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Some foraging rules for beginners.... first off, it is always a good idea to have someone show you the first time around....
There is a great guide to thinking around nature HERE at BSBI 'Code of Conduct for the conservation and enjoyment of wild plants'. All good foragers will familiarise themselves with it.
GET A GOOD IDENTITY BOOK
Richard Phillips is excellent, as it provides photographic pictures in chronological order. This is best used in conjunction with a wild flower key, just to be sure.
Please gain permission before harvesting from public or private places. Some places, such as on Hampstead Heath/Highgate Woods, it is forbidden to pick plants in order to protect the diversity, ecology etc. It is also illegal to pick plants in the wild in some areas. We have already polluted our landscape and built on top of it, please keep in mind that we need to leave it alone if we want to have a beautiful countryside. It is best to stick to yours and friends gardens, allotments and ask permission of landowners in the Countryside. This also allows you to check for pesticide use, and guarantee the history of the soil and land regarding waste dumping etc. Here is an excellent link for further information Wildflower Society Code of Conduct
SAFE & CLEAN
Make sure you harvest herbs that are clean and safe and free from chemicals such as pesticides and weed killer, dog, rat or human wee and anything else etc.
Don't harvest close to roadsides, it is usually too polluted by car fumes/oil/rubber/fuel.
Some people may be allergic to certain herbs, so be careful.
HOW MUCH TO TAKE
Never harvest all of the plant if it is a single plant or more than 1/4-1/3 depending on scarcity of plant, e.g. if it is nettles, the plant is extremely common and regrowth is rapid. Some plants are rarer and slow growing. Know Your plants. This is also because you also need to leave some for the birds and bees. Do not pick rare plants.
Often for harvesting roots, this will kill the plant so best to grow your own at home, in deep pots (this has the added benefits of being easier to collect, especially if the compost was mixed with a bit of sand.
If harvesting barks, never take from tree trunks. Many foragers suggest to take bark from the twigs and small branches. However, this can introduce fungal infections to trees, especially in already stressed (because of footfall nearby or pollution) plants particularly in cities. Best to use nearby sapling growth that will allow the main tree to grow unhindered or recent windfalls (i.e. in the last few days to a week).
WHEN TO COLLECT
Rules of thumb (But do your research on your herbs before harvesting)
Spring and summer for barks, herbs and flowers, autumn for roots berries.
And finally.... don't pick or use a herb if you are not 200% sure you know what it is and that it is safe. Some plants are highly toxic. It is best to check with someone who knows first. There are only a few dangerous ones, but learn them well.
But really, plantlore is a fun and rewarding experience and we wish you lots of fun
gathering knowledge in the future. We hope we can help you on the way there...
The purpose of this website is to provide information about the traditional uses and folklore of your local plants so it is not lost in the mists of time. It is NOT medical advice and a Herbalist or GP should be consulted, particularly in the treatment of children, lactating and pregnant women and those taking prescribed medicines.
Dosages given here are generally for adults, there is a rate of reduction for children dependent on age, but please check first, as we always recommend you gain advice as described before.