lancewildcraft lancewildcraft

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

Bush candy: Summer huckleberries are here! The 2 species featured here are the red variety (Vaccinium parvifolium) and the purple/black mountain huckleberries (Vaccinium membranaceum). The reds are more likely to be found along the coast at lower elevations, whereas the purple/black variety here is found at higher elevations, often associated with pine or other conifers which contribute to the acidic soils they thrive in.

Huckleberries belong to the Ericaceae family, or the Heather family. Ok..so..why is this relevant.. Well... Interesting enough, blueberries (both cultivated and wild) belong to the same family and actually the same Vaccinium genus. The Ericaceae is a good family to know: one of the key features is its bell-shaped flowers, which all species share, and which may make it easier to identify. If you live on the coast you may be interested to know that Arbutus trees are related. Other related species include wintergreen, salal berry, the medicinal (and horticulural) heather species (lot of history and lore surrounding these in regards to ancient fermentation/beer making...I invite you to do some research, its fucking fascinating) and cranberries.

Blackcap Raspberries (Rubus leucodermis). They can be somewhat seedy, and their flavor is tamer than a raspberry (wild or cultivated). But their color is interesting, due to the higher content of anthocyanins, which would also mean these are probably higher in antioxidants.
Wild raspberries are generally creatures of disturbance, and I tend to find them off gravel roads or in rocky soil.

Better than any raspberry on its day off: these ones are Thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus). These berries are a burst of sweet and sour that will make you wish they were around for longer and were easier to collect. Their leaves are very similar looking to Maple, and the berries are often overlooked. They are among some of the finest of the wild berries to be collected, and well worth the effort. They are very delicate and need to be picked carefully, as they squish easily.
The best areas I find to collect are in areas of disturbance and moisture. They will likely be the best areas to gather a pint (or hopefully more!).

Ok, so you're cool!! Meet Strawberry Blight (Chenopodium capitation), someone that stands out from other plants. C. capitatum is native to most of North America. It is closely related to Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album), and is a member of the Amaranth (Amaranthaceae) family. The fruits, as you can see, are very much like strawberry, and have a similar flavor and texture, with a decent amount of seeds. And yes, when perfectly ripe, they are juicy like a strawberry. Also, it has been used as a source of red dye, which is where it derives its outdated name: Indian Paint (or Ink). 5 years ago when I was picking morels in the Northwest Territories, I discovered this plant. Tons of it lining an old road that had burned...I was so intrigued. And today, it finds me once more.

The mountains are lit with the flowers of Tiger Lily (Lilium columbianum) right now. I love finding this one, definitely one of the more striking lily flowers to find in the wild. This species is edible, and the bulbs were reportedly consumed by various indigenous tribes. The bulbs are said to have a peppery flavor, but need to be gathered before or after flowering. After flowering is generally more respectful, as you can plant newly formed seeds into the freshly disturbed soil.
Generally I leave wild lilies alone to their own devices, as they are very delicate, and some are even protected. In this instance, I chose to gather some of the flowers, but I had found a very abundant area, and left most, with many more already being pollenated.
#toomanymosquitoes #eatenalive #sustainable #causeimgivingbackyo #mightaswellbeinthemorelpatch

This was a special find: the rare Mountain Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium montanum). I've been fascinated by orchids ever since I started learning about plants. I've come across a number of species of orchid, but I had never found this one til now.
The Orchidaceae family is one of the 2 most diverse plant family's (over 28,000 recognized species), with most of its species distributed in the tropics. BC gets about 40 different orchids, and this one is rare to see.

Very small, very labor intensive, and very flavorful: this is what Wild Strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) are all about. These are one of my favorite fruits, and definitely one of the better fruits to be had from the Rose Family. They can be hard to spot until you get down low and get into a good area, then you see..they are usually hidden underneath the foliage. They do take quite a long time to gather any amount, but they are preciously delicious, and a small handful is like eating a pint of cultivated strawberries in terms of flavor and nutrient density.
Wild Strawberry and Coastal Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) are the progenitor species for 90% of cultivated strawberries.

Basically straight wild celery: these are the leaves and stems of Bare-Stem Desert Parsley (Lomatium nudicaule). Belonging to the Carrot family (Apiaceae), this plant has also been called Indian Consumption Plant (more recent use in treating 'consumption' or tuberculosis) but I think it's fair to say this is a rather outdated term.
On the coast, this plant (from my observations) produces flowering stalks which can be quite large and tender, at least large enough to consider collecting. In the drier mountainous regions where I've found it, this plant appears stunted and is mainly just leaves.
The leaves of this plant are rich in the flavor of lovage, and are most tender as they first emerge (best raw then). As the plant grows, eventually it begins to put up its flowers. Timing is key with the collection of the tender stems. A day or 2 of hot sun can make the difference between tender, and tough/fibrous. The stems are one of my all time favorite wild foods, and require a special hand. Such a unique ingredient, and it is so much like a wild celery. Some are more sweet, some are spicy and slightly bitter, I've even had some of the sweeter variety that had hints of vanilla. Epic, why not!? The flowers are very spicy and maybe not the best unless used sparingly, but the seeds that form after are much akin to celery seed. A worthy collection later in summer, especially to replant some in a different area if you ever locate this plant and/or choose to gather (please help repopulate native plants. If you collect from them, then give back. This is how we do.) Also, in case you're still reading.. this plant has a marked effect on the respiratory system, being useful in treating colds/flu, tuberculosis and as a poultice for headaches. The seeds are the more medicinal part that is used.
#nativeplants #forourfuture #manyfucksgiven #notahashtagger

The elusive yellow salmonberries..like wild golden raspberries.

Sustenance for life: Summer's just around the corner when there's Salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis). Just another fabulous and colorful edible brought to you by the Rose Family (such good fam... hawthorn, Pacific Crabapple, blackberry, strawberry, thimble berry, etc..some of the best edibles!). These are the first berries that present themselves on the west coast, and I look at them as a transition point from spring to summer. Flavors vary from bitter and insipid to tart and sweet. Colors, as you can see, vary from bush to bush, from the (extremely​) rare yellow ones, to orange and red. The orange is most common, and usually more tart. It's rare to see a true salmon-pink colored berry in the wild, but it's been done before. The best flavored ones I find are yellow and darker red. Crimson red is the best!
As these berries are hollow, this makes them very perishable, and are best enjoyed in the patch, or within 2-3 days of collection. A good tip: collect into small shallow containers (i.e. pints or half pints) and don't stack too many on top unless you want to make jam on your journey home.

This was cool! Found a Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) while deep in the rose game. Our largest and most well-known flower Spider in North America; this one is an adult female (males look very different). They can be completely yellow or white, with the ability to change back and forth. In the fall this Spider is usually found hunting amidst stands of Goldenrod (a group of medicinal plants in the Solidago genus), which is where it gets its name. They can also take out large prey like butterflies and wasps/bees.

Fairyslippers: one of several species of native orchids to the Northwest. This is the only species in its genus (Calypso bulbosa). Although Calypso is widespread in many parts of the world (California, Scandinavia, Korea, most of Canada, Japan, etc.) it is not easily transplanted due to specific mycorrhizal relationships with soil fungi. It is also easily disturbed and has become protected or endangered in some parts of the world, part of this (at least on Vancouver Island) is due to habitat loss.
Though this species is edible ( the corm which is a swollen underground plant stem which serves as a storage organ), these plants are best left to their own devices as they are too delicate.
Fairyslippers can also be an indicator species for natural morels, as I ended up finding a rather nice morel near a large community of these wonderful orchids.

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