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Environmentally friendly picking

Gathering nettles​
Credit: Arpent nourricier - Flickr
Gathering nettles​
Environmentally friendly picking

Setting off to pick edible wild plants is a wonderful adventure that allows us to not only add novel flavors to our plates but also to renew connections with Mother Earth. Take the time to listen, to touch, to feel, to experience the forest. Nature is so generous to us, let’s learn to know and respect it. A strong as it is, it can also be fragile. So here are some tips that will guide you in successful eco-friendly gastronomical gathering.

Think of the future

First and foremost, consult the list of plants that are rare or that have vulnerable status. Certain plants – wild garlic, for example – take a number of years to reproduce and are protected by law.

If you must gather the entire plant, it’s very important to leave enough individuals behind for the natural regeneration of the population. There’s no point in picking too much. Be reasonable and collect only what you need. Have a thought for the wildlife whose survival possibly depends on that particular resource.

The art of proper picking

When you gather just one part of the plant, such as the leaves, try to spread your harvesting out over a number of individuals. As a general rule, no more than one-third of a plant should be harvested at a time. That way you avoid weakening the plant, which can then better regenerate. In the same vein, pick the plant delicately so as not to hurt it, always using a good pair of scissors.

Always be certain of what you harvest

Even an experienced gatherer must take the time to properly identify the plant. In nature, many species resemble one another. The difference between an edible plant and a poisonous one can sometimes be subtle. Examine all the details: leaf position, veins, inflorescence, fruit, and so on.

Make sure you’re gathering the right part of the plant. This is especially important if you’re harvesting medicinal plants. Do you need the roots, the seeds, the flowers or the leaves? A good example is the violet (Viola spp.). The leaves and flowers can be eaten and be used as a treatment. The root, on the other hand, causes vomiting.

Respect the area

When you’re out gathering, step as little as possible on surrounding plants. Also, show respect for unspoiled nature by not leaving waste behind.

Finally, always harvest in a safe and healthy environment. Select only the best-looking plants. And, if you have the slightest doubt about a plant, pass it by. Lastly, make sure that the plants suit the condition of your health before consuming them.

On that note, I wish you wonderful gastronomic discoveries and happy eco-friendly harvesting!

Suggested references:

  • Thayer, Samuel. Nature’s Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants. Forager’s Harvest, 2010.
  • Monger, Karen. Adventures in Edible Plant Foraging: Finding, Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Native and Invasive Wild Plants. Skyhorse Publishing, 2015.
  • MacKinnon, Andy, et al. Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada. Lone Pine Publishing, 2016.
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