The Forager Who Lives Off The Land in Central London

Despite being one of the most populated cities in the World, London maintains an incredible amount of green spaces.

In all, the capital boasts 14,164 hectares of green spaces, including parks, wildlife habitats, natural reserves, gardens, outdoor spaces, and plenty of room to get foraging.

Jonathan Cook has been foraging for most of his life. Nicknamed  ‘John the Poacher’ he flogs food he finds to trendy restaurants and now makes his living picking mushrooms, fruits and flowers that grow naturally.


Behind his burgeoning business is one of London’s finest foodie hotspots, Hackney. Thanks to a growing number of food spots in the borough Jonathan has managed to built a tight-knit trading community through word-of-mouth, eschewing social media in favour of spreading the word organically.

He said: “People come and find me to work with the, I don’t go out looking for them. The more I get known, the more customers I get.

“People are interested and I help them build a reputation because I work with so many other companies. With each produce, I’ll only supply one company, for example I work with Fifty Eight Gin and they’re the only gin I’ll work with.

“We’ve made four new flavours, all of which I have sourced flavours for – they’re interested in unique, niche flavours.”

John the poacher forages for Giant Polymore Fungus in Springfield Park, London. He supplies what he finds to Hackney's trendy restaurants and bars. See National News story NNPOACH: A forager who picks mushrooms, fruit and flowers and trades them for food and drink has made a living off the land - despite living in London. Full-time forager Jonathan Cook, 39, has been foraging for over 20 years, since being introduced to the past-time by his grandfather aged seven. He started foraging as a hobby, but as Hackney, east London, where he lives, has turned into one of London's foodie hotspots, he has taken his passion full-time. John, who goes by the nickname 'John the Poacher', spends most his time in parks, commons and marshes across the east London borough, collecting produce which he trades for other food.

His trading success is largely based on the age-old art of bartering. If he manages to trade a rabbit for some cheese, then he normally gets back more than what the rabbit would be worth, so that’s a success for him.


He has recently begun using these unique flavours in a collaboration with Square Root Soda, an independent, small batch drinks maker, who he helps develop seasonal flavours to sell exclusively at the Tate Modern.



Jonathan says: “Foraging is more environmentally friendly, but a lot of people don’t have the time.

“I’m out every day picking stuff, and I’ve developed it into a business model. I’m always learning and picking different things, it builds up your knowledge over time.

“I’ve got a really good memory for details and information so I can recognise things well. A lot of mushrooms grow in the same place, so I’ve mapped out a list of spots to check and once there’s one, you know that they’ll be in other places.”


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