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Wildcrafting: Dos and Don'ts

Updated on June 19, 2011

wild crafting

Food prices are rising, in fact, it seems as though the cost of everything is going up, what can you do?

Well you can supplement you food supply by becoming an urban forager, this simply involves identifying food sources, often fruit and berries, growing wild around your community or fruit trees and berry bushes on lands where you can gain permission to harvest.

You can complement this activity through wild crafting which means you go out into the wild which maybe a nearby field or forest and collect fresh herbs for your uses.

Wild Crafting Herbs

Herbs have many uses in both the culinary (for the kitchen) and the medicinal fields. Herbs are also used for landscaping to lend beauty and in some cases fragrance to the landscape.

Herbs are also frequently sought out by wild crafters who prefer a freshly gathered herb from one they have just purchased fresh from a local grocer. Some people think that the herb that they have collected in the wild is more potent than the same herb that they have purchased fresh.

Follow these basic guidelines and you will be off to a great start.

1. Do not take from diseased habitats, from the side of roads or the vicinity of factories and other scars on the landscape which may have polluted the earth.

2. Give back instead of just taking, bring some seeds with you and plant them after your have harvested.

3. Do not take more than you can use; others will also be seeking the same plants you do and you will want to leave some for them. You will also want to leave some for the pollinators who help the plants grow and for seed production.

Now wild crafting does not have to be limited to herbs, there is one plant that grows abundantly and all over your front and back lawn and yoru neighbours and so on. That’s right the dandelion, nutritious and versatile.

Now if you spray the lawn with poison to kill dandelions and other plants you call weeds, well don’t pick them for lunch.

Dandelions are good for tea or a coffee substitute, wine and the young leaves are great in salads.

Other Edible weeds

Lamb's quarter (Chenopodium alba, Chenopodium quinoa) grow in urban waste spaces and if the area is not sprayed regularly will provide fodder for yoru family. The young leaves can be used in salads. While the older leaves and tender stalks are cooked.

The leaves can be dried and ground into flour (replaces up to half the flour in any recipe; the seeds dried and cooked in soups, porridge.

Chickweed (Stellaria media), The young leaves and stalks and even the flowers are tasty in salads. You can add the seeds to porridge.

These are only a few examples of the plants that you can find, in town, that help you provide healthy food.

Get to know the empty lots and fields around town; take a trip into the country looking for the bounty that is waiting.

You will need to be able to identify the plants so invest in an edible wild food guide or drop by your public library and borrow one.

It can be useful to get a notebook and keep records of what you saw growing where. If the property is owned by the municipality, ask them if it is a lot they spray. You will also want to know if there was a gas station, for example, on the site, or any other potentially toxic activity took place there.

This is important to know as the plant’s roots could well have sucked up whatever toxic material got into the soil and by eating that plant, you will be transferring that toxin into your body. If the site is clean, harvest away always remembering to leave plants growing for the future and for others to enjoy.

The potential toxic threat in urban centres is the main reason people choose to travel tot eh countryside and forests to gather their wild food. However, with some common sense you can take advantage of the bounty that grows around town.

If wild crafting is an activity that you are interested in undertaking, then educate yourself first, know what you are picking and planning on eating.

a walk in the woods

importance of proper identification


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  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 6 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks for your input.

  • profile image

    copper 6 years ago

    collect all tubers in spring firewwed, milkweed, evening primrose, burdock i can go on.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    fiddleheads are the young green curled leaf of the ostirch fern, they are plentiful here.

  • Annie Couture profile image

    Annie Couture 9 years ago from Colorado

    Here I am it is 12:30am and I cant fall asleep. Which is how I stumbled on to your hubs. I have learned a great deal just by reading them tonight and now I am craving getting back to my garden which I have let fall by the wayside. Im realy interested in learning about wildcrafting. I know in the spring we have fiddleheads that come up. Iv bought them in the grocery store and think it would be fun to forage for them. Do you know anything about them?

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    We had a gleaning program whwn I lived in Northern Ontario, a few farmers let us bring people out to glean their fields.

  • marisuewrites profile image

    marisuewrites 9 years ago from USA

    very useful survival info. We have orange groves around here, now we'd get arrested picking from them, but in dire times, maybe. I will definitely be more alert and start getting familiar with this hot place.

    Many orange groves have become overgrown as owners could not keep them up, probably due to market or upkeep. But, it's sad to see them die.

    I remember living near McAllen, and Edinburg Texas and many farmers would plow up their crops of carrots and onions and let them rot in the ground if the price wasn't right. Sometimes we could "glean" the field but many times we were told no. It was always horrible to see the food go to complete waste.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    will do.

  • Shadesbreath profile image

    Shadesbreath 9 years ago from California

    That'd be great. I know ZERO about what to eat off of them, how to prepare it... when to pick it... tell if it's "ripe?" etc. Rock on man, keep doing what you're doing.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    I have not yet written a hub soley about dandelions but keep watching. they are a good plalce to begin. ZB, thanks for sharing that storey.

  • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

    Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

    Bob! Just wanted to share a sweet memory. My Gandparents used to have some "friends" that only showed up for a visit to my Mom & Dads house when the dandelions were just tender shoots. (They always just happened to have small knifes and two large apple crates in their backseat.) On one of these visits I had been roped into cutting the 2.5 acre lawn. My back was turned to the lane so I didn't see them arrive. I was doing my evil deed of decapitating dandelions, quite happily singing to myself. (I loved using the riding mower.) When I felt a tap on my shoulder, that scared to behesus out of me. Both the husband and wife in their upper seventies are out of breath shouting and scolding me for not "harvesting" all that beautiful "Salata". 10 hours later my older daughter was born. When she was little I always used to tease her by saying that her legal name was Dadelionna Salata.

    I've since mended my wasteful ways and will have an occassional dandelion salad.Thanks for reminding me of a really nice memory Zsuzsy

  • Shadesbreath profile image

    Shadesbreath 9 years ago from California

    This is another good one.  You should write one about just dandelions, since you've mentioned it twice so far in the hubs I've been reading today.  I can tell you know a ton about this stuff, but I think you might not realize how little some of us actually know.  We got tons of dandelions around here.  Might be fun to mess with those.. you know, just get started on this foraging thing slowly to check it out.(unless you already wrote one on that and I haven't got to it yet as I'm still reading through your list, lol)

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks Shirley, I agree about the dandelion, violets in salad add an interest in colour to the food.

  • Shirley Anderson profile image

    Shirley Anderson 9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Good article, Bob!

    My dad used to cook us Lambs quarter, tasted like spinach as I recall. I didn't know that you could make flour with it, I find that very interesting.

    The dandelion leaves are good, but only if they're young and small in my opinion. The wine made from the tops is very sweet. I also like violets in salads.