What is Wildcrafting (and Why Does it Matter)?
At Myco-Biome, we talk a lot about wildcrafting and about how we pay great attention to how we forage.
When we head out into the forest, a lot goes into how we decide what to take (or not take), as well as exactly how we take it. We stick to a set of principles that influence our every move. Wildcrafting principles, if you will.
But we’ve come to realize that this term is not as widely-known as we initially thought.
If you’re not familiar with wildcrafting, you may not understand the difference it makes, both to end product, and to the world at large.
So this week, we’re going to explain it in a little more detail. What is wildcrafting, and why does it matter?
What is Wildcrafting?
What is wildcrafting? Wildcrafting (also known as foraging) is the practice of harvesting plants from their natural, or ‘wild', habitat.
People have been wildcrafting since the dawn of time. From food to medicine, heading out to search the land for what was needed was just how it was done. Really, before our big, fancy greenhouses and massive plots of agricultural land, it was the only option.
And while this might have you thinking it is an outdated practice, you’d be wrong. It still happens all around the world, for a variety of reasons.
There’s also the common misconception that any type of wildcrafting automatically means harming the plants and their ecosystems. That is absolutely not the case! In fact, for many, wildcrafting, specifically ethical wildcrafting, is a method of protecting and connecting with the land. It’s about knowing what’s at the heart of the forest, and having as small an impact as possible. Above all, wildcrafters are stewards of the land they harvest from.
This means knowing things like which plants are are and endangered - and leaving them alone. It means spreading out and picking only small amounts form different spots to minimize the impact. It means replanting when possible, and only taking exactly what is needed, without harming the rest of the plant. Sometimes it even means recognizing that you can’t harvest, and you need to leave the plants alone to thrive. Ethical wildcrafters are committed to leaving a harvest area in the same or better condition than they found it.
And all of this makes a huge difference.
“If we choose to use plants as our medicine, we then become accountable for the wild gardens, their health, and their upkeep.” - Rosemary Gladstar, Founder of United Plant Savers
How Wildcrafted Plants are Different
We all know the term “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Wildcrafters are not going to greenhouses where plants have been meticulously nurtured and cared for. When you think about these plants in their wild environment, they’re facing challenges every day - pests, too little water, competing plants, etc. And they’re stronger and more resilient because of this. These wild plants are growing despite those challenges, and their energy reflects that.
Think of a mushroom. Grown in the wild, it takes on all of the wisdom of the forest. It uses everything around it to influence its growth. It takes nutrients from the dead logs upon which it grows, or the foliage around it. All of this impacts the nutrients within that mushroom, and eventually the nutrients you take in when you consume it. Cultivated mushrooms grown in structured conditions don’t receive this same influence.
And of course, ethical wildcrafting practices make a huge difference to the land as well. By using careful, stringent practices that nature the land, wildcrafting can help support the natural microbiome of the forest bed to bring back its ability to grow. This allows future generations to be able to continue enjoying the benefits.
Whether you choose to go out into nature and wildcraft using ancient foraging traditions, or just look specifically for plants and herbs gathered using ethical practices, it all makes a difference. Getting the best all while giving back to the earth is something we can all strive for.