Food foraging has become hugely popular over the last few years thanks to outdoorsy chefs like Hugh FearnleyWhittingstall and Jamie Oliver.

And there are many opportunities throughout the year to enjoy seasonal, locally sourced food which is available for free from Dorset’s coast and countryside.

But it is important to know what is edible and what is not, and to make sure you forage in a sustainable way.

Husband and wife team Dan and Jade Scott who run the Purbeck-based company Fore Adventure, are keen foragers and also organise snorkelling safaris and kayak forages.

“For us the most exciting thing to forage for our plate from our patch of Dorset is wild seaweed. Seaweed, eaten fresh and chucked into a salad or quickly fried for an addition to a stir fry is a delight that the average forager does not have access to.

“Whenever we get out with our baskets or plastic bags in arms we also take note of our environment as there are a series of dos and don’ts. For example, don’t take a plant from the roots but use scissors to cut it to ensure its sustainability. Make sure you investigate foraging guidelines before heading out into the wild.”

Chef patron Alex Aitken and his wife Caroline often forage in the New Forest and much of what they find ends up on customers’ plates at one of Harbour Hotels’ three Christchurch restaurants.

“It is very addictive,” says Caroline. “I’m usually out every other day foraging.”

Depending on the season they pick fungi, elderflowers, elderberries, roan berries, sloe berries, blackberries, crab apples, and herbs like bog myrtle.

“Gorse flowers smell like coconut – Alex makes a wonderful gorse flower panna cotta,” says Caroline.

“When it comes to fungi, it’s best to stick to one or two varieties to start with,” she advises

“As a general rule, avoid anything red and go for spongy bottoms rather than gills.”