Birch leaves start appearing in March to May, depending on where you live. If you decide to pick them, you want to collect the small new wrinkly looking leaves. It is tempting to go for the larger ones, since they are easier to pick, but they have a much more bitter taste. So go out on a warm sunny day, bring a sitting mat and a thermos, and allow yourself to be immersed in the peacefulness of foraging. There is no rush, instead of looking at your watch; take in the smells and sounds of your surroundings.
There are many reasons to pick birch leaves. They have been used in folk medicine as a cure for rheumatism, gout, fever, water retention and eczema to name but a few. I simply pick them for the taste, they add a lovely spring-time taste when used as an herb in cooking, and they also make a lovely herbal tea, either on their own or in a mix.
I find it useful to pick into a bag hanging from my wrist, that way I’m not in danger of dropping it and spilling my catch. It can also be handy to have some wet-wipes in your pocket, birch leaves are quite sticky, and you’ll soon feel like you’ve been playing with glue.
Please forage responsibly. Remember that the trees need their leaves to live, so don’t decimate them. Take a few leaves off each branch, but leave enough that it doesn’t show you’ve been there.