Wildcrafting #1: Starter guide
Wildcrafting is the ancient art of taking care of yourself by taking care of Mother Nature. A tried and true method of not only survival and sustainability, but also a way of promoting abundance, diversity and showing gratitude to dear old MOM who is always looking to shower us with blessings. It is a way of collecting seeds, nuts, plants, roots, flowers from the wild. Before there was processed food and drive thru, before refrigerators or farms or agri business, before the neanderthal or the missing link there was wildcrafting. Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it ( Cole Porter lyrics ) Let’s do it… Let’s wildcraft.
For starters understand the principal. Mother Nature provides us with everything we need to survive. There is quite an etiquette that goes with wildcrafting. A whole bunch of rules that are spelled out for people who have lost all touch and connection with their roots. What once was obvious natural behavior practiced by indigenous people whose life depended on knowing the rules has become a lost art. Here are the rules. http://home.klis.com/~chebogue/p.conWild.html Read them and understand them before you head out into the wild blue yonder.
For now just apply good common sense.
- Positive ID of the plant a must.
- Stay away from roadside plants that are contaminated with pollutants, polluted water and industrial areas.
- Leave a place better than you found it best if there is no trace of your ever being there.
- Always leave something so the next generation can produce and multiply.
- Always thank Mother Nature and the plant for their gift.
- Only take what you need.
When you have graduated to the next step you will need to check with local authorities and see what plants require a picking permit. Some herbs like the fiddle fern and Echinacea are protected. Some areas are protected. Check to make sure. You don’t want to be picking protected plants in restricted areas. In the mean time, Trust me. Mom has a lot of goodies up her sleeve and there usually is an abundance of what you need and can use within arms reach. So let’s get started in our own backyard and neighborhood.
Clean pickings is important. No pesticides, herbicides, snail, or rat poison, or roundup around. If you don’t know, leave it alone. Getting a positive ID is critical. Know your plants. Mother Nature has a wonderful way of mimicking herself. This is especially true in the mushroom department. So we are not going to do mushrooms here. You need an expert in this area. One mushroom with an ever so slight variation hardly visible to the human eye can be the deadly mimic to the edible variety.
An entire group of Maidu Indians died from collecting mushrooms from their usual foraging spot. The mushrooms had been contaminated with a wild spore that they had no way of knowing had settled on the mushrooms. This put me off of hunting mushrooms on my own.
Wild carrots, fennel and poisonous hemlock have exactly the same flower arrangement the only difference is hemlock has a spotted hollow stem. We are going to start you off wildcrafting in familiar surroundings. This will teach you how to look for plants, see plants, and learn about their secret life.
Here is a picture of my front yard.
It is 5‘x10’ and has over 100 wild herbs. spices, domestic and foreign. Can you find the yarrow, spearmint, ginger, horseradish, mustard, burdock, motherwort, vervain, ephedrine, fennel, wild radish, red clover, wooly mullein, scarlet pimpernel, dandelion, mugwort, violets, sage, comfrey, jasamine, rose hips, lavender, rosemary, honeysuckle, aloe, millet, onions, nasturtiums, plantain, borage, thyme, yellow sulfur plant, knot weed, curly dock, geraniums, apple, lemon, apricots, guava, cherry, bamboo, cattail and I still have not found a good use for crab grass but it’s there. I can promise you this wildcrafting can become an obsession.
I will do three plants per blog. Lets start with the common scarlet pimpernel. This is a little darling. So many uses. Find it.
When I first saw this in the wild I thought I had found a new source of gold. This huge over sized dandelion looking seed pod shimmered like spun gold in the sunlight. The wildflower book describes the color as brown but I am telling you it is gold. It grows wild. Brought some seeds home and it grew. The root looks like a carrot and taste like an oyster. Leaves are eatable. Taste best if harvested before it flowers. Find it.
Here is how you pronounce it and more. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlUVTPokwh4
Plantain (not the banana) Another one of those hidden treasures with secret powers. There is broad leaf and English plantain. Picture is English variety. The parallel venation is a dead give away. The Indians chewed a leaf (saliva is the secret ingredient) mixed it with sap from the pine tree applied to splinters, etc. foreign objects needing to be removed, and within 24 hours the object was drawn out. Find it.
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More next week
Part 3 Wildcrafting Dandelions, Curly dock, Jewelweed & Making flower essences
Part 4: Wildcrafting: The CAT’S MEOW A LIFESAVING PLANT