Sustainable Foraging Guidelines

Rules are for the obedience of fools & the guidance of wise men*
Bee and blackberry need us to have foraging guidelines

I like to think that my readers are wise people, so I thought I’d write some ‘Guidance’ on foraging sustainably instead of making ‘Rules’. I’m not a rules sort of person. I’ve also phrased them positively as Dos rather than as Don’ts because I am that sort of person.

I welcome my readers’ comments or views on these guidelines. I’m happy to improve them if we can, as long they stay as positively phrased guidelines.

Sustainable Foraging Guidelines

There are three areas in which you need to act sustainably when foraging:
  • Your environment
  • Your community
  • Yourself
These mirror the Permaculture Ethics of Earthcare, Peoplecare and Fair Shares. To find out more about these things see here and have a look at the Permaculture Magazine website.

Guidelines for your Environment

  • Leave produce for animals to feed on, for the plant to propagate itself and for it to nourish its patch. Leave some produce on each plant you pick from.
  • Only take what you’ll be able to use.
  • If you can, sow seeds or scatter the fruit pips that you have left over from processing so that you help plants propagate.
  • Only take plants that are not on protected or endangered lists.
  • Learn how to harvest plants without damaging them.

Guidelines for your Community

  • Leave some produce for others to enjoy, to look at and to collect.
  • Be generous with your advice & assistance to others so you encourage them to look after your shared environment.

Guidelines for Yourself

  • Only take what you can comfortably process or store for later processing.
  • Use appropriate precautions when collecting. Gloves can be useful for protecting against stings and thorns. A brimmed hat can help you avoid poking yourself in the eyes with branches.
  • Positively identify that what you are picking is safe: if in doubt, leave it out.
  • Stay within the law: have permission or a legal right for where you are and what you want to pick.
  • Be aware of pollution issues as they might affect the things you want to pick.
With thanks to MissyMoonbeams on Twitter for prompting me to do this.

*Attributed to Douglas Bader, UK Second World War Pilot







5 responses to “Sustainable Foraging Guidelines”

  1. […] for increasing your contact with nature, and entirely sustainable if sensible guidelines (such as these) are […]

  2. Mo and Steve Avatar
    Mo and Steve

    I understand Joanna's point about not knowing if someone has been before you. I guess the answer is that if there's not a lot there then you leave them and seacrh elsewhere.
    I never tell anyone where I pick. I'm not mean, I'm just conscious of over-picking. Let them find their own 🙂
    It's a good post, Carl, and a timely reminder to act responsibly.

  3. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Avatar
    Joanna @ Zeb Bakes

    Good discussion points. I have an ethical dilemma, well known to mushroom collectors which is that one doesn't tell people where you have collected, simply because if everyone goes to the same spot then it gets 'overforaged'. In this economic climate, more and more people are turning to alternatives to generate cash, making sloe gin etc and sadly my local area has been stripped bare by people collecting commercially.
    When I go to food events, occasionally, I often wonder where and how much the people selling their homemade hedgerow goodies are responsible for overpicking… it's not an easy one is it? If I come along and pick, leave 90 % on the tree, and then the next person and then the next, there will inevitably be none left, but each picker is in turn believing that what is there is 100%… does that make any sense?

    I only tell people where things are growing in such abundance and are relatively tough like blackberries and the wild garlic in the Spring. I help people identify the ones which are safe and like you advise them not to pick anything if they are unsure or unhappy.

  4. Carl Legge Avatar
    Carl Legge

    Hi Gloria

    An essential safety message I agree 🙂