Before farms, factories, and civilization foraging, or the gathering of food from the wild, was the main way to sustain our basic needs. About 12,000 years ago we entered the Neolithic Revolution, or the Agricultural Revolution. Hunter-gatherers went from roaming around to settling in one area. The circumstance behind the transition is hypothesized a few different ways. 1: The growing population created more competition for resources. 2: It was a way for elders and children to be involved in collecting food. People have continued to forage for food throughout history. Today people forage for sustenance or for a sense of purpose.
There are three ethical principles that ground Permaculture design, and they are certainly relevant to foraging. These principles are Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share. Earth care is more than soil health, the earth is alive and we must help keep everything balanced. When foraging we never want to take more than the environment can sustain. Overharvesting has brought many plentiful species to the brink of extinction. The way that you forage sustainably is determined by what species you have and environment. For example, Japanese knotweed you can pull the entire plant up because it is an invasive, but for species like Ramps you need to leave the bulb and only harvest the leaves since they take many years to establish.
The second principle is People Care, which includes ourselves, family, and our community. When foraging there are a few things you should be mindful of. The first is to know the local, state, and federal laws about foraging in your area and forage with permission. It is a great etiquette to ask the property owners for permission to enter their yard and forage. Many known foragers have built up a relationship with the owners and residents, educating them on the value of their species, guiding them through the history, and preserving it on their land. Keep building trust and respect with the owner.
Fair share is recognizing that the earth has limits and we need to share those resources not only with other people, but also wildlife. When foraging, think about the longevity of the resources. For example, American Persimmons wilt and mush quickly. As a new forager I will admit that we had a lot of wasted persimmons because they sat too long. If you need to harvest more for cooking pies or other dishes, quickly gather them and store them in the freezer. Honey Locust pods may look like you might not get a lot of powder from them, but looks can be deceiving. One plastic shopping bag full of Honey Locust pods can produce about 1 quart of powder so you don’t need to grab seven bags full of pods.
Be kind to mother earth, there are many other etiquettes you can follow. Remember Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share as you forage. Be mindful and do your research. If you have any questions please let us know and we will be happy to help. Happy foraging!