Holiday Greens - Tips for Sustainable Foraging
While there is no arguing that fresh greenery adds an unmistakable festive air to holiday decorating, the way in which one forages for greenery can have negative impacts on the environment. Here are some tips to allow you to harvest in a sustainable way.
Whether you are harvesting mushrooms from the forest floor, berries for a delicious jam, or the aforementioned holiday greens, it is important to only take what you need and to leave enough for the plant to continue to thrive. The plant needs to have enough spores, seeds, leaves, flowers, etc. remaining after you have harvested to be able to continue to flourish and produce another generation. A general rule of thumb with berries and mushrooms is to only take up to 50% of what you see. Holiday greens are different, of course, because you are harvesting the stems and leaves of the plant, thereby reducing its ability to photosynthesize and produce food for itself. A sustainable way to harvest these branches is to only take a couple of branches from each tree. This is especially important on small shrubs or young evergreens that don’t have as many branches/leaves to sustain them.
When harvesting branches, it is extremely important to make proper pruning cuts to avoid leaving ragged wounds that can leave the tree vunerable to disease.
Ensure that the pruners you take out with you are sharp and give them a good cleaning and a wipe with alcohol prior to going out forging. This cleanliness will ensure that you are not going to be importing any pathogens from your cultivated garden into the forest.
A basic understanding of pruning cuts is necessary to ensure that you leave the plant in the best possible condition to continue to grow after your foraging expedition. Every cut should be made cleanly so that the plant is not torn or bruised. If a branch is accidentally broken or torn, make a new, clean cut further down the branch. Always cut on a diagonal at about 45 degrees to ensure that water cannot collect on the cut which encourages fungal rot. Cuts should always be made just above a bud, at a fork on a branch, or just outside of the branch collar. If you are unfamiliar with any of these locations, educate yourself prior to heading out to forage.
Lastly, observe the area around you when foraging to avoid trampling sensitive areas or disturbing wildlife. Foragers not paying attention to their surroundings may accidentally damage delicate ecosystems.
Foraging for greenery can be a truly enjoyable activity but it is important to do so responsibly in order to minimize the negative impacts on the environment.
When you deck your halls, please do so in a way that allows you to responsibly enjoy the bounty of the natural world.