In our last post about Red Clover for Motherhood, we briefly outlined the do's and don'ts of wildcrafting, and wanted to elaborate on the ethics of harvesting wild plants. We abide by these guidelines, are careful to teach our children the same and love being able to share this information with others. As herbalists specializing in wildcrafting, this is our passion!
How, when and where a plant is harvested is just as important to your intentions for the plant as the plant itself. Maintaining respect for every aspect of your harvest is vital.
It is always important to remember is that there are laws around taking plants and flowers out of provincially and federally protected parks. Respecting this helps these protected areas remain as pristine and natural as they are intended to be. It is important to find locations that are unsprayed and low traffic. It is always important to have landowners permission before gathering from private land. In the Peace Country, there are countless viable areas to gather. Cutlines through crown land, logged areas, grasslands. Sometimes the best way to find a great spot is just to get in the car and drive. (If you're going to remote areas, definitely remember some bear bells and bear spray).
Something we never used to know to do is to keep in mind the time of year in relation to the parts of the plant you hope to gather. In spring, fresh shoots, buds and leaves are the most energetically vibrant, mid summer for flowers, and of course fall for roots and seeds. All plants have a unique cycle that keeps them in sync with nature - daily and seasonally. For example, some plants prefer to be harvested early in the morning, after a rain. Some prefer to be harvested in the evening when it is dry. Do your research to determine when the most optimal time of year and day is before you harvest any herbs.
Once you have found an area filled with whatever you're after is to remember to never take more than ten percent of the stand. This leaves enough plants for the next years regrowth as well as a food source for the birds, bees and bears. If you have found an area with only a few plants (such as arnica) you're better off to leave it so it can spread and multiply over the next few years and find another place to harvest from.
Using sharp scissors or snips helps minimize damage to the plant if you are taking cuttings, and we have found that old school craft store baskets are the best way to keep everything together while still allowing air flow.
We always try to practice gratitude to a higher power as we harvest. It is hard to be in nature and not feel connected to something bigger than us. Whatever your faith is, saying a little thank you to Mother Nature as we reap her goodness shows a proper respect for the process, and we are convinced, helps us to deliver the best products we can.
(Aimee shown gathering horsetail from a boggy area on her organic farm)