Foraging for food used to be a necessity for our human ancestors, today such skills are no longer used and the art of collecting wild edibles has almost disappeared. However there are still those out there that practice and thrive on wild harvesting, the ability to identify plant types and what can and cannot be consumed is still something that can be taught. The ethical practice of wild harvesting is very important, as local wild edibles grow in popularity steps should be taken to ensure there will still be an abundant supply of wild plants for future generations. Here you can be taught an environmentally friendly way of collecting and using wild edibles such as flowers, herbs, berries, roots, vegetables, fruits and mushrooms.
Below are just a few examples of what can be learnt about nature and what it has to offer if you learn to work with it.
Whitebark Pine Nuts.
Whitebark Pine is an evergreen coniferous tree species that can be found in BC, predominantly in the southern part. The pine needles themselves are high in vitamin C, more so than any citrus fruit and boiling the needles in water to make tea is common. The nuts that are produced by Whitebark Pine are also edible and can be picked and eaten right from the tree. This species has a variable shape and may be a small dwarfed tree or shrubby and sprawling , it is noticeable for its 5 bluish, stiff needles per bundle that are clustered towards the ends of the branches.
General: Annual herb from a slender taproot; stems erect, simple, bluish-green, 1-15 cm tall.
Leaves: Basal leaves numerous, linear, 2-12 cm long, 0.5-1.5 mm wide, blue-green; stem leaves paired, opposite, linear to linear-lanceolate, 0.5-4 cm long, free or fused on one side less than half their length, bluish-green.
Flowers: Inflorescence of stalked to unstalked racemes 5-20 mm long with 2-7 flowers on recurved stalks, the stalks 3-10 mm long, with one bract subtending the lowest flower; petals 5, white or pale pink, 2.5-4.5 mm long; sepals 2, 1-2 mm long.
Fruits: Capsules, 2-3 mm long; seeds 3, elliptic, dull black, 1-1.5 mm long, with small rounded swellings (at 20x magnification), the appendages brownish, fleshy or shrunken.
Firstly an important note is to never try to eat a wild mushroom that you cannot identify with 100% certainty. A poisonous mushroom can kill you and as such there wont be any identifier guides on here to explain the difference between safe and not safe. If you want to learn more about wild mushroom a good rule of thumb is to study under someone (such as an experienced bushcrafter) in how to closely and carefully identify the correct type. Attempting to learn about what mushrooms to eat off the internet is not the correct way to go about learning how to distinguish different mushroom types.
Although hard to find in BC, this edible berry is ripe around the time of midsummer and tastes juicy and sweet. The plant that bears it’s fruit is a small deciduous bush that grows in the southern areas of BC. Although mulberry is common the white mulberry is the variety that blooms in early spring time until the end of summer.
To harvest cattail grip the plant and pull up firmly to dislodge it. The tall blade-like leaves are attached along the stem of the plant. Peel the outer leaves away until all that remains is the white central core. The outer leaves may be covered in muck and slime, but the core is clean. Eaten raw, it’s crisp and refreshing, though the taste will vary with the soil and water conditions. Six to eight large plants will provide enough stalks for a meal.