Wildcrafting & Foraging

What is Wildcrafting?

 

As people are getting more interested in identifying and collecting mushrooms and other wild foods, recently the term 'wildcrafting' has been popping up in contrast to foraging. We invited Camille from MuseumEats to share her thoughts and stories on wildcrafting, and folks were able to ask questions they had about harvesting wild plants.

 

The bottom half of this page covers the Urban Foraging workshop we did with Lori Snyder in 2014, which talks about foraging for common urban 'weeds' that are beneficial to plants and people.

 

Wildcrafting vs. Foraging

 

If you're talking about going out into the forest to collect your food, think of foraging as the Gold Rush style of harvesting, where you discover a few patches of chanterelle mushrooms and take everything in sight.

 

Wildcrafting, on the other hand, is approaching the forest like you would a garden. This means understanding the ecosystem that you're engaging in, and giving back to it so that it continues to grow. We're not talking about being sustainable, we're talking about being regenerative!

 

Here are some wild plants and topics we talked about and their uses. For more in-depth information, pharmacists can be a great resource on wild and herbal medicines and possible health implications. The smartest way to enjoy wildcrafting is to go with someone you trust with experience in identifying and collecting wild plants.

 

Fungi

  • Red belted Conk: The base is used for heart, outside belt for arms & legs (harvest the outside belt and leave the rest intact)

  • Turkey Tail: Used to help immune system and treat cancer

  • Oyster mushrooms: Besides being delicious, they are used to replenish toxic soils and even clean up oil spills!

  • Drying mushrooms in the sun helps boost their Vitamin D content in a big way

  • A great mushroom identification resource is All that the Rain Promises and More...

 

Flowers

  • Dandelions: The flowers are eaten as a protein supplement and allergy treatment (see below for more on dandelion)

  • Stinging nettles: For important minerals

  • Pollen: Instead of eating bee pollen, eating flowers like fireweed and daisies can help with allergies

 

Fiddleheads and Ferns

  • Where do you find edible fiddleheads? The usual one is called Ostrich Fern (though pricier as it's imported from Ontario), and the local fiddlehead is called Lady Fern, not to be confused with the toxic Spiny Wood fern. The Lady Fern is found in places with brackish water, such as ditches. Its crown has 12 fiddleheads, so the rule of thumb is to harvest a maximum of 3, so they'll reproduce the following year. Full details on @MuseumEats on Instagram.

 

Bioremediation

  • Plants such as mushrooms, nipple wort, cat tails and buttercup can be used to replenish toxic soils by accumulating, breaking down and re-organizing toxins. Some of these plants such as cat tails and mushrooms are edible, but they shouldn't be eaten if used as bioremediators, as they contain accumulated toxins.

  • Buttercup can also be used as green mulch for your garden, as their deep roots bring up soil nutrients for other plants

 

Making the most of medicinal plants

  • Tinctures or herbal vinegars are an easy way to get more nutrients out of wildcrafted plants

  • Try using a live vinegar, like apple cider vinegar with the mother (find one that is labelled 'with the mother')

  • You can also use alcohol like high-proof vodka or food-grade ethanol

  • Harvest cottonwood (aka poplar) buds in the spring and soak in vinegar to draw out the propolis. This can be used to treat many illnesses. Try the same with turkey tails to create a powerful medicine!

Urban Foraging Tips

 

The following info is just a small taste of the wide world of herbal medicines - take your time to explore it and check your sources! Click each photo to enlarge and see the rest in our photo gallery. Here are some tips to get you started:

 

  • Rethink your idea of weeds! You may realize that the plants you see everywhere serve as more than a nuisance or useless ornament, and in fact they may be hardy for a reason

  • When foraging, bring a sacred herb to give thanks for what you take, or else pluck a hair or sing a song 

  • Harvest in healthy bountiful areas and only take 10%

  • Think of seasonality - ex. harvest dandelion leaves & roots in spring and preserve as tincture for fall

  • If you want a place to start, try Plants of Coastal BC and A Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants of Canada

  • For information on Lori Snyder's medicinal walks, contact her at earthandcompanyinfo@gmail.com

Red Clover

 

  • blood purifier and helps throat, lungs, skin

  • great for garden as it pulls extra nitrogen out of the soil for other plants

  • bees and pollinators love it

  • edible flower, you can make ice tea with it

Blackberry

 

  • use with sage to aid digestion

  • chew leaf for cankers & sore gums

  • Vitamin C, iron, antioxidant

  • use root bark to cure diarrhea

  • try mixing with baking soda for whitening teeth

  • leaf used for ulcers

Dandelion

 

  • flower: Vitamin D, bees food - harvest in spring

  • leaf: bitter=good for digestion; diuretic, kidneys

  • try cooking leaf in stir frys

  • root: liver tonic, spring cleanse your system - harvest in spring before flowers come, or fall after frost

Plantain

 

Broad Leaf:

  • leaf: minerals, Vitamin A, C, K, potassium

  • enzymes neutralize insect bites

  • roots: used for toothaches

  • seeds: bowel cleanser - leave out to dry, mash into a paste with water, eat and chase with more water

  • use all of the plant - steam leaves or make soup

  • do not use if you have diabetes

 

Narrow Leaf:

  • lungs: soothes inflamed membranes, quit smoking

  • anti-microbial

  • make a tea or spray on tongue

Oregon Grape

 

  • roots: make yellow dye or a tonic for constipation, gall bladder, liver

  • flowers: edible

  • berries: jelly & jam

  • leaf: scaly skin, pimples - harvest in early spring

Comfrey

 

  • used for infections, but it closes wound very quickly so make sure wound is already closed so bacteria doesn't get trapped inside

  • make compost tea for plants - soak in water, leave for 3 weeks and spread around base of plants (careful it gets stinky!)

  • infuse root in lip balms & salves

©2018 by The Food Connection. All rights reserved.

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