Wild crafting? Where to begin.
Wild crafting? Where to being. Who doesn’t love to go out in the land and gather plants and herbs to use? But doing so can be a bit daunting if you are unsure of what you are picking, where you can go, or just what’s edible and safe. I have found a number of different tools to help in this adventure. So let’s take a look and then go explore. Tool number one is Permission. Before you ever set foot outside with wild crafting on your mind you need to keep these basic rules in mind. Always have permission for the land you are on. Never pick all of any stand, leave some for next year. Study the land around it so you know it’s healthy and not diseased. Never pick the ones by the road. Never pick the endangered species, so knowing what you’re looking at is very important. Keep in mind wild Crafting is a spiritual activity so enjoy. Waste not want not, sometime just looking is enough. Now that you have the basic rules in mind and before you get out in the field it’s time to do your research.
The second tool is Information. Where can you find information about all those lovely green wild plants out and about? Here are a few places to start. Your local Weed and Pest office. Why you ask? Because they should have a book for you to check out or purchase on the weeds in your area. We both know that not all “weeds” are “weeds” some are lovely herbs that offer great benefits, but to them they are weeds. This book will show you a picture of the specific weed and where they are located, grown and under which conditions. Some will even give you their Latin names. Now you have a picture, the Latin name, and can look up the specifics on each to find their specific health value if they have any. The bonus you also now know which plants are in your area, all you have to do is watch for them.
Tool three. More Knowledge. Here are a few other books to help you locate all those great herbs. Since I live in the mountain west here are some books that work for this area and others as well. Medicinal Plants of the Mountain Westby Michael Moore. Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places by Anne Schneider. Weeds of the West by R Parker, R Lee, B Nelson, D Cudney, L Burrill, T. Whitson, S. Dewey. Wildflowers Grasses and Other Plants of the Northern Plains and Black Hills by T. Van Bruggen. Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places. By “Wildman”, Steve Brill with Evelyn Dean. These books are just the tip of the ice burg! I will be honest and let you know some are not easily found. You will want to keep your eyes open and look for old books as well as in used book stores and on line. Sometime the greatest find can only be found in a dusty ole bookcase of our grandparent’s home. Others are out there just waiting for you to snap them up and start learning. So enjoy the hunt for these books as well as all those great herbs.
Books are not the only place you can look for information. Now that you know what’s in your area you need to know about them, and build your own Materia Medicas on locally grown plants. So you will need the specifics. Sometimes the books only give you what they know or are dealing with. So it’s up to you to look further into it. Questions to ask/look for; common name, parts used, constituents, actions, uses, dosages, Latin name, what the plant looks like, solvents, and then the fun part. What are the local, regional histories for this plant? Learn all you can before you go out and “wild craft” any herbs. Knowledge in this case is power. Power to make sure you don’t pick a deadly plant, or an endangered one. Enjoy!
Cate Loetscher is a Certified and Master Herbalist. You can find her on Facebook at The Herb and Spice Lady. Or by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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