There must be more than blackberries...

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by Citypicker, Sep 20, 2006.

  1. Citypicker

    Citypicker Member

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    I am a student at Emily Carr doing an ethnobotany project on what types of things are edible within (and around) the Vancouver area and I have many questions. (more will be added as I come up with them)

    Blackberries are everywhere, but what else is out there?
    Old Vienamese people pick up acorns in Point Gray. What do they use them for?
    Are the chestnuts around here edible and how do I prepare them?
    I have been told of fruit trees in public areas. Do you know of any?
    Plants native or introduced. This is not about the history of plant life here–though it will be looked at, but what is here now and how (and if) it is used.

    Feel free to email me if you want to keep the info on the DL. I will not be sharing the exact locations of these as part of my project, just the whole region in general.
    Public areas are key! I am not interested in what can be found in someones garden or deep within an eco-sensitive bog. What I seek is what may be growing wild in the alleys and public areas around the Lower Mainland. The more urban the better!

    I look forward to hearing from you!

    Citypicker
     
  2. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    try a decent book about native plants of the PNW, it should give you info regarding uses (former and possibly current) and edibility (is that a word?) etc.
     
  3. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    jimmyq, I have the impression that Citypicker is looking for more local / anecdotal information than what could be typically found in a regional field guide - essentially, urban ethnobotany.

    So, here are a few bits I know / have heard:

    Some folks, generally of European descent, pick dandelion leaves. These can be used for salads or to make wine (I've had dandelion wine, meh).

    I remember being told stories here at the garden about people of Asian descent picking watercress from the ditches (perhaps along Southwest Marine Drive). The reason people here noted it is because they thought it wasn't a good idea - urban ditches collect a lot of nasty things, and you have to think that heavy metal concentrations in the watercress would be high.

    Casting the net a little bit outside the boundaries of the city proper, mushroom-picking is of course popular in the forests immediately surrounding the city.
     
  4. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    (and I've also heard of fruit trees in public areas - I seem to recall that this was an initiative put forth by one of the local gardening + community associations on the east side, but this would have been several years ago, so my memory might be fuzzy)
     
  5. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    You may want to contact at The Fruit Tree Project. They find and pick surplus fruit and distribute it to the hungry. I think most of what they harvest is from people's yards, but they also search out unused public trees.

    In this area almost everyone seems to eat the wild (introduced) blackberries (Rubus armeniacus), the harvest is ridiculously abundant and goes on all summer.

    All the local "berries" are good; huckleberries, salmon berries, thimble berries - only encountered in the wildest urban areas though. I eat those and have tried salal (Gaultheria shallon.) But I would not eat those for sustenance unless there was little else. They are OK, but not very pleasing in flavour or texture.

    In town one can usually find some edible greens. Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) makes an excellent and nutritious addition to salads. I served some to guests and everyone complimented on the salad. I have also eaten wild amaranth and lamb's quarters (Chenopodium album) cooked like spinach. Young plants of those two can be found in many urban areas.

    I understand why planners and landscape architects do not use more edible plants, but it is kind of a shame. It would be nice if cities could put together programs that would allow some hardy fruit producing street trees in their plantings with a contract with a group like the Fruit Tree Project to harvest and distribute the fruit.

    There are some old apple trees on campus here that I pass on my walks to and from work. The fruit is delicious, but generally small and gnarly like wild untended trees produce. I have eaten from those trees, but most of the apples rot on the ground.
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Cornus mas berries in mass planting (The Mass of Mas) at Center for Urban Horticulture, Seattle attract small groups of people who collect them when mature (the berries, not the people). Still usable after having fallen.
     
  7. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Around here, someone about 30 or 40 years ago planted a lot of Prunus avium in parks and along streets. When the crop's good, I spend a lot of time in late July / early August eating delicious small cherries . . . and have more than once been told "hey, you can't eat those, they're poisonous" :-)
     

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  8. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Sweet cherry both commonly planted and naturalized here. Crosses with native bitter cherry to produce apparently sterile hybrid Puget cherry (botanical description forthcoming).
     
  9. Citypicker

    Citypicker Member

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    Wow, Thanks to everyone for your quick responses!

    Good call on the book. I do have the Plants of Coastal BC book and have been using that to narrow down what is edible in the region, but as Daniel mentioned I am more interested an "Urban Ethnobotany" point of view. What I can pick around the city in public places.

    I think it is great that there is a group like the Fruit Tree project that is collecting the excess fruit. I will be contacting them and learning more about their project.

    Eric, you sound like a hell of a guy to invite to a potluck! I have seen Purslane around, so I look forward to trying it one day. I have eaten salal in the past, but have not seen it in the city. As for those other berries, I really hope to stumble upon some of those in the city soon (or whenever they are in season). I had a great time picking blackberries this summer, so I look forward to taking it to the next level!

    Michael, those Prunus avium sound great! I'll keep my eyes open next summer.

    Thanks again and keep them coming. Back tomorrow!

    Citypicker
     
  10. wild-rose-43

    wild-rose-43 Active Member

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    Try this book: Discovering Wild Plants. I have a copy and it lists all sorts of wild plants and their food use (it even includes some recipes!), cosmetic use, historical use and medicinal use. It covers plants in Alaska, western Canada and the Pacific Northwest.

    Edit: Sorry, I just looked at the price they have listed. I didn't pay $66.95 for mine but I bought it about 6 years ago.
     
  11. wild-rose-43

    wild-rose-43 Active Member

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    OK, here are some ideas from the "Gardens, Lawns, Cultivated and Disturbed Soils" section of the book. I figured these would be in keeping with the urban ethnobotany theme, let me know if I'm off the mark!

    Chickweed Stellaria media: Fresh chopped in salads, soups, stir fries and omelets. The seeds can be eaten as a snack.

    Clover Trifolium and Sweet clover Melilotus: The greens can be eaten raw but it is best to cook them or soak them in salt water to increase digestibility. They can also be used as potherbs. Steam for 5-10 minutes and flavor with butter, lemon, and seasonings. Add them to stews, omelets and quiche. Add the flowers to salads or soups or dip them in batter and fry as fritters. The roots can be steamed or stir fried.

    Lambs Quarters Chenopodium album: The leaves can be used in the same manner as spinach, either raw in salads or steamed as greens. The seeds can be used as a seasoning, grain or coffee substitute.

    Pineapple Weed Matricaria matricariodes: The flower heads can be eaten raw as a snack or in salads or stir fries. You can also steep them in hot water for a tealike beverage.

    That's all for tonight, I need to get to bed and I should stop before I get typers-cramp in case this is not the sort of stuff you're looking for.
     
  12. Citypicker

    Citypicker Member

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    Thanks for that, Wild-rose. I'll have a look for that book.
    Your suggestions are bang-on. I have seen most of your suggestion around, so I will know what to do next time!

    Ron, I am excited to find Cornus Mas around here. They look delicious!

    Citypicker
     
  13. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    There's also this one.

    http://www.arthurleej.com/wpogs.html

    No Vancouver locations mentioned, of course, but urban flora similar and edibility is one of his particular interests. He likes to bring salads to potlucks with 100 species ingredients picked from his garden.
     
  14. wild-rose-43

    wild-rose-43 Active Member

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    Here are a few more suggestions. . .

    Plantain Plantago major: Tender spring leaves can be used in salads or steamed as a potherb. Mature leaves are usable once the stringy fibers are removed. They can then be used similar to stuffed cabbage leaves. The seeds can be ground as a flour substitute, casserole garnish or eaten as a snack.

    Shepherd's Purse Capsella: Young leaves can be used in salads or stir-fries. The entire plant can be chopped and used in soups. The seeds can be used whole or ground and used as a seasoning in stews, casseroles and omelets. The root can be ground or chopped and used as a ginger substitute.

    Yarrow Achillea: Dried, ground leaves have been used as a seasoning known as "poor man's pepper". Young leaves can be added to salads. You can fry the flowers in butter until brown and serve with sugar or orange juice.

    There are a few others that I left out, mustard for example, because they are more common in food use. That's pretty much it for the "Gardens, Lawns, Cultivated and Disturbed Soils" section. Hope it helps!
     
  15. Debra Dunaway

    Debra Dunaway Active Member

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    One reason alone to plant yarrow is for it's mosquito repellant properties..We have absolutely no need for DEET here...we just rub yarrow on us and burn it in incense pots around the yard and have no problems.
     
  16. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

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    When camping, I like putting Huckleberries into pancakes - the decidious huckleberries. They taste sweeter cooked that way.

    I don't know if it's a food plant, but I like chewing on wood sorrel leaves.

    Any pine seeds edible up there in the way that Italian stone pine is used?
     
  17. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    All pine seeds are edible, but most aren't large enough to be worth shelling to get the kernel out. Of ones with large seeds, Pinus albicaulis occurs at high altitudes in BC, but not at low altitude or in urban areas. Southwest European Pinus pinea can be cultivated in Vancouver, as could P. lambertiana, P. sabineana, and some of the pinyons. Also worth adding, Araucaria araucana has large edible seeds.
     
  18. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

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    Yes, I just learned about the edibility of that last one, last week. I just boosted my hazard tree signs page to "17 Signs of Hazard Trees", including a few of trees with dangerous cones.

    Previously, I knew about the huge Araucaria cones, but not the edibility of them.

    I suppose that Mahonia grows up that way. Maybe there are ways to prepare the berries that take some bite out of the tartness.

    Anybody know for sure whether Yew berries have poisonous pulp, or just the seeds? I know for a fact that the berry pulp is sweet (tasted once and spit it out).
     
  19. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Hi M.D.

    Araucaria araucana cones are not dangerous - they break up on the tree before falling, so all you get is a cascade of loose seeds, not whole cones. Different matter with Araucaria bidwillii, where the cones do crash down whole and could kill with a direct hit.

    The pulp of Yew cones is edible. If it wasn't, I wouldn't be posting here, as I've eaten plenty (deliciously sweet!). But the seed is very poisonous, so remove it before putting the pulp in your mouth (against the slight risk of the seed slipping down with the pulp by accident). One seed swallowed won't kill, but would give very unpleasant stomach ache. If I remember rightly, I think the cited lethal dose is about 20 seeds for an adult, as few as five for a young child.

    Birds can eat the cones whole and pass the seeds in their droppings, as their stomach acids and enzymes are not strong enough to break down the hard seed coat, which the human stomach apparently can.
     
  20. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    There's also a number of potentially lethal fruit trees in the tropics:

    Durian (Durio zibethinus) - fruit weighing up to 5kg, covered in sharp spikes, and falling from up to 40m. A Durian orchard at harvest time is definite Hard Hat territory.

    Sausage Tree (Kigelia africana) - fruit weighing up to 10kg, from a tree up to 20m tall

    Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) - only a small tree 10-15m tall, but with fruit weighing up to 35kg, they don't need to fall far to pack a powerful punch . . .
     

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