Foraging: The Basic Guidelines

As aspiring foragers, following these basic guidelines will help us to adopt an attitude of guardianship for our planet and all life upon it. Be a part of the solution rather than the problem.


Overharvesting has rendered many once plentiful plant species close to being extinct.
Examples of this can be found here at unitedplantsavers.org.

  • Find a mentor. Learning from an expert or someone more experienced will give you a higher level of confidence.
  • Read Some good foraging books. There’s no substitute for a mentor, but a good field guide is a close second. It will up your confidence as you get more comfortable with foraging. Use it to help you positively I.D. plants and discover the more subtle ones that you haven’t noticed. When choosing a field guide, look for a book with a broad range of plants in your area, info regarding habitat, palatability, and easy-to-identify photos or line-drawings.
  • DO NOT EAT ANYTHING YOU CANNOT POSITIVELY IDENTIFY AND DEEM SAFE. Learn to identify the poisonous plants you are likely to encounter.
  • Keep a foraging journal. Unless you have particularly strong/photographic memory, notetaking will serve to be a valuable investment of your time. Click here to learn more about ow to keep a useful foraging journal.
  • Familiarize yourself with the plants in your neighborhood. Trees, weeds, herbs, bushes. Strive to learn as much as possible about the ecosystem you are a part of.
  • Investigate all of each plant’s uses. Try to understand it as part of a larger ecosystem. Some observational questions worth asking: Is it native or invasive? With which other plants does it form communities? Does it protect the ground or deplete it of any of its nutrients? Building this kind of knowledge base will give you a much deeper insight into the nature of a plant & its role within the ecosystem.
  • When you think you know a plant, always cross reference to be 100 percent sure because non-edible look-alikes abound. The differences can be quite subtle.
  • Learn how to differentiate similar plants by smell, feel, texture, etc.
  • Familiarize yourself with the plants that are listed on the endangered species list for your area. Apart from being unethical, it is also illegal to pick endangered plant species. Learning these matters later would be unfortunate.
  • Instead of taking rare plants, consider sowing their seeds in the wild.
  • Only pick as much as you need. Never take ALL the plants of any one kind in a given patch. After harvesting an area, give the plants plenty of time to recover before returning to harvest again.
  • Be cautious when you’re harvesting roots. Often, harvesting roots means the death of the plant. Before you start digging, ask yourself if this plant is plentiful. If in doubt, please don’t collect.
  • Never pick in locations that are subject to pollution. This includes roadsides, industry or heavy spraying of farm chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers etc.). Now matter how tempting it maybe, use it as an opportunity to strengthen your self-discipline and just don’t do it.
  • Don’t collect from nature reserves. These areas have been set up to protect wild species, so please give them their space.
  • Cast seeds of native species to the earth and to the winds here and there. Consider it a way of giving something back; an investment in the ecosystem. Consider adopting a little patch that you are particularly fond of. Allowing your children to have an active part in this activity is a worthwhile idea.
  • Don’t litter! ‘Nuff said.

Do YOU have foraging tips that you’d like to share with the rest of us? Use the comments section below, please!

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