The third post of this series is about herbalism outdoors: Wildharvesting and Guerrilla Gardening. For those unfamiliar with the terms, Wildharvesting is the practise of identifying and gathering herbs that grow in natural areas, and Guerrilla Gardening is the planting of beneficial plants in abandoned urban areas.
We practise both – we live in a quite poor urban area, with very few green spaces and very hard climate conditions; and, since we have only an urban garden on the house’s roof terrace, we need to wildharvest to get plants that we cannot plant in pots. I hope our experience helps you and inspires you!
· Wildharvesting requires the utmost respect for Nature and Her generosity; harvest just what you need, harming the plant as little as possible and leaving enough of the plant for it to regrow and feed the local fauna. If possible, harvest from several plants, instead of from one. Learn how to prune herbs correctly so you encourage growth
· Get a quality hand scythe, and keep it as sharp as possible. There is nothing that causes more accidents than a dull blade.
· Protect your hands with gloves. We use the gloves that are sold for electricians and other construction workers – they are quite thick while allowing excellent movement, and have a non-slip cover on the palm for a better grip.
· For urban wildharvesters, a few ziplock bags and a good pair of kitchen scissors will be enough; for those who wildharvest with a car, and need bigger quantities of herbs, this is our car’s kit: besides the scythe and the gloves mentioned above, we keep ziplock bags in several sizes, trash bags (for actual trash left by others), a couple of big and sturdy plastic bags for bigger amounts of plants, cotton cord, a sturdy rope, water, food, and a small first aid kit.
· And speaking of trash – don’t make any, and if you find stuff left by others, pick it. The land Spirits will love you for it. Become the guardian of the place where you harvest, and you will always be welcome to the land and its secrets.
· Always leave a payment for what you are taking, and thank the spirits of the place for allowing you to find and harvest plants. You can take seeds, fruit, milk, tobacco leaves, honey, bread or cake… the list can be endless. Take something of quality, and only biodegradable items. No candles, plates, or anything that can poison animals like chocolate.
· Do NOT wildharvest endangered species, on public parks, on preserved areas, or private properties. Ever.
· Do NOT wildharvest right off the edge of the roads where there is car traffic, if you have any intention of ingesting the plant, or to use it topically. Those herbs are poisoned by the cars’ fumes.
· And, this is very important: wildharvesting can be a dangerous activity. Don’t be the guy from Into The Wild, please; stay safe at all costs, never go wildharvesting without telling someone, and never ingest any plant until you are sure you know what you are putting in your body. Nature is NOT harmless, and neither are plants.
Guerrilla Gardening is the act of planting useful, edible and endemic plants on abandoned urban spaces. Guerrilla Gardening looks forward to give back to Mother Nature, to make our urban spaces more beautiful and useful, to offer sources of free food for anyone who needs it, to educate others in honouring the Earth, and to give the urban bird and insect fauna more sources for food and shelter.
· We gather all the seeds from our kitchen scraps along the year, extra wildharvested seeds, and any overstock of seeds from our garden, dry them and mix them in a bag – once dry, you can keep a small amount in your purse/backpack in a ziplock bag, and just spread a pinch whenever you have the chance.
· You can also mix your seeds with clay and make balls/discs with the mixture; make sure it’s natural clay with no chemicals added, like potters’ clay, and do not use heat to dry them (in both cases, so you don’t kill the seeds). Once they are dry, not only you can plant them anywhere, they make great gifts for friends and family, or for anyone you want to turn into Guerrilla :).
· Remember not to spread invasive plants, and use only varieties that are native to your environment – this is extremely important! Always choose useful over beautiful, food and medicine over pretty.
· Plants that are butterly and bee favourites should always be among your choices – the more we help beneficial insect populations, the healthier and stronger our ecosystem will be.
My Main Website: brujacarolina.com – Tarot and Spiritual Services
Art And Illustration Portfolio: The Art Of Carolina Gonzalez