Hubby and I have been going for a lot of nature walks lately, as walking seems to help my back, and I have been particularly sore. I have been taking an identification book for edible wild plants, just for fun, and always keep a few ziploc baggies with me, in case we see anything interesting to pick. My mother and father were both interested in edible wild foods, as was an auntie who I spent a lot of time with as a child. There are numerous plants around here that I can identify with a glance, and know what it is good for, be it food, seasoning, or herbal medicine. I had forgotten about that, after so many years of living in town, and mostly visiting parks and ‘tame forests’, or going high up in the mountains, where the plants are less familiar. It is fun to be able to walk down by the river and point out to Hubby: “Hey, look, that one is a wild hazelnut! We will have to come back here in a couple of months. Oh, and here are some Saskatoons that are almost ripe!”
I have been picking things that I think are particularly tasty or useful, like rose petals and yarrow. There is an important element of conservation to wildcrafting, though – you have to leave enough plants to regenerate for next year. This is not such a big deal with the roses, as all we’ve been taking are the petals, which still leaves the fruit (rose hips) to form, as long as you are gentle and don’t pull the whole flower off. Later, though, we will be careful not to take all of the rose hips, as not only are they the seeds for new roses next year and on into the future, but they are also an important food for deer and wild birds over the winter. There are lots, and we will remember to share. With the yarrow, though, we have been taking the whole plant, so I am careful not to take more than one out of three or four, so that the patches can regenerate.
Just because of the time of year, most of the focus is on flowers right now. There is white clover everywhere, and although I have not tried it (yet), I understand it makes a nice tea. We have some drying in the pantry right now, to try out later. I have also had an eye out for wild chamomile here at the Acreage; there is lots and lots of it on the driveway, but I don’t want to be drinking something that has been driven over a hundred times. I am finally seeing some flowering along an old lane that used to lead to all of the granaries, and managed to pick a few flowers today, though that involves a lot of bending, which does not work so well with a sore back. Maybe another day when I am feeling better, I will go back and collect more. Chamomile makes a lovely tea, and smells sweet and soothing.
Later, we will take buckets with us as we walk, and pick the Saskatoons (probably in a couple of weeks, as they are starting to turn colours already), and hazelnuts, the rose hips after the first frost in the autumn, and maybe even wild highbush cranberries, if I feel I can identify them reliably enough. For now, the house smells of roses and chamomile while the flowers are drying, and we’re eagerly anticipating the wild strawberries, which I see should be coming ripe soon…