More than 18 native plants are currently harvested in B.C. for personal use or commercial sale. Most grow at forest edges or in sunny openings. Here is a selection that you can grow in your native plant garden. Most can be propagated from seed collected when ripe and stem or root cuttings. Use a field guide to ensure correct growing conditions and identification before consuming. Latin names have been
provided in italics for easy referencing. Plant the same species in bunches and ground label any bulbs so you are certain what you are collecting to eat.
When collecting, remember to only remove about 10% of the leaves or plants to preserve more for future harvest, either in the same season or the following year. If it produces prolific growth or is aggressive, you can harvest more liberally.
If this is your first time tasting these, eat only a small portion. See how your system deals with each plant, and try a little more each time, allowing 4 days between. This allows your system to build up good bacteria that helps to digest new foods. If you have allergies, avoid plants that are in the same family as plants you are allergic to.
Add these to your favorite dishes to enhance the flavor or to reduce sugar.
Mint leaves Mentha arvensis
Yerba Buena leaves Satureja douglasii
Wild Ginger root Asarum caudatum
Licorice Fern root Polypodium glycyrrhiza
Nodding Onion Allium cernuum
Fruits & Berries
These can be eaten fresh, frozen, in tarts and pies, jams and jellies, in cordials and juices or made into fruit leather.
Salmonberry (seedy): Rubus spectabilis
Black Raspberry (seedy): Rubus leucodermis
Trailing Blackberry: Rubus ursinus
Black Gooseberry: Ribes lacustre
Red Hucklebery: Vaccinium parvifolium
Evergreen Huckleberry: Vaccinium ovatum
Saskatoon: Amelanchier alnifolia
Thimbleberry (seedy): Rubus parviflorus
Coastal Strawberry: Fragaria chiloensis
Rose hips (remove the hairy seeds first): Rosa Gymnocarpa R. nutkana
Pacific crabapple: Malnus fusca.
Greens & Potherbs
Eaten fresh, these add a wild flavor to a salad or cook them up like spinach, changing the water at least once. Harvest them young before flowers form. Fresh only.
Miner’s Lettuce Claytonia perfoliata
Siberian Miner’s Lettuce: Claytonia sibirica
Salmonberry peeled inner stalk celery: Rubus spectabilis
Both Fireweed-inner stalk, leaves, roots and flowers: Epilobium angustifolium
Stinging Nettle leaves and stems of plants under 25 cm tall: Urtica dioica.
Used fresh or thoroughly dried, a handful of leaves makes a nice cup of tea. Berries can also be used.
Douglas Fir: Pseudotsuga menziesii
Yerba Buena: Satureja douglasii
Fireweed: Epilobium angustifolium
Nootka & Baldhip Rose flowers and hips: Rosa Gymnocarpa R. nutkana
Thimbleberry: Rubus parviflorus.
Roast these when ripe for a crunchy treat.
Broadleaf, Douglas and Vine Maple seeds Acer Macrophyllum, A. glabrum, A. circinatum
Hazelnut Corylus cornuta var. californica.
Broadleaf Maple: Acer Macrophyllum tree syrup has a more intense flavor than Sugar Maples. Gary Backlund (www.island.net/~maple) offers courses at Malaspina Continuing Education on how to tap and process sap from 10 to 45 cm diameter trees. Also the less seedy berries can be made into a tasty syrup for ice cream and pancakes.
Donna Hill is a freelance writer and naturalist who offers native plant workshops and is a Naturescape BC facilitator. www.naturepark.com