Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Edible natives in British Columbia

Here's a quick look at some of the native edibles I learned about in a recent field course I took. Don't eat any of them on account of reading this blog. There are lots of poisonous things out there that you might mistakenly think are the plants below.

First we have the aptly-named Rubus spectabilis (or salmonberry) from the Rosaceae family (the same as blackberries and saskatoons, among others). At this time of year in B.C. the berries are just starting to ripen in forested areas and a few of the bright pink flowers will definitely still be hanging around. These photos were taken near Beecher Creek in Burnaby. This is a great plant (hardy to zone 5) to use to attract wildlife, especially birds, to your garden.

Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus, family Rosaceae) is one of the most beautiful woodland berry plants in B.C., in my opinion. The fuzzy leaves and white blossoms look lovely this time of year. This photo was also taken near Beecher Creek in Burnaby. Berries will be quite tiny and full of seeds when they appear, though Borealforest.org assures me that they make a fine jelly.

Finally I offer up this basically amazing plant: sea asparagus or Salicornia spp. (in the, get this, Chenopodiaceae or "goosefoot" family). This photo was taken at Boundary Bay where the entire lower salt marsh is colonized by Salicornia (though it is of dubious quality due to exposure to pollutants from the Fraser River). I also encountered this plant at Maplewood Flats in North Vancouver where I sampled it for the first time. It has quite a pleasing texture and is very very very salty. Apparently it's really catching on in restaurants. Order it next time you see it on the menu. Here's what EAT magazine is saying... And here are some recipes for sea asparagus, should you be so lucky as to find a supplier in your area.

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