Guidelines for Sustainable Foraging

by Ulla Kaja Radeloff

There is edible stuff growing all around us, and we believe in exploring it fully. But free resources tend to be abused – so we wanted to create some guidelines to ensure these plants continue to flourish and so we can all enjoy the foraged harvest for years to come.

  • Respect nature and always act with care.
  • Take only as much as you are able to use. Nothing goes to waste.
  • Many countries have national foraging laws to prevent overharvesting , defining where, what, and how much is legal to take. For example, the same species might be legal to pick in one country and endangered in another. Make sure you know the law before you go.
  • Always pay attention to and respect local conditions. A plant may be legal to forage, and abundant in some areas, but rare in others. Think like a steward.
  • Ask for permission before foraging on private land.
  • Choose unpolluted places far from industrial land, roads, or fields, which are free of heavy metals, pesticides, and other toxicants.
  • Harvest from vibrant plants in healthy sites.
  • Pick only the species that are growing in abundance, and don´t take any whole plant.  Instead, use a pair of scissors to snip off the plant´s top parts or a knife to cut mushrooms. Thus you maintain the organism’s ability to reproduce. A good rule of thumb is the “1-in-20 Rule”, which says that you should never harvest more than 5% of a particular plant or population of plants.
  • Don´t harvest what you can´t identify. Take home a small cutting or photograph it and use literature, internet resources and experts to help identify the species. Educate yourself!
  • Avoid trampling down other species. Your harvesting should be spread out over a large area. The site where you foraged should look natural afterwards – as if you had never been there. 
  • Harvest moss and lichens without damaging the tree´s bark.
  • Peel off bark and cambium only from felled trees.
  • Seaweed should be harvested far from sewage outfall buoys, industrial pollutants, and mouths of estuaries. Cut the top part of young plants from a healthy community that are still firmly attached to the rock. Avoid floating seaweed.

If you are not sure about how and what to forage take advantage of the help of professional foragers. They have a thorough knowledge. Moreover, they make their living with these goods and thus hold a clear interest in maintaining these wild resources.

Professional foragers and wild plant experts:

In Denmark
Søren Wiuff

Søren Espersen

In Sweden
Roland Rittman

Ulla Kaja Radeloff has worked with multiple organisations in sustainable agriculture and botany, and recently graduated with a Master’s degree from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Bra, Italy. She currently lives and works in Berlin.