I was pottering around on my iPhone, looking for foraging apps. Frankly, there’s not much out there in the way of FREE apps, and I was unsure which to go for, and it occurred to me that you might feel the same way.
So, your friendly neighbourhood digital ranger is on the case, and after much googling on my lunch break, I decided to buy and review ‘The Forager’s Apprentice’ (£1.99 – although did have the introductory price of £.69 until 4 days ago – guess I missed the boat on that one!).
The app was created by David Beazley, a chef lecturer at the Plymouth College, who has been foraging since 1978. He created the app as a companion to his self-published book.
So without further ado, lets plunge into some foraging, digital style…
Firstly, the overall look is quite organic, clean and bright – everything you’d want a food app to look like. The tabs at the bottom are ‘Location’, ‘Identify’, ‘Recipes’, ‘My Hotspots’ and ‘Information. A click on ‘Location’ takes you to the image above – where you can select from ‘Beach’, ‘Hedgerow’ and ‘Woodland’. So for the purposes of this review we’ll go for ‘Hedgerow’.
A tap on the ‘Hedgerow’ image takes you to an introduction page with a bit of blurb about hedgerow foraging, but the main goodies are in the ‘Food Index’ tab, which takes you to a page of eight different hedgerow food.
I click on ‘Elderflower’ and that takes me to a page for that item, with three tabs: Summary, Seasons and Recipes. From there it basically does what it says on the tin, only there’s more: A click on the photo of Elderflowers at the top takes you to a three minute high quality video of David telling a fellow forager about the plant – recognition, description, uses, harvesting, followed by a screen of written tips. The recipes tab gives you ‘Elderflower Sorbet’ and ‘Elderflower Syrup’.
Back on the opening page, I click on ‘Identify’. You can here select to identify by Fruit, Leaves, Mushrooms, Seafood. I open ‘leaves’ and scroll down to select ‘Wild Garlic’. The page contains a summary, identification, harvesting technique, level of identification, safety tips, and then finishes of ith a ‘Pro’ tip: “Delicious shredded and added to a stir fry at the end of cooking.” Add one link to the wiki page on Ramsons, and I’d call that a fairly concise, clear introduction to wild garlic. Again, this page includes Seasons and Recipes.
Basically, the Locations and Identify pages are two ways of ending up at the same species description pages, the first by Habitat, and the second by Foliage / Images. The Recipes tab leads you to a generous amount of recipe ideas, from Praline Truffles with foraged Hazlenut, to Chanterelle Muffins and, of course, Sloe Gin.
Without a doubt, my favourite feature of the app is the ‘Hotspots’ feature, which basically allows you to use gps to map anything you find (very useful if, like me, you find something you want to come back to harvest later and can’t quite remember where it is!) – these locations aren’t shared, so no one’s going to pilfer your poppy seeds, but its just a fab reminder of what you’ve seen and where, and makes the £1.99 for the app worth it just on its own. And the videos equate to a nice evening of watching the clips for pointers and ideas you hadn’t considered, so I’ll be keeping this one on my phone for sure!
I think that this is a fantastic app for a beginner. The interface is very intuitive, and its easy to navigate around. Experienced foragers may not find the ID tips, etc all that useful, and the overall number of species listed is not that great, although I have no doubt that there will be additions and updates in the future. However, even if you’re a seasoned forager, you’ll find the ‘hotspots’ tool really useful. I’m certainly going to look into picking up David’s book, based on the app, which is saying something!
But what’s out there for iPhone that’s free, or alternatives to The Forager’s Apprentice? Here’s a quick round-up of what else there is to choose from:
Wild Jam Maker – a FREE app with some wild jam recipes, including unusual stuff like Medlar. Pretty neat little app.
Wild Food Yearbook – £4.99 – exactly that, a book, so lots of text and probably much more information, but not a quick-access app. To be honest, if I want to read a book about foraging, I would probably not buy it as an app.
Forage: Free Food from the Wild – £1.49 – another UK based app, which appears to be very similar to the Forager’s Apprentice – this also has the option to buy more species. And also Wild Food Forager – £.69 – a similar, if less comprehensive version of the above, and doesn’t appear to be as pretty or user friendly. I will, however, play about with both of these for a few days and do another review over the weekend, so watch this space!
Wild Edibles – £5.49 – a FANTASTIC foraging app, and I really mean it – includes Confusing Factors, Similar Plants, cautions, and even Medicinal Uses – I’d highly recommend downloading the trial version – Wild Edibles Light – just to have a gander, but the overwhelming drawback is that (though I consider a plant list 150 species strong VERY worth a fiver), it is regrettably North American species – so it includes a few of ours (Garlic Mustard for example), but much of the full app would not be any use, and that is the only reason I’m not flying the flag for this one! Also a crushing blow is that the same people bring you the Foraging Flashcards series for £.69 each – Early Spring, spring, Summer, Fall and Fruits. However, these are also all US-based – we need a UK version!