Wildcrafting – gathering plant material from it’s native “wild” environment – is becoming much more popular as an alternative source of food and medicine.
While in many ways nature-based herbal medicines and wild food foraging is ecologically sound – reducing carbon output, reducing chemical use, and, especially, reducing the immense drug-burden (from excreted pharmaceuticals) on soil and water-tables – there is still an impact, especially when there are simply more foragers at large, or if harvesting is done in a non-sensitive manner (trampling plants, pulling then up by the roots, over-harvesting, using endangered plants, simply – not being aware).
Responsible wildcrafting means to ethically harvest those plants which are most prolific and regenerative (dandelion, burdock, cleavers, for example) with the least amount of negative environmental impact.
Many wildcrafters have, or develop, a deep sense of kinship with the plants and surroundings, and make an effort for the protection and sustainability of natural areas. Equally important is an awareness of the ecological and personal relationship between individuals and our sacred Mother, Earth.
If I may, here are few suggestions:
Take the time you need to closely observe your surroundings over the course of days, months and years. That way you’ll know which plants are readily abundant, when they are in harvesting season, and which plants to protect. You’ll also form a respectful, friendly – even loving, relationship with the plants. Allow them to enter into your heart.
Be discreet. Others who witness you plucking plants may go ahead and do the same, but without your awareness and knowledge – especially children, who so love plants but also need some guidance on which are safe to eat, which flowers are abundant for picking, etc.
Know which plants are on the endangered list.
Harvest plants with a sense of respect and gratitude. Do so when in a calm emotional state, so you can stay aware.
Give back to nature in some way, and share your knowledge with other like-minded people. Try to join herbal walks with an experienced guide. Go out on your own, with not one, but two identification books, and look up one or two (or more) selected plants carefully. Touch the plants, smell them, talk to them, listen. If you know the plant is safe to eat, have a nibble. The greater the hands-on experience, the more you’ll remember.
A well-trained wildcrafter will avoid damage or depletion of our natural heritage, and she or he is integral in passing on the herbal knowledge of those who have come before them. If this is you, we need you, and our children need you.