I received an email from one of my readers to do an article on Ethical Wildcrafting. Perfect timing as I was hiking a couple of weeks ago and we went into a public land which had signage denoting native plants and some of the medicinal uses. While good wildcrafting possibilities, we were torn between ‘leaving only your footprint’ and harvesting for future use.
Wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting plants from their ‘wild environment’ for food or other medicinal practices. While this is a great thing and you could say wow- true wildcrafting should be done with environmental concerns in mind, such as protecting endangered species both in flora and fauna and utilizing proper harvesting techniques. Proper harvesting techniques are cutting parts, not taking the whole plant so the plant can regrow. In the USA wildcrafted plants are regulated by the Organic Food Production Act of 1990.
The reality, you don’t have to go into the woods to wildcraft, if you have a garden or a yard, there is plenty of wildcrafting food and medicine supplies. Many weeds are edible such as Dandelions, which can be cooked with eggs, made into soup and even wine. In California, the century plant, garlic mustard are all considered weeds can be used for food and medicine. Of course, you should not use sprays such as roundup and know your weeds first before you eat and use them. If you don’t know or are not sure, check them out at your local nursery or expert.
So how does Ethical Sustainable Wildcrafting Work?
- Check that the plant is not rare, endangered or threatened. Ethical wildcrafting means you only can use ethically the right plants and are supporting the environment.
- Double check where you will be Wildcrafting in some public areas you will need a permit. Respect signage and do not trespass. Ask permission
- Leave few or no marks behind- no trash, no litter
- Don’t take the roots, learn to cut at the appropriate places, so the plant will continue to reproduce.
- Don’t take more than you need and don’t cut down whole areas . Take only 1 in 10. This leaves the stand for future reproduction and wildlife. If the stand doesn’t have enough to harvest- leave it be.
- Look for healthy stands and healthy eco-systems. If the eco-system is fragile, leave it. Make sure if you take from a stand, consider your impact- will it cause erosion, drought conditions, other plants, how will it effect the whole plant community?
- Learn your plants first, take a book or a guide to learn how to harvest sustainability
- Harvest in season
- Take at least 500 yards off a road
- Be in harmony with nature, enjoy the wildlife, listen to sounds, don’t disturb the animals and thank mother earth for providing nutritious and medicinal plants. Respect the plants, learn the healing properties
Wildcrafting– Website and Forum on using wildcrafting for food and medicine
Wildcrafting – Forage For Free Food – Good information site on types of edible food and what you can use them for. I really liked the foods by state, which listed not only the name but also what they are commonly known as.
Photo Credit: http://www.squidoo.com/portulaca