* Identification, Identification, Identification.


* Purchase several field guides and read them repeatedly.  I recommend:

   “NATURE’S GARDEN – A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting and Preparing  EDIBLE WILD PLANTS”    by Samuel Thayer.  Available through Forager’s Harvest Press, Birchwood, WI. and

This book is an absolute must.  Samuel Thayer shares his heart, enthusiasm, humor and fountain of foraging knowledge in an engrossing and very readable way.  If you only purchase one guide, this should be it.  But, really, you also need:

PETERSON FIELD GUIDES Edible Wild Plants ”  by Lee Allen Peterson.  Available through Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

I take this book everywhere.  Often I wish it were larger, with more photos.  More often I’m glad it is small and easy to carry!

* Get confirmation from another live body.  If you can find an expert, go to them!  Most folks are happy to freely share their knowledge.  Taking classes, watching videos and attending seminars and workshops is invaluable.  At the very least have another pair of eyes study your find and your field guides.  If they don’t agree, whole heartedly, leave the plant alone and go back to researching. A wonderful resource is Facebook! There are a plethora of plant identification groups to join. Folks love to share their knowledge and you will have many pair of eyes on your find.

* WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT. Yes, I did already write this. And, I will write it again. Above all, this is thee most important thing to remember. If you are not absatively posolutely 200% certain, do NOT put that plant in you mouth.

It is always far better to be safe than sorry or dead.

* Pay attention to details. . . NEVER substitute the tiniest detail.  When you are out hunting Wild Carrot and come across a plant that fits the description except it’s stem is smooth, it becomes GOOD TO KNOW that this plant is NOT Wild Carrot, Daucus carota, it’s Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum.

* WHEN IN DOUBT, SPIT IT OUT. A minor variation on the doubt theme. What if you think you are certain, put something in your mouth and, oh no, that sure tastes different? SPIT!

* Know which parts to use, when to pick and how to process.  Not all parts of all edible plants are edible; all of the time!  In fact most have a small window of edibility.

* KNOW POISONOUS PLANTS. Perhaps this should be at the top of the list. Certainly the poison plants MUST be the first plants to be learned. It is difficult, if not impossible to avoid danger when you do not know what it is.

* WHEN IN DOUBT, SPIT IT OUT. Spit, spit, spit, spit, spit.

* KNOW AREA PREDATORS; from mosquito to bear to tractor trailer!

Be careful of crawling and flying predators!

Remember, if you get bit or stung, there is always something growing, nearby, to help remedy the painful reaction; such as, Plantain, Plantago spp., Red Clover, Trifolium pratense, and Yarrow, Achillea millefolium; any of which can be crushed or chewed and applied to the site for immediate relief.  Thank you, Momma Gaia!

* Protection, Protection, Protection

* Protect yourself.  Whenever possible go with a friend.  We are always safer in number!  Let someone know where you are going and when to expect your return.  Know the territory and weather report.  Dress appropriately.  I like layers.  Long, light colored, sleeves and pant legs are best; to avoid ticks, insect bites and brushing bare skin against unseen plants that may cause long standing hell! Never wear open toed shoes.  A good, natural insect repellant is essential.  I, also, carry a can of wasp spray.  Wasp spray is designed to spray 15 – 20 feet away.  If I ever happen across an unfriendly predator (bear or wasp) I hope I remember it’s in my bag!  A cell phone is a good idea!  Make noise.  Well, except if you’re fishing!  I put bells on my shoes and hang a small wind chime from my bag; to let the critters know I’m coming.  Most wild animals, elves, trolls and fairies will leave the area, before you get there; avoiding the possibility of confrontation.

* Protect the environment.  Every step you take has consequences.  Be responsible.  Carry a garbage bag and pick up trash along the way.  If you’re going to take something away you best be willing to give something back.  I like to leave a place better than I found it.

* Protect the plants.  NEVER OVERPICK.  The planet has already been robbed of enough species by the hand of man.  Pick conservatively.  Leave plenty for others, both human and animal.  Anywhere you find a plant, there’s a very good chance there are more, near by.  Don’t decimate a small area and tell yourself it’s ok.  Take care to pick a little here and a little there.  Always leave grandparent plants.  Grandys are the tallest, hardiest, often center plants.  They guarantee another harvest for next year.  Judicial harvesting will actually encourage new plant growth.

* PAY ATTENTION; stay in your senses:

“But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village.  The thought of some work will run in my head, and I am not where my body is, – I am out of my senses.  In my walks I would fain return to my senses.  What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?  I suspect myself.”

~Henry David Thoreau from “Excursions”

* Never harvest in contaminated areas.  I like to stay at least 20 ft from the road.  Be extra conservative in industrial areas, near power lines, on golf courses, in public parks, around railroad tracks, and on folk’s lawns.  Check local records for area spraying.  Find out if and when it will be safe.  Stay clear of all exposed drainage pipes. Always ask permission when possible.

* Always wash your harvest.  It’s a good idea to do this outside, if possible.  Also, checking for hitch hikers, before you take your harvest inside, will reduce the possibility of bug wars later.

* Less is more.  Any time you eat any new food, do so sparingly.  An allergic reaction is always possible with new foods; whether found in the field, the supermarket or a restaurant.

* Take notes

I use composition books, a large blotter style desk calendar, sketch books, and my camera to keep a record of my foraging experiences.  Noting where plants are found, what grows around them, when they are in season and what it was all like; along with photos and drawings, will help me be more successful in years to come.

* Get permission whenever appropriate.  Trespassing is against the law.  Getting arrested is not a good way to end a day of foraging!

* If it doesn’t taste right spit it out!  Many harmful plant constituents are bitter.

* Express your gratitude, in song, prayer and deed.

And, as with everything, if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong!

Happy hunting!


~ by francleablunt on May 5, 2016.

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