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How to Clean Foraged Plants

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Even when foraging from a pristine forest or organic backyard it is necessary to clean the collected plants. Insects can be living inside flowers, animals may have walked on leaves, and any other number of things might need to be removed from the surface. Clean foraged plants in 4 easy steps so that they can serve all your edible and medicinal needs. 

Clean foraged plants with this easy 4-step system to remove unwanted debris, insects, and more before eating or using for remedy making.

Harvest Wisely

Practice responsible foraging and identification. No manner of cleaning is going to help if the identification is wrong. While plants still need to be cleaned, harvest from organic areas first and foremost. Avoid areas where chemicals have been sprayed. Don’t harvest close to well-traveled roads where run-off from cars is present.

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Rinse & Soak

Place the herbs in a colander and give them a good rinse under cool running water. This will remove any surface dust and loose insects. Now fill a clean sink or a large bowl with water and submerge the herbs. Give the herbs a swish in the water and then let sit for about 10 minutes. This will loosen insects and dirt stuck inside and on plants. The debris will sink to the bottom of the bowl while the herbs float to the top. 

Clean foraged plants with this easy 4-step system to remove unwanted debris, insects, and more before eating or using for remedy making.

Lift the colander or herbs gently from the water and let the water drain off as much as possible.

Spin Cycle

Plants have a great tendency to absorb water. Spin them dry in a salad spinner. This will greatly reduce any drying or wilting time that might be necessary. Use that spinner several times to remove as much water as is possible. Be sure to drain any water from inside the salad spinner between spins. 

Clean foraged plants with this easy 4-step system to remove unwanted debris, insects, and more before eating or using for remedy making.

Air Dry 

Spread the herbs out on a towel to dry. How dry will depend on the intended use for the harvested plants.

To cook with the fresh herbs, simply leave on the towel until the washing water has evaporated. This could take up to an hour. One that water is evaporated it can be used in the recipe as necessary. 

Clean foraged plants with this easy 4-step system to remove unwanted debris, insects, and more before eating or using for remedy making.

Wilt the herbs for infusing into oil or some other purpose, by letting them sit on the towel for 24 hours. They will have shed the water from washing in that time and wilted some of their own natural moisture as well. 

To dehydrate for long-term storage, let them sit on the towel for about an hour for the washing water to mostly evaporate. After the water is gone, spread the herbs out onto drying screens or hang to dry completely. Once crispy dry, store in containers for later.

Clean foraged plants with this easy process and keep insects out of infused oils and bits of dirt out of soups. It doesn’t take that long and is so very worth it in the long run.

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Monday 5th of August 2019

I've been wondering awhile specifically about cleaning flowers but haven't found too much information online. Wouldn't rinsing and/or soaking certain flowers remove much of their pollen or nectar? For instance, flowers like honeysuckle where the nectar is one of the most desirable components or elderflowers where the pollen contains most of the flavor and beneficial aspects.


Monday 23rd of May 2022

@Kathie Lapcevic, Me and my cousin are harvesting some of our lilac flowers from our bush in the backyard, I was told salt and water would get the bugs out but I see others say vinegar so I’m not sure which, also is there any other ways to dry out the plants without using a salad spinner? We don’t have one but idk if we have a safe spot to keep them to dry :) ty for the tips

Kathie Lapcevic

Tuesday 6th of August 2019

I can see where they might be true and we all need to make choices for ourselves. There are so many things I don't want to ingest intentionally bug excrement, environmental pollutants... I can see both sides of the 'story' here for and against washing. I think we just need to make the decision we feel best about and go from there.


Wednesday 13th of March 2019

Thank you for the wonderful info. And the tips left by others here. I love learning... May God Bless...

Kathie Lapcevic

Friday 15th of March 2019

I'm so glad to know this was useful to you.

Tia Robbins

Sunday 11th of March 2018

Thank you for this very practical information! I've not found it anywhere else. I really look forward to reading more of your of your work!


Friday 7th of July 2017

Thank you so much for this information! After reading 4 books on Herbs this is the first I've read detailed information on what to do after harvesting. This extremely useful!

Homespun Seasonal Living

Saturday 8th of July 2017

Oh I'm so glad to hear it!


Wednesday 7th of June 2017

I was just wondering about this not too long ago. Thanks!

Homespun Seasonal Living

Thursday 8th of June 2017

You are so welcome!