Foraging Guidelines

  •  Only eat plants that you can definitely identify, and that you know are edible
  • Harvesting should generally be done in the morning, after the dew has dried off the plants
  • Treat plants with respect and use sustainable foraging practices – only take what you need
  • Only harvest from plants that are abundant, and select the healthiest parts
  • Don’t uproot a plant unless you intend to use the root
  • Before picking plants, look around.  There may be more generous patches that can afford to be harvested
  • Keep different kinds of plants in separate bags, to avoid confusion
  • Be grateful for the gifts you are receiving
  • There are several places where you shouldn’t harvest – beside busy roads, anywhere that toxins have been dumped, lawns and gardens that are sprayed with chemicals.
  • If you aren’t sure about the safety of the foraging areas, it is best to vary your sources
  • Avoid harvesting from public land (picking is not permitted in State or County Parks)
  • Don’t harvest on private lands without permission from the landowner
  • Tell children to keep plants out of their mouths unless accompanied by an experienced adult

If you wish to sample an unrecognized plant, follow these simple steps:
(Be sure that you know poison ivy, oak and sumac by sight, as they won’t have any immediate effects when handled or eaten):

  • The first indication that will help you decide on a plant’s edibility is to try to identify its family
  • Use great caution at first, incase the sap is caustic and could burn your mouth or skin
  • Rub the plant juice on your inner arm first to test for caustic reactions
  • Try a small amount of leaf, berry, seed etc and chew it slowly.  Wait to see what happens.
  • It it starts to burn or sting, spit it out.
  • If it is a short lived, spicy burn, you can try it again.  If it lasts a long time, you won’t want to.
  • If it tastes OK, swallow some of the juices.
  • Watch for signs of allergic reactions.
  • If OK, swallow the rest.
  • Wait 24 hrs
  • Increase the amount and do it again.
  • Increase daily, watching for signs of change (you may discover its medical benefits this way)
  • It is better to gradually discover a plant than to make a fatal mistake.

It is best to learn a small number of common plants (12-15) in depth and to know their look-alikes.
Make sure you carry several re-usable gathering bags, paper bags and envelopes (for seeds and samples).  I usually carry a knife, a trowel and clippers in my back pack on serious gathering trips.  On hot days I also carry water.

Note: Medicinal uses of herbs mentioned in our workshops and articles are not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Please see a qualified medical practitioner for diagnosis if you have a health problem.

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