Last Monday, August 10, Jenna Roselle (professional Forager) and April O’Keefe (local Herbalist) hosted a workshop entitled “Introduction to Wildcrafting.” We discovered that food and medicines grow EVERYWHERE! We just need to know what we’re looking for.
With the landowner’s blessing, and expertise from Jenna Roselle, we explored a private 2.5 acre property and identified over 55 edible and medicinal plants. Here are only a few of the plants we spent time with:
Birch (White and Black)
St. Johns Wort
And we learned how important plant identification is. For example, hemlock is not medicinal, nor is it edible. In fact, it’s a seriously dangerous poisionous plant that is very often mistaken for other, useful plants. Hence, you must KNOW YOUR PLANTS!!!
We learned that edible and medicinal plants grow all around us on the Seacoast. And we learned that we must gather these plants in a way that ensures that plants, and their habitat, survive for generations to come. But it’s really not that hard when we educate ourselves.
Here is a quick recap of some of the foraging basics:
- Know your plants, know your plants, know your plants! Yes, it’s that important.
- Understand the landscape you’re foraging on. Also, know which plants frequent specific ecosystems. This makes your search a lot easier. For example, learn which plants grow around edges of water (like: Blueberries, Cattail, Beach plums etc).
- It is also important to know what chemicals are used in areas around the land and whether there are any bodies of water nearby. A little research can reveal the water quality in the general area.
- Be aware of laws that apply to public use of state, federal and private land. Always always obtain the owner’s permission before foraging on private land.
- Because some plants are more in demand than others, it is important to know which ones are being over harvested. Right now in Maine, Ramps and Chaga mushroom are very popular so it is best to take only from abundant sources, and only what you need.
- A good rule of thumb is to harvest only 30% of non-endangered, native plants. Obviously there might be some exceptions in cases of invasive species, but most of the time it is best to give plants a chance to replenish their gifts.
In order to ensure that “at risk” plants and their habitat are not over-foraged to extinction, United Plant Savers provides guidelines for the ethical practice of foraging and wildcrafting. It’s not so hard at all. If you plan to forage for food and medicine, please make sure you are familiar with the work of UPS. Educate yourself about the ethical practice of wildcrafting and foraging.
The most interesting part of the evening you ask? The people, of course. There was a great group of like-minded folks. We learned lots and shared experiences and knowledge with one another.
Did you miss this workshop? No worries. Jenna and April are planning another at a different site this Fall. Stay tuned. Or, better yet, “like” the AOK Herbals Facebook page to get updates about upcoming workshops.
Until next class,