Harvesting the Forest?
Some people can't see the forest for the trees. Some people see the forest, the trees, and a whole bunch of other stuff that grows there. These people are wild-harvesters. Every year, hundreds of them venture out into public and private landsheds and return with thousands of pounds of the forest's bounty. The difference between them and our foraging ancestors? They sell it.
Wild-harvesting is the act of harvesting food, decorative or medicinal products that grow naturally on wild land. If you've ever cut some cedar boughs for a wreath or picked berries on the side of a road, you've wild-harvested. Examples of Oregon's most important products:
Leaves and/or branches of plants that are used in floral arrangements or for holiday decorations.
- "Christmas greens" like Noble fir, Douglas fir and Western red cedar
- Mosses and lichens
Foodstuffs that are exported from Oregon all over the world.
Parts of plants or plant essences are used in herbal medicines.
- Mushrooms (especially matsutake, chanterelle, boletes, morel)
- Huckleberries and other berries
- Miner's lettuce and other wild greens
- Hawthorn (edible fruit)
- Fiddleheads (fern "buds")
- Stinging nettles
For many, the activity goes beyond a weekend outing on a nice day in August. Wild-harvesting is the verb that accompanies the noun "non-timber forest products" (or "special forest products" or "non-wood forest products"). These are the products that wild-harvesters gather. Neither the state of Oregon nor the federal government keep exact records, and for the most part wild-harvesting is a cash economy (i.e. no taxes are paid), so it's hard to quantify. That said, the region's NTFP industry was valued at more than $190 million in 1992.
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- Prince's pine
- Oregon grape
- Wild ginger
- St. Johns wort
- Purple coneflower