Wildcrafting Hoop 2017 – One person’s journey

Michael Pilarski in the woods wildcrafting.“The Hoop” is one of the terms to describe traditional people’s yearly round of harvesting activities. Here are the main medicinal herbs I harvested last year in the order that I harvested them. I am making my 2018 calendar and needed to know my Eastern Washington wildcrafting schedule. I just made a list of the harvest times for the things I collected on 2017’s Hoop and taking into account that last year was a late spring what it will likely be in 2018.  There are year-to-year climate variations which have to be taken into account and elevation and aspect means that different stands in the same area will vary by several weeks.  The window of opportunity varies a lot from botanical to botanical. The exact date for the most optimum harvest varies from species to species. Heart-leaved Arnica flower stands are only perfect for about 3 days. In contrast, Elder spreads it’s flowering over a month in the same stand. Nettle leafy tops and nettle green-seed heads, both have relatively short windows. Dormant roots in the ground have a long window. So many variables!

W – West Side, Northwest Washington.

I currently live on the northeast tip of the Olympic Peninsula.

E = East Side, Eastern Washington.

I made 6 wildcrafting expeditions to the East Side in 2017.

These harvest dates will be applicable in general for the side of Washington State indicated here. 

W - Nettle root - November to mid-February

W - Cottonwood buds - December into February

W – Lobaria lichen - December into February

W -  Usnea lichen - December into February

W -  Devils club - November to April

W - Dandelion root - March into April

W - Nettle tops - late March thru April

E – Lithospermum ruderale - March/April, Spring window

E - Lomatium dissectum root, - March/April, Spring window

E - Black cohosh - Early April

W - Dandelion leaf, - Mid-April into May

W - Cleavers - May 1 into early June

E - Arnica cordifolia flowers - early May to mid May

W - Rose petals, Rosa nutkana - Early June

E – Elder flowers. - All June

E - Yarrow flowers - early to late June. Each patch has about a 2-week window.

E - St John’s wort - Early to mid-July

W - Coastal Gumweed buds/flowers - Late July

E - Hops, - Mid August

E - Nettle seed, Columbia Basin - End of August and early September

E - Pipsissewa - August, September

E – Yew tips - All summer

W - Hawthorn berry - mid to end September. Worms are an issue in some stands, if so pick early.

E – Kinnikinnik, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi - September/October

E - Black cohosh - mid October to mid-November.

E - Oregon grape root - mid October to mid-November.

E – Sarsparilla, Aralia nudicaulis - mid October to mid-November.

E – Lithospermum ruderale - October, November.

E - Lomatium dissectum root - October, November.

W - Dandelion root: - Mid October and early November

W - Yellow dock, - November through the winter on the West Side.

W - Tall Oregon-grape, - all winter on the West Side.

W - Low Oregon-grape - all winter on the West Side.

* I am planning a series of Wildcrafting Workshops in 2018, so I can share some of the wildcrafting knowledge I’ve been accumulating.

** By the way, I sell all of these botanicals - some fresh, some dry, some both. We are still looking for new customers. Our 2017 Herb Catalog is on our website and a 2018 one will be up in January.

--Michael Pilarski 1/9/2018



MICHAEL “SKEETER” PILARSKI is a life-long student of plants and earth repair. His farming career started in 2nd grade and his organic farming career began in 1972 at age 25. Michael founded Friends of the Trees Society in 1978 and took his first permaculture design course in 1982. Since 1988 he has taught 36 permaculture design courses in the US and abroad. His specialties include earth repair, agriculture, seed collecting, nursery sales, tree planting, fruit picking, permaculture, agroforestry, forestry, ethnobotany, medicinal herb growing, hoeing and wildcrafting. He has hands-on experience with over 1000 species of plants. He is a prolific gathering organizer and likes group singing.