I love reading the words of this ‘upstart late bloomer herbalist’ (is there such a thing as an upstart herbalist!?). This post is about ethical foraging or even something deeper that perhaps this society might never really find again.
It’s that balance between utilising the gifts of the land – that’s how we live – and not exploiting it, not abusing it, not telling everyone where to find something with the belief that no-one will go find it or if they do that they’ll respect its need to grow… it’s a tricky balance. To share your knowledge but want desperately to make sure that the way you teach inspires people to be aware of what is there but not take anything that would be damaging.
There is the feeling that the land belongs to everyone, of course really it belongs to no-one despite our love of land ownership or even stewardship.
There is the feeling that foraging wild food and medicine is healthy, positive, wonderful, that the plants are more nutritious, more well, wild, more magical even. It is true – it is all that. It is completely natural. It is connecting with nature. It is awesome.
Yes yes yes it is. If it is sustainable.
In my limited reading around the subject of shamanism and experience talking with shamanic practitioners (of whom I’ve met few who I felt truly embody what I think shamanism is but then what do I know?), true understanding of plants and their magic usually brings about a sense of taking little of that plant and using it very specifically and with great respect.
There are so many other therapies too that could fill the void that something like foraging might be filling – deep ecology, walking in nature, meditation, healing… leaving plants like ghost pipe to happily carry on being a little addition to that place from whence it came….
Often i talk of foraging for nettles and hawthorn – specifically because they are so abundant it would be bloody hard to destroy the population. They’re so awesome. I do find that when i’m being sloppy in my gathering I get a thorn or a sting waking me up….
This post makes me question this too however… and makes me think of how I would like to do a course foraging seaweeds and mushrooms because I don’t know that many different species and I’d like to learn.
It also makes me think of using the herbs which are abundant and come into our lives, that suddenly grow in our garden or along the cracks in our walls…. the *weeds* like dandelions that other people seek to get rid of in their lawns…. the call of the wild maybe a call to listen more closely. To ourselves, our landscapes, our plants…
Thanks upstart (!) Sean for sharing and not procrastinating. I wonder if it is different here in the UK where everything is so tame already…
It’s inspired me to revive my thoughts on teaching wild medicine gardens – growing more of what is not abundant to leave the wild to keep growing.

This is a picture of a medicine walk in which we learnt about the herbs but didn’t take any that day.