Why You Want to Start Wildcrafting – Hive 678

Why You Want to Start Wildcrafting

This is a re-blog from the now decommissioned standingground.ca

Why you want to wildcraft and how to do it mindfully. Hive678.com

Do you want to increase your intake of nutrient-dense foods without spending a lot of money?

Do you like the idea of gardening, but feel like you just don’t have a green thumb?

Wildcrafting is like the most fun part of gardening (the harvesting) without all the work that comes beforehand!

Wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting plants from their natural habitat for food or medicinal purposes. (The word “foraging” is often used for food and “wildcrafting” for herbal medicines, but they mean the same thing.)

When done carefully, in a way that does not disrupt the ecosystem, you can support many of your values with one fun activity!

Wild foods are usually very nutrient-dense because they come from relatively undisturbed meadows and forests. It’s also a fun way to enjoy the outdoors, and eat more local foods. There are also many easy herbal remedies you can make with wild plants.

Sustainably wildcrafting herbs for food and medicine can support your efforts to:

  • eat nutrient-dense foods
  • eat local produce
  • reduce dependence on Big Agro
  • enjoy nature
  • keep yourself healthy with natural tonics & remedies

You can also bring along family and friends and build community at the same time.

And just how many useful plants are out there? TONS! In one afternoon in northern New Brunswick, I identified 28 useful plants on one property, and there were probably a lot more I didn’t identify. Once you learn to identify some useful plants, you will see they are everywhere. Many useful plants are so prolific they are also known as weeds.

What to Bring for Wildcrafting

You don’t need many tools for wildcrafting, but there are a few essentials that will help your excursion go smoothly. Primarily, you’ll need something to carry your harvest in, and you might need some tools to detach the plants from the forest.

Baskets are great for short trips, and large paper bags are great for longer ones. Don’t store herbs in plastic because they can decompose quickly in the sun.

Depending on what you plan to harvest, you might need something for cutting, digging and snipping. You’ll want a trowel if you’re digging roots, and bring a good knife if you have to cut bark, or roots, and some kitchen shears or scissors for snipping greenery or flowers.

hori hori root digging knife | Hive678.comI love this hori hori digging knife for all sorts of wildcrafting and gardening tasks.It has one straight blade and one serrated blade and it is curved so it functions as a knife and a trowel. Another handy tool is a vegetable brush to clean roots with, to minimize the dirt you take with you. If you’re harvesting mushrooms, bring a paintbrush instead of a vegetable brush to avoid damaging them.

Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants
If you’re exploring a new area, a great field guide will help you identify useful plants. In my area (Halifax, Nova Scotia) Peterson’s Field Guide is the standard for medicinal plants, and here is the version for edible plants.  Another good, comprehensive one for this region that includes lots of pictures is Lone Pine’s Edible & Medicinal Plants of Canada. The other nice thing about the Lone Pine guide is that it has both edible and medicinal plants in one volume.

Wildcrafting Checklist

  • baskets or paper bags
  • kitchen shears or scissors
  • knife or trowel or both
  • a brush for roots, or paintbrush for mushrooms
  • a field guide
  • a notebook (or my wildcrafting lab book printable)
  • some company (optional)

Wildcrafting Best Practices

Get to Know Your Plant

Make sure you’re positive of the plant’s identity. When in doubt, leave it. For an introduction to some useful plants, it’s a great idea, and a lot of fun to take a class with a local expert. Last year, I did a year-long herbalism course with Savayda Jarone, and I had an amazing time. If you are in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick, I highly recommend you check it out.

When you’re encountering a new plant, it can tell you a lot about itself if you take the time to get to know it. The smell, texture and colour can sometimes give you clues as to what the plant’s uses are, and often a contemplative taste will also let you intuit what the plant does medicinally. One example is the soothing smell of linden that you might correctly guess is good for your heart.

Foraging dandelions | Hive678.com

Harvest Each Part in the Proper Season

As the plants experience the cycle of seasons, different parts of them hold the most nutrients and medicine, and different parts will be available at different times.

In spring, before the flowers have blossomed, the leaves are at their most tender, clean and relatively untouched by bugs. After flowers appear, the leaves can become tough and tasteless or bitter.

If you’re after flowers, then obviously you also have a specific window in which to harvest. Pick buds just before they open, or flowers that have just opened and before the start to wilt.

Roots are best harvested as late as possible, before the first frost. This is when the energy of the plant subsides into the ground, preparing for winter, but after the first frost, they’re sometimes damaged and spongey.

Collect seeds when they are ripe. You can tell when they’re ready by the little stem that attaches the seed parts to the rest of the plant. If the stem is dry, the seeds are ready. Collect them by putting a paper bag over the plant and cutting the stem. Always leave lots of seeds for the plant to return next year.

Harvest bark in spring or fall from pruned branches, not from the main trunk.

Harvest in the Morning

The best time to harvest is on a sunny morning right after the dew has dried. You don’t want to harvest wet plants on damp days, or in hot sun because the plants will wilt too quickly.

Be A Steward of the Habitat

The most important thing is to gather with mindfulness for the continued abundance of the plant and its ecosystem. Never harvest rare and endangered plants. Always leave enough plants that they will replenish. Leave flowers for the bees, seeds and berries for the other critters, and for the plant to continue to thrive. Don’t harvest more than one root out of ten, and re-cover any remaining roots you have disturbed. Only pick what you can process.

Over-harvesting can decimate a plant population in a given area, and depending on what you’re harvesting, you can also disrupt other critters, so you want to be mindful that you’re leaving enough for the forest, the birds & the bees.

Keep Good Records

One thing you’ll want to do now that will make your foraging easier in the future is to keep a good record of when you saw which plants, so you’ll be able to predict the perfect time to harvest each plant for next season.

To prompt you to remember, I made this Wildcrafting Log for you to record your expeditions on, with a bonus Plant Profile sheet for herbalists, where you can record which parts of the plant you use, the plant’s uses and the preparations to make. Click here to download:  Plant Profile  |  Wildcrafting Log

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Why you want to wildcraft pinnable | Hive678.com

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