A simple guide to foraging and harvesting edible weeds and wild food
Gathering edible weeds and wild food has gained considerable traction recently. This simple guide provides some important practices to keep in mind when foraging edible weeds and wild food plants.
Be inspired by nature, the medicines that surround us – they’re in our backyard gardens, our pantry, the gaps in the pavement.
When we open our eyes, we see the edible weeds and wild foods that surround us. I urge you to go outside, enjoy daily walks, build relationships with the medicines that surround you. Whether you live in the suburbs or the countryside, get to know the trees, plants and weeds that are in your neighbourhood.
Walking the plant path is a relationship built on reciprocity. It is important to develop a two-way relationship with the plant world.
1. Consider The Plants And The Environment
Be conscious of the need to limit damage to the plant and the surrounding area. Ask yourself: what impact am I going to have? After we leave, a harvesting site needs to look like we haven’t been there. Notice the plant’s surroundings – are there plenty of the same species? If there is only one small plant in an area leave it alone and visit the following year.
2. Harvest Consciously
My teachers taught me to take some time to sit with the plant I would like to harvest and ask the plant permission before taking anything. Gather from the healthier plants you find and use the rule of thirds. If there is a healthy population leave a minimum of a third for others and a third so the plant can continue growing.
3. Check for Pollution and Pesticides
Any plant collecting, especially in urban areas, needs to be as far from pollution as possible, so avoid roadsides. Check with local councils and shires regarding whether an area has been sprayed with weed killers or pesticides. Because the sprays will be resistant to water washing avoid harvesting from these areas. Ask permission from land guardians before harvesting. Once harvested, check the plants for insects.
4. Correct Identification
When gathering plants, always stick to those that you know and can easily identify. If you are unsure of a plant’s identity leave it, take a photograph instead and check when you are home. I confess that in my earlier foraging days I didn’t take this advice and harvested some mushrooms “I thought” I knew. After a tasty dinner fast forward to waking in the middle of the night with massive chills followed by a burning fever. I did this three times before I realised it was the mushrooms that were the source of my fever. Once I properly identified them I discovered they were poisonous and to be strictly avoided. So please learn from my experience. Avoid harvesting any plants you are unsure of as some plants are poisonous and remember hemlock is prevalent in New Zealand.
5. Know Your Seasons
Harvest and process different parts of the plant at different times of the year. In autumn harvest roots when the plant’s energy returns to the ground in preparation for winter. In most cases harvest plants before they bloom, unless you are collecting flowers.
The benefits of foraging for edible weeds and wild food extends beyond your physical health. The simple act of walking in nature and connecting with plants can be a meditative experience that helps transform your mental and spiritual well-being.
want to learn more?
My WORKSHOP: WHERE THE WILD WEEDS ARE shows you how to identify, forage and prepare edible weeds for your health and the planet’s. It is a hands-on, practical and informative workshop. So be sure to CHECK IT OUT.