7 Essentials for Your DIY Wildcrafting Tool Kit
Your mother, father and common sense probably taught you the importance of having the right tool for the job. This is just as true for foraging and wildcrafting as it is for cooking or woodworking. When I go into the forest or desert to harvest edible and medicinal plants I carry these seven essential items in my wildcrafting tool kit.
But first, is it Foraging or Wildcrafting? That depends on who you ask. Herbalist’s have long used the term “wildcrafting” to refer to the practice of harvesting medicinal plants in the wild where they are found, rather than cultivated. The term “foraging” is more often associated with the practice of gathering wild food stuff like wild greens, berries and mushrooms. Regardless what term you choose, gathering wild plants ethically and sustainably requires, knowledge, sensitivity and respect. You can read more about the practice of ethical wildcrafting at Independence and Interdependence: What to Know About Foraging Medicinal Plants.
DIY Wildcrafting Tool Kit
PLANT IDENTIFICATION BOOKS
Experienced herbalists and foragers know the importance of correct plant identification. There’s no better way to learn to identify medicinal and edible plants in your bioregion than from someone who already knows them well. A good plant identification book is the next best option. Here’s a list of my favorite books for identifying and harvesting wild and medicinal plants.
SCISSORS & CLIPPERS
Scissors and clippers are the tools I use most frequently. From tender green herbs like mint and plantain to hardier stems and branches on plants like chaparral and willow, these simple tools will serve you well. If you are a beginner herbalist, I recommend investing in a good quality pair of garden clippers. I bought my first clippers more than twenty years ago when I started herb school and I am still using them. Your clippers are also an important medicine-making tool for chopping fresh roots, like Echinacea and Dandelion in the process of making an herbal extract.
I love to get my hands in the soil and I love to smell the fragrant oils and plant resins on my skin. So, though I often wildcraft without gloves, I always keep a pair of gloves in my backpack. There are lots of prickly, thorny plants that demand thick sturdy gloves, especially in the desert.
TROWEL & FOLDING SHOVEL
You’ll need these to harvest most roots. The trowel is adequate for small or shallow roots in soft soil. For large, deeper roots you’ll want a larger shovel. I like the folding shovel because it can easily be strapped to my backpack. In some places, were the soil is hard and rocky, harvesting roots is easier with a small pick axe to break up the soil and free the roots.
Brown paper bags are my preferred method for collecting and transporting most freshly harvested plants from field to home. Paper bags absorb excess moisture and allow the plant to begin drying. Avoid plastic bags (which are the worst possible bags for the environment) that trap moisture and invite mold to form on your plants. Plants very high in moisture, berries and fruits for example, are an exception. I usually gather these in a bucket.
Having the right tools in your pack will ensure that the plants are harvested with the least harm and that they are in the best possible condition for drying, medicine-making, or your dinner plate.
I hope your wildcrafting and foraging adventures are fun and fruitful! What other essentials are in your wildcrafting toolkit? You can share your experiences with us below or snap a photo of your wildcrafting adventures with us on Instagram using #nectarherbandtea.