that live here. So, our picking limit is 1/5 – we never pick anything more than a fifth of what we find, so we can give our flora and fauna plenty of opportunity to feed, reproduce and propagate.”

Are there any foraging guides/books you recommend?

“Richard Mabey’s ‘Food For Free’ is a classic [that] has been in constant print since the 70s, and you can usually find a cheap (and very pretty) copy in a charity shop for pennies. But generally, any books with good photos or illustrations of plants can be really useful – I have an old copy of “The Concise British Flora in Colour” which has been invaluable!”

If you’re looking for a more digital approach, the Seek app is recommended by Isaac too, although there are plenty of others to choose from. You can find the app here.

Looking to join the Queer Foraging Club on their next walk? Be sure to follow their Instagram @queerforaginghull or join the private Facebook group and discover new flora, fungi and friends.

A huge thank you to Isaac, Luke Beech, Queer Foraging Club, and all who joined the Winner Breaks First: Queer Foraging Tours. Be sure to check out the exhibition before it closes on 2 July to see what they found.