Wildcrafting is the art and the science of harvesting wild plants for food or for medicinal purposes. It can be a fun and relaxing hobby. It can also be a great and inexpensive way to obtain free food or to make your own herbal medicines. Wildcrafting is not for everyone, however, and it does have its pitfalls. If you want to determine whether or not wildcrafting is for you, read on.
Do You Have a Good Knowledge of Herbs and Other Wild Plants?
Before you can become an effective wildcrafter, you need to have more than a working knowledge of plant identification. You need to be able to identify all of the plants you plan to harvest and to do so in their natural setting. Wild plants often look different than cultivated versions or textbook pictures! If you do not have good plant identification skills, consider finding a mentor who does and is willing to teach you.
Are You Willing to Take the Risk?
Not all plants are safe to consume. Some plants are toxic and/or deadly. Furthermore, sometimes a poisonous plant closely resembles a nontoxic plant. This is why it is so important to have good plant identification skills, but, even so, there is always some risk. You have to be willing to take the gamble. If you are not, then wildcrafting is not for you.
How Are Your Harvesting Skills?
Do you have the skills to harvest the usable or medicinal portions of a plant without killing it? This is a vital part of wildcrafting; you want to be able come back and harvest the same plant later, after all. Again, if you do not have this skill set, try and find a mentor who does.
Are You Physically Fit Enough to Wildcraft?
Wildcrafting is not like gardening in your backyard. You have to go out into wild areas to find the plants you want to harvest. Often this means long, strenuous hikes through woods, up mountains, into marshes and into other harsh environments. You will have to pack all of your equipment in and out. You will also have to pack out your harvest on the way back. Are you fit enough to handle such rigorous activity? If not, consider putting off wildcrafting until you are in better shape.
Are There Any Wildcrafting Sites Nearby?
In order to wildcraft, you need to have a place to go foraging. It is often easy for those who live in the country to find places to wildcraft nearby, but suburbanites and city dwellers have a harder time locating such sites. Many city parks and subdivision “green areas” are treasure troves of plants waiting to be wildcrafted. You should make sure that wildcrafting is permitted before you set out, however, as the last thing you want to do is end up with a fine or get arrested for trespassing! Also, you should be aware that sometimes plants grown in the city may be contaminated with undesirable chemicals; find out the history of a site before deciding to wildcraft there.
Wildcrafting brings with it a lot of responsibility. Many of the plants most sought after by wildcrafters are endangered species. These plants all have enormous medicinal value, but they must be protected. All wildcrafters need to be willing to steward these plants by helping them to survive and proliferate. This means that you should be extra careful to harvest them without causing harm and that you should propagate them if at all possible. If you are not willing to take on this responsibility, please do not become a wildcrafter.