Tenets of Wild-Crafting

 “The woods and fields are a table always spread.”

~Henry David Thoreau

What was the poet and visionary talking about when he uttered those words?  Wildcrafting, my friends.  The wonderful world of wildcrafting.

Wildcrafting is the gathering of herbs, plants and fungi from the wild.  It is the “gather” in the hunter-gatherer equation, and it is a practice that has sustained human life since time immemorial.  Nowadays, it is a practiced by naturalists and hobbyists, the First Peoples, and has even evolved, (sadly), to become an industry.

There is a code of ethics in wildcrafting.  Or else there would not be a “wild” left to “craft.”It is very important to be respectful of the natural environment with special reverence to the plants one gathers.

Only the top 1/3 of this plant was harvested.

Only the top 1/3 of this plant was harvested.

Here’s how:

  • Leave things better than you found them.  Stay on trails whenever possible, pick up garbage when you see it and treat the area you are gathering in as if it were your grandmother’s house. 🙂
  • Gather only what you need.  In most cases, usually just the branches, foliage and flowers are taken, leaving the remaining plant in tact.  Experienced wildcrafters will harvest in such a way that makes the plant grow better with increased productivity. In rare cases, when the whole plant is needed, the seeds of the plant will be left behind, insuring the continual growth and survival of the species. Taking just the top third of the plant is a good rule of thumb.
  • Know the laws of where you intend to harvest, and if on private property be sure to get permission. Not all public lands allow wildcrafting, and National Parks are a big no-no.
  • Be knowledgeable about what you are gathering.  When in doubt–count it out.  Do not gather plants, and especially fungi, that you are not 150 percent sure of the identification!  Be responsible and stay alive and well.
  • Take necessary precautions when going out alone.  Animals and other humans are not always friendly.  Have your wits about you and let someone know where you plan to forage.
  • Protect at risk and rare wild herbs.  Biodiversity is depending on you!  The United Plant Savers organization is the authority on this.
  • Don’t harvest from the first patch you see.  Typically, that is the same patch that every other wildcrafter sees first.  Go a bit further afield and spread out your collecting area, especially when collecting in a group.  Many wildcrafters use a ratio of one in four or one in five, meaning for every plant harvested, four are left behind in that area.
  • Harvest in clean areas.  Near roadsides and industrial areas and buildings are not clean areas.  A good rule of thumb is a buffer of 100-200 feet.  I like to get as far away as possible from these industrial areas, especially when gathering for medicinal purposes, because one never knows what has been sprayed or leeched.
  • Give thanks.  Let the plants know you are grateful for their sacrifices.  It might sound hippyish, but it’s just good practice.

For me, there is something very special about gathering the food my family and I will consume.  I gather with intention and am grateful for the experience to do so.  I even wildcraft in my very own backyard.  I  gather and dig dandelions medicinally, for culinary use, and of course, for wine 😉  In fact, dandelion greens were a staple during The Great Depression as a way to supplement families diets.  (The link above is a sweet video of a 94 year-old woman recounting her Depression experience and showing viewers how to make dandelion salad.  Clara is a true gem.  Check her out!).

Urban wildcrafting is also an option for many, while it is harder to find a clean place to gather, it is possible.  There is a lot of free food for the taking, if you know what you’re looking for.  There are also many lectures and classes available on this topic.  If you don’t know whee to look for this info, start by calling a health food store in your area.

My region abounds with ‘wilds’ to wildcraft.  There are many different types of fungi, fruit, nuts and berries. The list of culinary and medicinal plants, herbs, and flowers is almost endless.  There are also many different types of seaweeds, sea creatures to be had, and salt can also be harvested from the ocean’s waves.  (The members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition attributed that resource to their survival).

It is a known fact that the people of the Pacific Northwest are indubitably blessed!  😉

Where or not you are an experienced wildcrafter, gathering food and connecting with the natural world is a rewarding experience.  Just, please– harvest sustainably.

 

Want to know more?

*Shared With: Fat Tuesday, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Make Your Own Monday, Your Green Resource, LHITS DIY Linky, Fight Back Friday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways

Sustain, Create and Flow

19 Comments

  1. Great article! I just saw that the author of the First Ways blog http://firstways.com/ and new book ” Dandelion Hunter: Foraging the Urban Wilderness” is coming to speak at the Olympia Library. How fun! It is Thursday May 9th at 7:30pm at the downtown library.

  2. Wildcrafting is so fun! I often hunt chanterelles and follow these same rules, thanks for spreading the ethical way! I’m hoping to take a class this summer or create my own class for finding even more wild foods to hunt!!

    Thanks <3

  3. Great info! I am not a wildcrafter (yet) because, like you said, you need to be absolutely sure of what you are harvesting and I have not idea 🙂 BUT I’m a “leave no trace” advocate so I appreciate these tips. I’m sharing this with my followers 🙂

    • Mindy, thank you so much for sharing this post! I hope you get a chance to go wildcrafting soon. My best advice is to get yourself a great regional guidebook and head out with someone else who knows. Start small. Dandelions are easy and abundant. I dig them out of my yard. You can do a lot with them 🙂

  4. Thank you for your submission on Nourishing Treasures’ Make Your Own! Monday link-up.

    Check back tomorrow when the new link-up is running to see if you were one of the top 3 featured posts! 🙂

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  7. Wildcrafting is the best! While I have limited knowledge, I do know more than most in the general population. Some of the less nasty memories from my shitty childhood are from the many summer days spent out with my grandma collecting medicinal herbs and wild berries. There are probably few things as delicious as blueberries you eat fresh off the bush. Also, the best tea I’ve ever drunk was after a 14-hour track through some of the highest mountain ranges in my country. One of the mountain rescuers, who’s also a mountain cabin caretaker, brewed tea from some high-altitude fir buds. I can’t even describe how refreshing it was.

    • That sounds so awesome. Not the shitty childhood, which I can relate to, but the fir buds, how dreamy! Wild teas are not commonplace here and many folks are missing out!

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