By: Felicity Feinman, A Youth Advisory Board Member from 2018-2019
Will foraging help us survive the climate crisis?
In preparing this blog and going on a foraging trip, I found myself having many imaginary conversations with Danielle in my mind. This is a question I wish I could ask her.
“For every month this year, I will be learning a new skill/family of skills that I imagine will help me survive the Climate Apocalypse. Some ideas so far that have come to mind are fixing and repairing things like bikes, cars, toasters, sewing, growing and preserving food, storytelling, reading the weather, using medicinal plants. It’s partly a silly way to embrace a changing world, partly a way for me to take action within my own life, instead of falling into “preprogrammed” apathy, and partly a way to start a conversation with those around me.”Danielle Moore, Creator of the Cautious Optimist Project
Earlier in the blog entry, Danielle wrote about how we have fractured our relationships with the land and healing those relationships will be key to overcoming the climate crisis. Perhaps this is why she included “using medicinal plants” on her list of skills. Our local environments are as abundant as they are fragile. Foraging brings both into sharp perspective and deepens our relationship with the earth.
On a bright, sunny Friday in August, my fellow former Youth Advisor Emma and I met with the exceptional Henry Williams, Waterlution advisor extraordinaire, to see, touch and taste some of the edible and medicinal plants of Squamish territory. Henry is a Squamish knowledge keeper and I felt very fortunate to learn from him.
It was a beautiful trip where those themes of abundance and fragility were so apparent. I love hiking in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and it’s such a joy to me to watch Henry point to plant after plant and explain their medicinal and edible properties. At the same time, we talked about natural gas pipelines in Squamish, the threat of an imminent earthquake, and all the environmental concerns that come with those contexts. It was a good reminder that the land gives us so much and we need to care for it in return.
For anyone interested in foraging on Squamish territory, I’ve included information about the plants Henry showed us as well as a list of recommended books below. In the spirit of healing our relationships with the land, I also recommend reading about sustainable foraging techniques. This blog from the Sierra Club is a good place to start.
- You can collect them in the springtime.
- Henry mentioned they have a nice flavour in ice cream and I happen to own this Haida Gwaii cookbook which also has a recipe for spruce tip ice cream as well as more info on foraging them.
- The needles taste like pineapple.
- Can be a good medicine, but you should take it in small quantities.
Wild Cherry Tree
- The bark can be used for dying cedar black.
- The Squamish would cut the bark in a circle around the tree so as not to kill it.
- Can be used for dying cedar purple
- Makes delicious fruit leather
- Can treat colds
- Medicinal enhancer
- Blood thinner
- Henry made a delicious-looking drink, by mixing 2-3 tbsp of soapberries in water. He says the drink is thirst-quenching and can ward off mosquitoes.
- The flower is edible.
- Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory
- Not very tasty, but some people will eat one or two to clear their sinuses.
- Henry recommends boiling the leaves and add to bathtub water as anti-inflammatory.
- Leaves and outer bark are toxic. They can’t be eaten, but are ok for bathing.
Books for Further Learning
- Northwestern Wildberries by J.E. Underhill
- Royal BC Museum Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples by Nancy J. Turner
- Health through God’s Pharmacy by Maria Treben
- Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs
- The Herbal Apothecary by JJ Pursell
- Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest by Arthur R Kruckeberg and Linda Chalker-Scott