Monday 22 July 2013

Nature's Pantry; July 21

I headed back to Botanical Beach again yesterday, and foraged along the road as I made the trip there and back.  I gathered a lot of stuff.  It's a great time of year to gather wild foods and medicinal herbs.  There's just so much out there!

Yesterday's haul included huckleberries, fireweed, and pearly everlasting (you can read about them in last week's post), and I added some new finds to the list as well.

It's early in the season for berries, but they are beginning to ripen and I did pick some.  I found:

I grew up calling these berries salmonberries but apparently that's wrong.  Island Nature identifies them as thimbleberries and says that they are drier in texture and have a different shape and colour than salmonberries. 
Whatever they are, they grow in abundance here, and I've been gathering them every summer for as long as I can remember. 
These berries dry very well and were collected by our first nations long before European contact, for use both as a foodstuff and a trade good.
Although they are drier in texture than many other berries with druplets (fleshy fruit wrapped around a seed, like raspberries) the berries I picked yesterday were juicy enough to stain my fingers bright red. 

Also known as trailing blackberries, these plants are native to our area.  The fruit are tiny - rarely more than 1/2 inch long - but very flavourful and sweet.  The brambles mostly spread across the ground, often in rocky areas, and because of the reflected heat from the rocks, they tend to ripen before other blackberries in our area. 
Despite their small size, I was able to gather nearly a half gallon of these little fellows yesterday.

Mystery berries:
That's not really their name, I'm sure, but I don't know what these berries are. (Some naturalist I am!  ;^)

I found them growing near the ground like brambleberries, often near the thimbleberry bushes.  They look like boysenberries to me (but smaller) and have similar leaves, but I've never known boysenberries to grow wild in this area.
These ones are resting in my fridge while I test them for safety following the method given here.  If you know what they are, please do drop me a note, as it will save me some time and trouble.  I can tell you, though, that the few I've eaten so far taste very good and I've not experienced any adverse reaction to them.

Author's note:
I've since found out, thanks to the Mill Bay Garden Club, that these are wild black raspberries.  They can be distinguished by their dusty appearance.  Like other raspberries, when picked, the center core of the berry remains on the plant, leaving each picked berry hollow inside. 

Red clover:
Red clover is a really useful plant to know. A member of the pea family, it grows in abundance in fields and uncultivated meadows here.  Bees love it and so do deer, cattle, and horses. 
Red clover is considered a weed by road builders, railway maintenance crews, and landscapers so do exercise caution when gathering it.  Be sure that the plants you forage are not growing in an area where herbicides may be used.
Red clover leaves are edible and are best when gathered in early spring.  The blooms (which I was gathering yesterday) can be used as a tisane (herbal tea).  Traditional medicine recommends the use of this tea for the treatment of sore throats and colds.

Do you forage for wild foods or medicinal herbs?  What are you gathering right now? 

Please stop by my Facebook page or Twitter feed to share your finds.