Feb 24, 2010

"What Is...?" Wednesday


Wildcrafting is a term for the age-old practice of collecting plant materials in their natural habitat for food, medicine, and craft. Originally such activity was the only grocery store, medicine chest, and hardware store, available to man. But eventually the “found materials” became a source of income to buy what could not be “gleaned” from nature.

Opportunities for wildcrafting are not just found in the countryside. There are “wild” places in cities and in one’s own backyard. Many landscaping plants and trees have fruit that goes to waste every year. Crabapple and quince are just two examples. In your own yard or in your neighborhood may be native persimmons, walnuts, blackberries, dandelions and wild roses. In wildcrafting we are harvesting the bounty of the earth and should always approach collecting with respect and thankfulness.

Herbs are commonly collected by wildcrafters, who may sell them fresh, dry them, or distill them into essential oils. Some wildcrafters are also herbalists, offering a variety of herbal treatments to their clients including tisanes and infusions, and they may create specialized herb blends as needed. Many of these herbs are rare and they do not do well in gardens, so wildcrafters are needed to harvest these wild plants.

Your emotional state will greatly affect your plant and habitat locating abilities. Concerns, fears, and a constant replay of yesterday's traumas will cloud your awareness of the signs around you. When you're upset, you are more likely to miss obvious animal clues, get lost in thick shrubs of the ever spiny Devil's Club, Oplopanax horridum, or even fall off a cliff. Many places of power are inaccessible without a proper emotional state. No rock climber in their right mind would attempt a difficult ascent without a centered consciousness. The same applies to plant hunters. One must approach the earth with openness and respect if you expect to learn anything from it.

Guidlines For Wildcrafting:

~ Do you have the permission or the permits for collecting at the site?

~ Do you have a positive identification?

~ Are there better stands nearby? Is the stand big enough?

~ Are you at the proper elevation?

~ Is the stand away from roads and trails?

~ Is the stand healthy?

~ Is there any chemical contamination?

~ Is there any natural contamination?

~ Are you in a fragile environment?

~ Are there rare, threatened, endangered, or sensitive plants growing nearby at any time of the year?

~ Is wildlife foraging the stand?

~ Is the stand growing, shrinking, or staying the same size?

~ Is the plant an annual or a perennial?

~ Is tending necessary and what kind?

~ How much to pick?

~ Time of day? Time of year?

~ What effect will your harvest have on the stand?

~ Do you have the proper emotional state?

~ Move around during harvesting.

~ Look around after harvesting. Any holes or cleanup needed?

~ Are you picking herbs in the proper order for a long trip?

~ Are you cleaning herbs in the field? Do you have the proper equipment for in-field processing?

An excellent educational resource for both adults and children is a board game called Wildcraft made by LearningHerbs.com. I recently purchased this game and my kids absolutely LOVE it!

1 comment:

Beth said...

I love that game! I recently gave it to a friend of mine for Yule. LearningHerbs is such a fantastic website too. I want to get a subscription to their mentor site so I can learn more.

By the way ignore the troll your blogs are awesome.