Words and photography by Brianne Dela Cruz
As I write this I sit on my patio in the dappled light of afternoon sun. Remnant dirt clings to my finger nails; a souvenir from my latest backyard foraging adventure. A basket of freshly unearthed dandelions rests nearby along with my favorite well-used hand tools. I spent the afternoon extracting these medicinal plants from my lawn. I’ll craft the flowers and roots into a medicinal tea, digestive tincture, floral infused honey, and sprinkle the sweet yellow blossoms over raw salads. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than spend my days with hands submerged in soil or buried in flowers. After experiencing crushing burnout and anxiety from years of working fast-paced corporate jobs I turned to gardening and foraging to de-stress in nature and heal my nervous system. This lifestyle change was so body-and-soul-nourishing I decided to start teaching others how to cultivate these same skills.
Dandelions are one of the best introductory plants into the world of foraging. They’re easy to identify which aides following the most important safety rule: proper identification. For folks interested in learning how to forage for edible wild plants I recommend acquiring a plant identification field book. Guidance in these books outline key botanical features, poisonous plants to avoid, when and how to harvest, among other details. Harvesting at the right time in the plant’s life cycle in addition to leaving more than half of what is available ensures that the land stays healthy and wild. As we engage with nature in such an intimate way as foraging, it’s our duty to minimize our impact and uphold rigorous sustainable practices.
My Essential Foraging Tools:
Basket: A harvest basket to collect flowers, greens, or roots is important to bring along when foraging. It’s best to use a wide mouthed basket that will prevent plants from getting smashed during transit.
Barebones Scissors: A pair of sharp scissors is excellent for cutting stems and leafy greens. I like to use these scissors for cutting everything from berry stems to flower heads and wild lettuces.
Barebones Trimming Shears: Slender shears are perfect for trimming flower heads from stems that are formed in thick bunches. In the garden they also double as excellent herb trimmers.
Barebones Hori Hori Knife: I never forage without my hori hori because it’s so versatile. It’s wonderful for digging up roots, cutting off medicinal barks, scraping up healing tree resins, and cutting mushrooms. In the garden it’s my go-to weeding tool.
Over the years I’ve developed a friendship with the Barebones team and Founder, Robert Workman. It began when they invited me to contribute to their blog in 2019, and has grown since discovering our shared passions for gardening, foraging, outdoor cooking and community. I’ve had the honor of visiting Robert’s home farm, complete with orchards, chickens, livestock, and a beautiful greenhouse, for a series of interviews. On each occasion I left with a sweet takeaway. One time it was a bag of seeds for my garden that are now sprouting in view, another time it was a handful of freshly picked radishes plus a few gardening tips. Each time we connect, whether it be in their offices or onsite at his farm, we share our stories of our current outdoor ventures and the joys of our hands in the earth.
Wild foraging is one magnificent way to understand nature’s cycles intimately and nourish our bodies. It’s a hobby that has personally soothed my anxious soul and taught me the healing powers of wild botanicals.
Through our interviews I’ve discovered how deep Robert’s philanthropic streak runs and how it percolates throughout the rest of the company. They donate their personal time to support local organizations teaching agricultural practices to inner-city at-risk youth. Their list of do-good efforts goes on and I’m proud to support them through loyally using their tools in my own give back efforts. The quality of their tools is unmatched and can handle any challenging yard task or foraging outing. Every task in my kitchen garden can be accomplished with a hori hori, trowel, or square hoe. Because they are a B-Corp certified company and make substantial philanthropic contributions to communities near and far they are my tool company of choice. Using their tools helps me cultivate and gather the goodness I need in my life.
Adopting this way of life that is deeply rooted in nature and community has helped me live my values. From slowing down my pace of life, learning how to care for the planet and my community, and sustaining myself, I know the lasting impact is vast. Wild foraging is one magnificent way to understand nature’s cycles intimately and nourish our bodies. It’s a hobby that has personally soothed my anxious soul and taught me the healing powers of wild botanicals.
I receive countless messages from beginner gardeners and foragers about how desperately they’ve needed these practices in their own hectic lives. Some notes express an improvement of mental health, or the life-changing benefits of having consistent access to healthy food. Other notes describe their joy about learning the timeless wisdom offered by nature. Everyone touches on how this work helps them cultivate more meaningful community connections. Everyone in this community agrees that cultivating, gathering, and sharing this abundance is the sort of goodness that our hectic world very much needs.