Foraging Ethics

Foraging Guidelines:

  1. Know the Plant. Please positively identify any plant before eating it, and be sure you are harvesting the right part of the plant at the right time, using a respected field guide (We recommend Peterson Field Guides’ Edible Wild Plants of Eastern/Central North America). Eating the wrong plant can lead to illness or in rare circumstances, even death.
  2. Start Slowly.  It is generally best to start with just a few plants and know them well before adding others to your repertoire. When learning new plants, it’s best to try just a small amount of one plant at a time to ensure you do not have any adverse reactions.
  3. Know the Area.  Also be aware of any environmental hazards in your foraging location such as snakes or chemical hazards from roadways, lead paint around old buildings, or areas subject to flooding from sewers.
  4. Ask Permission. You must have permission from the property owner to collect plant matter. Many people are open to sharing if you just ask!  To forage without permission is considered stealing.
  5. Know the Law. It is your responsibility to determine if public lands (such as city, state, and national parks) allow foraging and to what extent. Many public lands prohibit foraging outside of survival situations.
  6. Respect the land. Leave no trace. Fill your holes, pack out your garbage (and garbage left by others), don’t hack/slash/smash/burn your way through nature. Don’t harvest a plant if there are just a few around.
  7. Respect the plant. Please harvest sustainably so that there will be plenty of plants year after year. If an abundance of plants are presence, only harvest up to ⅓ of any one plant (when possible) and only ⅓ of the total plants present (with the exception being invasive species).  If plants are rare or very rare (or endangered such as wild ginseng or goldenseal), do not harvest unless in an emergency situation.  With fruit, harvest only as much as you can use.

Disclaimer: Information contained on this website is strictly and categorically intended as a reference. The providers of this website accept no liability for the use or misuse of information contained in this website.


  1. An additional consideration for # 3. Know the Area on the Foraging Ethics list: chemical hazards are not just in the soil along roadways.

    Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are no longer produced in the US, but are still found in the environment around us. PCBs have been used as coolants and lubricants in transformers and other electrical equipment because PCBs are good insulators and prevent electrical transformers from overheating or burning. PCBs are known to cause a variety of adverse health effects and are classified as probable carcinogens.

    Electrical transformers installed on electric poles and in buildings prior to 1978 will most likely contain PCBs.

    If an electrical transformer has exploded/blown during a violent storm or power grid surge, the PCB coolant will spray out over the immediate area or leak down the electrical pole (soaking into the pole if the pole is wooden). PCBs remain intact in the environment for long, long periods of time and will accumulate in the tissues of animals and plants. PCBs accumulate in plants by uptake from the soil through the roots or through wet deposition on aerial parts of the plant.

    Foragers should give electrical poles a wide berth and not collect plants in the immediate vicinity.

  2. Also be aware of any environmental hazards in your foraging location such as snakes, bears, or chemical hazards from old oil fields, roadways, lead paint around old buildings or areas subject to flooding from sewers.

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