Identifying your herbs
Warning! Some herbs and other plants can be poisonous! Do not harvest any plants that you are not familiar with. At the very least take a field guide with you when you go to harvest wild plants, and pay attention to what you are doing, as some plants which are dangerous can look very similar to, and grow in the same places as safe plants.
When to collect herbs
First and foremost, do not take too many cuttings from the same plant, and allow it time to regrow before visiting it again. Many people will try to replace any plants that they harvest, even using a ratio of three or four new plants to every single plant they collect.
Wait for a warm, sunny day, a couple of days after rainfall. The rains will help to wash away any harmful pesticides, or dirt and insects.
Different plants are best to harvest at different times of the year, and a good field guide should tell you whether to go in Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter. Some plants can be collected at any time of the year.
The time of day can also make a difference. For many plants the morning will be the best time, after the early dew has evaporated, but if you are looking to collect flowers or leaves, try in the early afternoon after the plant has benefitted from the energies of the midday sun.
What to take with you
Take a good pair of gardening gloves, a sharp knife, a small shovel or spade and bags for storing the different plants in.
How to collect herbs
Warning! Different parts of the same plant can be dangerous. Make sure you have both correctly identified the plant, and that you know which parts you are after. Also make sure that you are not collecting plants which have been exposed to pollution, for example at the side of the road.
You must also think of where you are collecting from – landowners may not appreciate you crossing their land, and taking their plants! Finally be aware that some species of wild plant are protected by law, and there will be penalties for cutting from these plants.
Once you have found a plant, correctly identified it, and made sure that you are allowed to harvest it, you can carefully use your gloves and knife or shovel to take the part you want. As mentioned above, do not collect too much – consider how much you will be able to use fresh, or the space you have available for drying and storing herbs.
It is a nice idea to say thank you to the plant you are harvesting from. As well as replacing what you have taken with new plants, you can say a few words of thanks and perhaps leave an offering of fruit or tobacco.