lancewildcraft lancewildcraft

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Lance Staples  Full-time Forager from Victoria, B.C. , Canada.

Shoot #5 : the aquatic deliciousness that is Cattail Shoots (Typha latifolia). These have been described by the late Euell Gibbons as "The Supermarket of the Swamps". Cattails are a remarkable plant that can help to bio-remediate contaminated areas, and feed people from clean ones. The rhizomes, shoots, flowers and pollen are all edible.
The Rhizome is a starch source and can be processed into a flour for baking.
The properly trimmed/peeled "Shoots" are
in my opinion the best part of the plant. They consist of the tender, innermost leaves which have a mucilaginous character. Hearts of Palm crossing paths with Cucumber is how I would describe the flavor, with a mild peppery tingling sensation that's left on the palette. They are a versatile and fresh ingredient and can be served raw, pickled, or cooked and as a vegetable they can be roasted, sauteed, grilled or fried.
The flower stalks before they mature are a vegetable that can be boiled and served sort of like a wild corn on the cob. The pollen that is produced from mature flowers is nutrient dense (similar to bee and pine pollen) and I like to use it in smoothies.

The mountains are thick with the smell of wild rose. While the coastal Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana) begins to wane, the Prickly Rose (Rosa acicularis) is just starting to go strong. This species is easily distinguished from other roses because it is densely covered in thorns which (let me tell you..) love to find their way into your hands.
The Latin/botanical names of plants has always been a valuable part of the learning process for me because they encourage an understanding of what species can belong to what genus, and in turn what family they might belong to. Plant families can sometimes have specific but consistent characteristics which may help you in identification. The Rose family is particularly valuable for pollinators and for fruit production. Some examples of the Rose family are the Rubus genus (blackberries, raspberries, Salmonberries, thimbleberries, cloudberries..), Malus genus (all apples and our coastal native Pacific Crabapple), Fragaria genus (cultivated and wild strawberries), and the Prunus genus (currently 430 species, including peaches, plums, cherries, almonds, nectarines and apricots).

The crisp, slightly salty leaves of Sea Plantain (Plantago maritima...related to Common Plantain, Alaska Plantain, etc.). Another common name for this plant is Goose Tongue. I never used to be a fan of this one because I always found it tough and astringent, but then I found an area the other day that had favorable leaves.

That time of the year: Sea Asparagus.

I grew up on the coast of Victoria, B.C. surrounded by Douglas Fir trees. To me these are the iconic tree of the west coast of Canada, a species I've grown to become quite fond of. I was very familiar with the fully mature brown cones and needles that would accumulate on my family's property, but I never expected to have any interaction with the tree other than the cleanup.
On a recent trip to Copenhagen I learned that the young, immature cones of coniferous trees are edible/medicinal, and can be used in several ways. The cones pictured here are the young female cones of the Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii spp. menziesii). The flavor is like a collaboration between crabapples and conifer trees. This is a very abundant and renewable ingredient, as there are thousands on any given tree that is producing. The cones can be peeled back "petal by petal" and each one has explosive flavor with a hit of astringency. I have seen young conifer cones pickled and candied but have also heard of them being infused in vinegar, syrup or made into kombucha.

The elusive yellow salmonberry. Like wild golden raspberries. My favorite flavor of the salmonberry, but the hardest to find. Have you found these before?

The young female cones of Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis). Very new to me but I've recently read that you can infuse into vinegar or syrup, and candy or pickle them. If you have any experience or other information then please feel free to share.

This is inspired by a recent lunch at @nomacph , specifically from a dessert from their Ocean themed menu in which they feature Cloudberries served with candied pine cones (one of my favorite dishes of the meal!).

The last flushes of oyster mushrooms. Always a short but beautiful season.

The peak of Spring's sustenance has arrived with the appearance of Salmonberries. They are native to the pacific northwest and are the first wild fruits of the year; a colorful reminder that summer is close by. Salmonberries belong to the Rubus genus (Rubus spectabilis), which also includes raspberries (and blackcaps), blackberries, and cloudberries.
It is interesting that a species can produce such a variety of color in its fruits. There are even salmon colored and yellow ones, but they are very elusive. I find the red ones are sweeter (also yellow), and the lighter orange ones are usually more acidic. As these berries are hollow, they are very perishable and best consumed within a few days of collecting (the orange ones tend to oxidize rapidly). If you are collecting any amount to take home, I recommend skipping the berry bucket, unless you are trying to decrease the amount of time it takes to make jam. You will have better results collecting into small containers or pints.

Just another day in the nettle patch.. And then you find oyster mushrooms!

The fragrant flowers of the Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa). This is an abundant species in certain areas that loves valleys and steep terrain, producing an incredible abundance of flowers and fruit in disturbed areas. The flavor of Elderflower is unusually similar to Lychee fruit, and makes a classic syrup or cordial.
Elderflowers (and berries) are also valued for their medicinal properties because they are antibacterial and antiviral. As a cough syrup, tea or tincture they are effective at treating colds/flu as well as other respiratory ailments.
All Elder species contain toxins called cyanogenic glycosides and all parts are very toxic except the flowers and berries. These glycosides actually deactivate respiratory enzymes in the human body, but are easily neutralized by the application of heat. This can be either through cooking or drying. The Red Elderberry species has the highest amount of glycosides (compared to the Blue and Black species), and should not be consumed raw.
A handy hint..if you are drying the flowers, then you can use an old herbalist technique of drying them in small amounts in paper bags. I find this method actually preserves some of the aromatics and essential oils more so than a dehydrator will.

The spring mushrooms of Verpa bohemica. This fungus is a less known relative in the same family as Morels (Morchellaceae). These can be confused with Morels, but the difference is that the cap is wrinkled rather than composed of "ridges and pits", the stem is not hollow, and the cap is connected at the top of the stem only.
I think this is a fine spring mushroom, but their are a select few that may have a sensitivity and find it poisonous (there are also people that have the same reaction to morels). Either way, this mushroom must be thoroughly cooked because it contains gyromitrins which are the same toxins that are found in Morels, but in higher amounts (not as high as False Morel). Gyromitrins are lame because they are carcinogenic and unstable, as they end up being converted into Monomethylhydrazine (MMH) which is actually an agent used in rocket fuel 😂😬. moral of the story is cook your mushrooms, all mushrooms, especially wild ones!

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