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How To Clean Foraged Plants

How To Safely Clean Foraged Plants

Foragable plants are abundant around our homestead, and harvesting them is one of my favorite pastimes. Whether for food or medicine, foraged plants make up a large part of our lives on Byers Ranch. However, even when foraging from our own backyard garden or forest, properly cleaning the harvested plants is still essential. 

It's important to be aware that insects can live inside flower blooms, all manner of forest creatures could have walked on them (or worse), and any number of microbes may be lurking on the surface. Therefore, it's essential to know how to clean foraged plants for culinary and medicinal use to avoid potential health risks.

The Benefits of Foraging

One of the most delightful aspects of foraging is the sense of connection it fosters, not just with nature but also with our ancestors, who would have gathered these very same plants. 

Additionally, working with plants native to your environment gives you superior nutritional and medicinal qualities as well as the knowledge held within their cells that can help you better adapt to your environment. This is why, when formulating products for the Byers Ranch Apothecary line, I always prioritize native plants. 

Foraging Safety & Awareness 

When it comes to foraging or harvesting wild plants, safety is paramount. Ensuring your identification is 100% accurate is crucial. Many medicinal plants have look-a-likes that can be toxic if not outright deadly. Remember, never ingest anything you are not positive about. 

Along with positive identification, safe harvesting practices include being mindful of the environment you are foraging in. 

  • Never harvest from roadsides. These plants will have a higher concentration of environmental pollutants.

  • Never harvest from any area that may have been exposed to weed killers or fertilizers.

  • Never harvest from an area where your pets have gone to the bathroom.

  • Never harvest from an area with visible wildlife scat. 

Ethical Foraging Practices

Foraging is not just about taking; it's about becoming part of the ecosystem. Ethical foraging means never over-harvesting or decimating an area or a single plant to the point that it cannot continue reproducing. By practicing ethical foraging, you are not just respecting the plants but also the delicate balance of nature.

Never remove a plant by its roots (unless you’re after the root). Remember that you are not the only one who may want or need this plant. Wild foods and medicines that can be foraged are a prime food source for local wildlife. 

Consider this: if you pick a patch of wild berries clean, the bear that eats them every year would be forced to find other food, which could lead him to someone's yard or home. Protecting the land, the wildlife, and the ecosystem starts with you.

You must also be aware that some wild plants are on the United Plant Savers endangered plants list. Some examples include Osha Root, Oregon Grape, and other plants that often get harvested for their roots, eliminating the possibility of new growth. 

Cleaning foraged dandelions

How To Clean Foraged Plants

When working with foraged plants, it is essential to remove any additional microbes that may have been introduced by wildlife. Before beginning, if a large number of bugs are visible (particularly with berries or dense blooms), place your plants outside on a white towel for one hour to allow the bugs to leave on their own. 

Step 1

Clean the herbs under cool running water to remove any dirt, dust, or visible debris.

Step 2 

Transfer your herbs to a large bowl or clean sink and soak in a solution made from:

  • 1 part white vinegar 

  • 2 parts distilled or filtered water 

Step 3 

Gently agitate your herbs in the vinegar solution to ensure good coverage and submerge all plant matter. Then, allow the plants to soak for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Step 4 

Strain the plants from the vinegar solution using a large colander.

Step 5

Rinse a second time under cool running water. Once fully clean, gently pat the leaves dry with towels or place them in a salad spinner to remove excess moisture. 

Storing Your Foraged Plants

Once you have cleaned and removed excess moisture, it’s time to process your plants for storage. If the plants will be used for food or culinary purposes, you may wish to consume them fresh, freeze them in olive oil, or pickle them for later use.

For medicinal purposes, you’ll want your plants dried for storage. With blossoms and blooms, lay them out on a towel or screen and allow them to air dry for several days or weeks, depending on the type of plant. For leaves and whole plants, I tend to dry them in bunches to hang dry. Alternatively, you can dry your plants in a dehydrator or even a low-temperature oven.

Once your plants are fully dry, store them in air-tight glass jars for up to one year or until their color begins to fade. 

Happy Foraging

Now that you know how to safely clean your foraged plants for food and medicine, we wish you many days of happy foraging this season! What is your favorite foraged crop each season? Tell us all about it in the comments below, and as always, until next time, 

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Foraged Plants


Content from is meant to be informational in nature and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Remember that just because something is “natural” does not always mean it is safe for every person. When it comes to herbal medicine, many plants should be avoided when pregnant or nursing, and some can cause extreme interactions with prescription and over-the-counter medicine. 

While we strive to be 100% accurate, utilizing information from scientific studies, trusted sources, and verified publications, we are not health professionals, medical doctors, or nutritionists. It is solely up to the reader to verify nutritional information and health benefits with qualified professionals for all edible plants listed on this website and to ensure proper plant identification. 

The information provided by this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Before using herbal preparations, always research, speak to a professional regarding any significant concerns, and never fail to seek medical advice when needed.

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