It's that time of year when we can get out and forage for natural goodies. Truthfull, we can forage all year round. But, it's a lot more comfortable rambling around when it's nice out! Here's a brief guide to what to look for at various times of the year.
Late May till early June Light with a tang of citrus. Works in both sweet and savoury dishes. Spruce tips can be eaten fresh, frozen fresh or dried. Really good candied! Ready to pick when tips are bright green with a small brown husk at the end.
Late May Best harvested for eating when the young shoots are less than a foot tall, leaves still have a purple tinge and before they start to flower. Rich in vitamins A and C as well as in minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron. Steaming, blanching or freezing gets rid of the sting. They are a delicious alternative to any recipe that calls for spinach and can be added to soups and stir-fry’s for added nutrition and vibrant colour. Leaves can also be dried and used to make a healthy and hearty tea or seasoning. The whole plant can also be juiced.
Early June till Mid June Wild rose petals can be eaten fresh, used as an edible garnish, steeped as a tea, or sun-steeped for rose-flavoured water. They can also be dried or frozen for storage through the year. The best time to harvest is when the blossoms have just opened and are most fragrant. Pluck just a few petals from each flower so the inner portion can turn into rose hips and the flower can still attract bees.
Mid-June to August Common yarrow is frequently found in the mildly disturbed soil of grasslands and open forests.. Cut the plant at the base once it flowers, and hang upside down to dry. Dried flowers can be made into a tea (avoid during pregnancy) while the dried leaves can be used as a spice/herb.
Fireweed Flowers and Leaves
July The leaves and flowers are both edible. Leaves can be sautéed or added to a stir fry. The flowers can add a garnish to a salad or made into fireweed jelly.
Contain Vitamins A and C.
July and August
There are two types of wild sage, the more familiar sage coloured artemisia frigida and the more prolific artemisia tilesii, aka stinkweed. Both can be dried and used as a herb. It is easy to distinguish artemisia tilesii from other tall weed lookalikes by rubbing the leaves with your fingers and smelling the distinctive sage smell. Artemisia tilesii also acts as a mosquito repellent (along with yarrow flowers) and, according to Bev Gray’s Boreal Herbal helps with sore feet if you put some leaves in the soles of your hiking boots.
Leaves Year-Round. Flowers July Labrador tea leaves can be harvested year round. Their characteristic aroma means your nose often finds them before your eyes. A little goes a long way. A couple of leaves makes a calming, caffeine-free aromatic tea on its own or combined with other tea herbs such as chamomile or mint. Dried and ground makes a spice for red meat (add a bit to your hamburger patties). Can also use a leaf or two instead of a bay leaf in stews. Full of Vitamin C.
End of July till August
One of the tastiest of wild foods, blueberries are most commonly used in pies and jams, or eaten whole. They freeze very well, retaining their flavour. Wild blueberries boast nearly twice as many health-boosting antioxidants as their cultivated counterparts.
Mid-August to September
The rose hip is a fruit of the wild rose plant. Rose hips are used for herbal teas, jam, jelly, syrup, rose hip soup, beverages, pies, bread, wine, and marmalade. They can also be eaten raw, like a berry, if care is used to avoid the hairs inside the fruit. Rose hips are particularly high in Vitamin C, one of the richest plant sources available. Rose hips can be harvested all winter as well. In fact their Vitamin C content increases after they are frozen.
September to October
Lingonberries (Low-Bush Cranberries), are easily preserved and have excellent flavor. They can be used as a substitute in any recipes employing commercial cranberries, but have more flavor and color. Because of their high acid content, all cranberries should be cooked in glass, enamel, or stainless steel cookware. They should ideally be picked after the first frost. For best flavor, choose berries that are ripe and firm. An excellent source of antioxidants.
Year Round The ripe berries can be picked any time of the year, but you may have to dig to find them under the snow in the winter, as juniper is a low lying shrub. Eaten raw, juniper berries have a distinct aromatic spicy flavour reminiscent of gin. Juniper berries make an excellent spice — especially once ground into a powder. A small amount of ground juniper berry goes a long way. They also help digest gas-producing foods such as cabbage. Also, because juniper berries have a light coating of yeast on their skin, a few berries are often added to ferments to help out the lacto-fermenting process. Pick with great respect as it takes 3 full years for a juniper berry to ripen.