Wildcrafting is the harvesting of plants from their natural habitat for food and medicinal purposes. It is also known as urban foraging when done in the city.
If you’re feeling the weight of urban living, wildcrafting is a way to experience nature’s medicine without going far from home. You’ll begin to see familiar surroundings with fresh eyes and maybe even walk away with a few life lessons!
Get out and explore
Vancouver is famous for its beautiful natural setting. But did you know the city is also home to a community orchard?
That was news to most at the latest SIGroup field trip where Julia Theissen shared her expertise in environmental education and therapeutic horticulture. Together, we discussed considerations for ethical and sustainable wildcrafting as we tasted berries, sniffed herbs, and learned about medicinal properties of common weeds. We left inspired.
Mother Nature serves up powerful life lessons.
Here I reflect on wildcrafting with a life coach twist.
1. Slow down.
When you slow down, you’ll discover a whole new world of details. Try this exercise in a natural setting.
Find 3 items:
- Something that matches the color of a part of your body or clothing,
- Something that has a scent
- Something that is evidence of an animal’s presence
Did you just notice something new? When you slow down, you relax and see things with a new perspective. From that place, you’re more likely to find new solutions to old problems.
2. Be mindful of timing.
When wildcrafting, it’s important to keep in mind time-related environmental factors such as temperature and moisture. A herb collected in dry weather is less likely to mold. Seasonality affects harvesting as well. Flowers are best picked just as they go into bloom while roots are better harvested before or after leaf growth in the spring or fall. Some things just can’t be rushed. For example, seeds need to dry out completely before they are collected.
Looking at your own life, what is it time for? What might need to wait? Everything has a natural rhythm. Listen and flow with it.
3. Be respectful.
You are sharing space with many others – people, critters, and future generations. Act with a respectful mindset. A general rule in wildcrafting is to take no more than 10%. It’s up to you to consider the context (e.g. invasive species, time of harvest, etc.). Other respectful actions include using proper, sharp tools for harvesting so you don’t damage the plant.
What might respect look like in your current relationships? Maybe it means doing or NOT doing something.
4. Show gratitude.
This can be vocal, physical, or mental. Acknowledge the history of the land. Don’t waste. The best thing about showing gratitude is that studies show it makes you happier and healthier too.
What are some things you’re grateful for? Write them down, send a thank you note, start a gratitude journal, or download an app. It’s easy and free, so just do it.
5. Leave things better.
Wildcrafting isn’t just about taking. It’s also an invitation to give back. Leave things better than you found them. For example, you might pull invasive plants, help spread seeds, or pick up garbage. It’s a great way to practice all of the points above!
Your gestures don’t have to be gigantic. And sometimes small actions are even more impactful. How could you leave things a little better in your corner of the world? Give it a go!
Want to learn more about wildcrafting?
Julia shared that her favorite book on the topic is The Boreal Herbal. It’s got some delicious recipes like Dandylion Cake!
Thanks again to Julia Thiessen for introducing us to wildcrafting!
Julia Thiessen has a passion for the connection between nature and wellness. She has a background in non-profit work, therapeutic horticulture, and meditation. She takes environmental problems seriously, but brings curiosity and amusement to the field to facilitate meaningful connections to the planet, each other, and ourselves. Find her on Instagram.
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The Social Impact Learning & Support Group is a gathering of community-minded folks in Vancouver, BC. We get together each month to share a meal, exchange ideas, and be real with each other. Sign up for the newsletter to receive updates and recaps like this.