Wildcrafting means gathering plants and mushrooms for food and medicine from the wild. This is also referred to as foraging.
Wildcrafting is a good choice for obtaining herbs that grow in your region if these herbs have a healthy native population. In the case of threatened herbs, it is best to attempt to grow them yourself or to obtain them from a reputable grower.
Some herbs are invasive species that cause damage to the native plant populations by competing for local resources. If the herb you wish to have on hand is considered an invasive species, it is always better to wildcraft that herb, rather than to attempt to grow it in your garden and potentially add to the problem, though growing the herb in a pot indoors is often a safe option.
- Always ask permission before you harvest anything on land that does not belong to you. Some public lands are reserved and carry steep fines for removing anything from them and wildharvesting on private property could get you a trespassing charge.
- Only take the part you need. If you only need the flower, there’s no point in uprooting the whole plant. Bring sharp scissors so this doesn’t happen by accident.
- Learn about the life cycle of the plant you are harvesting so that you can harvest it the safest and kindest manner.
- Never harvest an entire stand of plants. Never even harvest half of a stand of plants. Always leave the majority to grow and reproduce.
- Reseed if possible. Gather seeds as you go, so you can replant. You may have to return later, but it’s worth it. (It’s also worth it to take some seed home and plant it in your yard.) Never take all the available seeds.
Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America (Peterson’s Field Guides) by Steven Foster and James A. Duke (There are guides for other areas as well, you just have to look for them.)
Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild and Not So Wild Places by Steve Brill and Evelyn Dean