When wild-harvesting, Sarah asks herself the following:
1. How can I harvest so that the plant continues to live and thrive? Better yet-- how can I harvest in a way that stimulates new growth, increased seed production, etc.?
- Example: Tree and shrub bark is collected by pruning twigs: snipping just above a bud so that new growth will occur at the cut. Bark is never taken from the trunk.
- Example: When collecting roots, it is often possible to divide a clump, or replace the growing node, so the plant will continue growing.
2. How abundant is this species, both regionally and nationally?
3. How abundant is this species in the location of harvest?
All 3 factors are considered together when harvesting a plant. "Take no more than 30% of what you see" is one rule of thumb when harvesting an abundant plant.
Many medicinal species are so prolific -- "invasives" or "weeds"-- that these questions are hardly considered (ex. dandelion, wood sorrel, burdock, chicory, plantain, cleavers, etc.) Other plants are nationally declining, and may not be harvested even if found abundantly in a site (ex. black cohosh, American ginseng, goldenseal, pipsissewa, etc.) They may instead be cultivated or substituted with another plant.
Care for the surrounding plants and wildlife is also an important part of sustainable harvest. No matter what the plant, harvesting is done with gratitude and respect.