- 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.