Wildcrafting is gathering wild plants for food or medicine and a wonderful way to connect with nature. It is quite simple and also incredibly fulfilling to get to know the plants around you and creates a sense of self sufficiency. When taking the time to harvest plants for food or medicine there are some simple things you can do that can make the experience better for both you and the plants.
When entering an environment take a moment to notice the landscape. Take note of invasive plants and if they should be removed, what species need help. Think about about how you can better support the eco system as a whole by editing the environment in a way that is mutually beneficial. Using your knowledge can deepen your connection with the land and the plants.
It's important to harvest plants at their optimal growing time of year and in prime locations. Preferably where they have chosen to grow, but away from roadsides (at least 100 ft away). Plants absorb toxins easily and signs of poor health indicate that are at the extremes of their growing conditions and are not suitable for consumption. A good rule of thumb when harvesting from a single plant is never to take more than a third of the plant, a fourth of the foliage or half the root. Replant root crowns and root cuttings. Harvest discreetly, fill your holes and leave no trace. Try your best not to harvest more than you need unless it is considered an invasive in your area. You can harvest invasive plants abundantly while helping your bio region.
Things to keep in mind.....
- The most important thing when foraging for food or medicine is positive identification. Make sure you know 100% that what you are collecting is the correct plant.
- Who are the indigenous people of this place? Land Acknowledgement
- Do you need permission or permits for collecting?
- Respect for the plant. Do not over harvest. Think about what effect your harvest will have on the plant.
- Humility. When we are wildcrafting for medicine, we are asking the plant for help. Put aside what you know about the plant, and let go of any preconceived notions and expectations. How can we ask for help if we think we know everything about what it is and what it does? This can be hard for those of us who have been at this a while, memorizing latin names and constituents, but remember to be humble and open and work on building a relationship with the plant as there is so much we can learn from the heart.
- Slow down. Tune into your emotional state. Plant time is much slower than our time. Be present, aware and conscious of what you are doing.
- Be grateful. Give thanks for whatever we receive from the plant. How wonderful it is to be here and harvest medicine?
- Practice regenerative land stewardship. Offer something back to the plant you harvested from. Maybe trim off dead leaves, scatter seeds, clear space around the plant, offer some water.
Medicinal Plants of the Pacific Northwest by Michael Moore
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore
Wild Edible Plants of the United States by Donald R. Kirk
Pacific States Wildflowers Peterson Field Guide by Theodore Niehaus and Charles Ripper
Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs Peterson Field Guide by Steven Foster and Christopher Hobbs
Identifying and Harvesting Wild and Medicinal Plants. In Wild and not so wild places By Steve Brill and Evelyn Dean
The Skillful Forager by Lena Meredith