Here we go, Spring Foraging is about to come into full bloom!! My plan is to feature one or two In-Season plants in each blog post from now until the deep, dark winter comes again. To start us off, here is a list of Good Harvesting Practices to keep in mind.
- First and foremost, before you eat a Wild Food, be absolutely sure of its identity, and Don’t Eat Something if You Don’t Know What it is. (Go ahead, click the link, you won’t regret it) I often tell people that learning about Wild Foods isn’t hard, but it does take effort. You can go to the grocery store and tell the difference between Lettuce and Cabbage, right? Or Iceberg from Romaine Lettuce, right? And if we were to confuse those lettuces at the grocery store, we’d still come home with food that is safe to eat. That’s not always true in the wild, though……many plants have look-alikes and look-similars that will make us and our loved ones sick, so let’s be sure of what we’ve got.
- Get Permission. If it’s not your own backyard, make sure you have permission to harvest. On many local trails, parks and public land it’s perfectly fine to forage, but if you aren’t positive, make a phone call to be sure.
- Harvest from clean areas. I like to be aware of whether the area has been sprayed with chemicals like herbicides and pesticides, and avoid those places. In my county, most farmers use these things, so I’ll refrain from foraging near corn and soybean fields. I have friends who employ a service to spray their lawns with weedkiller, so I don’t harvest from their yards, either. I’m sure it’s not any different from what we find on conventionally grown foods in the grocery store….but…if I’m going through all this effort to find beautiful, nutritious Wild Foods, I’m going to make sure it’s organic, too.
- Harvest with the Plants’ health in mind. We want these plants to thrive and keep growing so that we can continue to come to them for food and wisdom. You’ll find a variety of ‘rules’ about How Much to pick – anywhere from 10% to 50% is what I’ve seen. I don’t think any one percentage can be applied across the board. A yard full of Dandelions would be hard to over harvest, in my mind, lol!! I would say to be Mindful as you go, listen to your intuition, even go ahead and ask the plants themselves. Be Friendly. 🙂
- Start Small. It is a wise practice to eat ‘just a little bit’ when you are trying out new foods, whether they are Wild nor Not. Everyone’s body is different, and you may be able to eat as much Chicken of the Woods as you want, but I know from experience that I cannot eat it at all. (I’ll spare you the messy details…..)
- Okay, I know this is more than Five Best Practices, so consider this a Bonus: Have Fun!! Get outside, enjoy the sunshine and the rain, take your kids and grandkids along, talk to the plants, listen to them, and enjoy the heck out of life every day. Why not?