Wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting and using wild materials for food, construction and craft. The kinds of things people might find are mushrooms, driftwood, flowers, feathers, rocks, shells, grains, saps, quills, clay, wicker, burls, seaweed, weeds, nuts, food, herbs, berries, seeds, cones, roots, bark, dye, antlers, fur, bones, leather, teeth, mosses and ferns. And, that list is just a good start. Wildcrafting is the art of using 'found' materials.

Wildcrafting does not always have to be done in the wild. There are opportunities for wildcrafting in urban and suburban areas as well. There are many 'wild' patches in the city that may have useful items growing in them. But, a more productive approach might be to see what people have growing in their yards. For example, we have noticed that folks plant crab apple or cherry trees for their flowers and almost never harvest the fruit. This is an opportunity to offer to harvest for a share of the crop or a return of a portion of jelly that might be made.

In wildcrafting we are gleaning the bounty of the earth and doing so with humility and thankfulness. Some guidelines might temper our approach:

Take only what you need

Ask first and plant in return

Perform a ritual of thanks

Use caution in your harvesting so as to not hurt the plants

Respect the boundaries of your harvest

Never take ALL of everything; collect in swatches

Don't take the best; leave the best seed stock for the future

Help the patch to grow; spread seed in vicinity

Harvest natural stands; bring some to cultivation.

Enhance natural stands; get seeds from as close as possible

Wildcrafting does not have to wait for something useful to grow in an area. We can add elements that will become productive over time. Herbs can be introduced to grow in right-of-ways; fruit or nut trees may be planted in wild areas. Any area of derelict or marginal land has the potential to grow things that are suitable for wildcrafting. While we do not necessarily wish to cultivate and farm these areas, scattering seeds of things we might wish to harvest to see if they will take advantage of a location is certainly permissible.


Collecting Maple Sap in Vermont


 Converting Sap to Maple Syrup