Growing and harvesting herbs from your garden is relatively uncomplicated process because you usually know which herbs you planted and where. Picking herbs in the wild can be slightly more difficult and even though that bank of tansy beside the road is calling to you, think carefully before pulling over to harvest.
Many herbs can be difficult to cultivate and therefore picking them wild is the only method to have them for your use. Unfortunately this wild picking can result in the plant being endangered with no controls on the quantity and timing of the harvest. If you are going to pick an herb such as golden seal (which is endangered in North America and is a very popular medicinal herb) leave at least half the plant and only take what you need. Donít trespass either when picking your bounty. Some landowners do not like people traipsing around their properties, it is illegal.
Be aware that herbs growing in the wild can have a pretty healthy dose of chemicals, pesticides or other toxins on them. Car exhaust, industry and other commercial crops all can pollute these plants with no visible signs. At least wash the herbs before use and only use them in craft projects to be safe.
Do not harvest wild herbs unless you are very confident in your ability to recognize the various types. Herbs can look very similar to one another and it can be dangerous to assume you know what herb is growing on the side of the road. Do not pick the plant if you are unsure. Also keep in mind the least intrusive time to harvest the herb and what part of the plant you need. Bark, roots, leaves or flowers all have certain times to harvest which are healthier for the plant and when the part is most potent. For example, most culinary herbs should not be used for cooking after they go to seed.
Make sure you are careful when taking plants from any area. Be aware of the ecosystem and the effect your harvesting will have on the plants and animals adjacent to the herbs. Also do not step and otherwise destroy the surrounding foliage. Respect the process and the area.
If you make a habit of picking wild herbs it might be prudent to carry a small journal to record the plant, area and any other considerations applicable to the harvest. Also have a basket or paper bags available to carry the picked herbs to protect them from damage. Make sure when taking wild plants you have respect for your harvest and the process.