Berry Season Has Begun!

Suzanne picking wild strawberries. Photo by Tess Crocker.

The first fresh berries are ripe for the eating!

Domestic haskap berries are ripe in gardens and the wild strawberries are now ripe in the fields.

The sweet taste of a fresh, in season, strawberry is divine.   In the North, wild strawberries are very small – but their taste is the sweetest of all – making them worth the effort of picking.

Domestic haskaps are now in season. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

Haskaps, Lonicera caerulea, are a blue honeysuckle.   Native to Russia, they withstand frost and the minus forty cold winters of the North quite well.  They are currently  flourishing in gardens around Dawson City.

Also native to Japan,  ‘haskap’ is an ancient Japanese name which translates to ‘berry of long life and good vision.’   Haskaps are packed with Vitamin C and contain more anti-oxidants than any other berry.

The haskap berry is grape sized.  They are perfectly ripe when they are dark blue in colour with an obvious dimple in the bottom of the berry.  The taste of a haskap is a combination of sweet blueberry with tart cranberry.

Check out  the Haskap Canada Association for haskap recipes.

At Tundarose Garden in Dawson City, a bird found a well-protected area for nesting in the interior of the a thick row of haskap bushes.  Not wanting to disturb, Suzanne and Mary Ann snuck a very quick peek at the eggs and were surprised to find two had just hatched.  They backed off quickly so that mama could attend to her young in peace.

 

 

Suzanne’s Blog: Add Lungwort to Your Menu

Lungwort (blue bell). Photo by Suzanne Crocker

One of my favourite edible leaves, lungwort (commonly known as blue bell) is now out and about around Dawson City.  The young leaves are very tasty raw and can be added to salad,  steamed  or added to soups and stews.  The early flower buds are also quite tasty –  (although I always feels a bit guilty eating them before they have a chance to flower).

Important rule of thumb: In general, blue and purple flowering plants are NOT edible. Lungwort is the exception.  Don’t eat lupine or delphinium or Jacob’s ladder which are also starting to appear around the same time (but the leaves look very different from lupin).

These plants are NON-EDIBLE. Left to right: Delphinium, Jacob’s Ladder, and
Lupin. Lungwort is the only blue-flowering plant you should eat. Photos by Suzanne Crocker.

The Many Uses of Spruce Tips

 

spruce-tips
spruceTips
spruceTips3

Spruce tips are a versatile ingredient in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes  and can be frozen or dried for use throughout the year.
Photos by Cathie Archbould, Archbould Photography.

A candy, a spice, a tea, and great to snack on fresh — all this in the spruce tip!

Pick some now and enjoy them all year long.

At this time of year throughout the North the spruce trees are starting to put on their new growth. The dark green of the existing branches is highlighted by the bright green of new tips. These emerging spruce tips are a delicious and versatile wild food and high in Vitamin C.

Spruce tips have a distinct taste — citrus with a hint of resin.  You can snack on them fresh or or add them to salads.

Dried spruce tips can be ground in a coffee grinder and make a great nutmeg like spice – check out the recipe for Moose Steak with Yukon Rub and for Northern Pumpkin Pie!  They can also be used in teas.

Candied spruce tips make a delicious snack and they store well in the fridge in a mason jar.  The remaining birch syrup infused with spruce tips makes a wonderful coniferous-deciduous syrup blend that can then be used to make Spruce Tip Spritzers.

To enjoy spruce tips all year long, store them in the freezer.  Or dry some to grind for a spice later in the year.

You’ll know the spruce tips are ready to pick when they are bright green with a small brown husk at the end. Knock off the husk before using. Remember that this is the tree’s new growth, so pick sparingly from any single tree before moving on. It’s a good idea to pick a good distance from any roadway to make sure they’re free of airborne toxins.

Enjoy this versatile burst of Vitamin C from the forest!

Eating Prehistorically – Horsetail for Supper

Young horsetail shoots ready for eating. Photo by Suzannr Crocker.

The foraging season is now in full force!   New edible plants are popping up daily. Many of them are only edible when they are young, so the window for a tasting opportunity is short!

Horsetail, equisetum arvense, is one such example.  Horsetail is a relative of a prehistoric plant that grew to over 15 meters high 400 million years ago.

Horsetail is eaten by caribou, moose, sheep and bears and, when young, can be eaten by humans too. The young, male horsetail shoots are edible when the fronds are pointing up.  When the fronds start to point outwards or downwards, then they should no longer be eaten as oxalate crystals will be building up inside the stem.

A Patch of young horsetail plants. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

If you catch them early, the young shoots can be eaten raw or steamed as a wild vegetable.  Or they can be dried and used as a tea.  They are rich in antioxidants and high in minerals including calcium, magnesium.

Of note – long-term regular ingestion or horsetail can deplete thiamine levels (Vitamin B1).  Also to be avoided in folks with edema, gout, heart and kidney disease.

If you don’t catch them young, horsetail make good pot scrubbers while camping.   Horsetail is high in silica and when dried and steeped in hot water apparently makes a great foot soak or hair rinse.

Look for horsetail in damp open woods, meadows, dry sandy soil and disturbed areas.

Research for this post thanks to Beverley Gray and the The Boreal Herbal.

Give tips, get lunch!

Spruce Tips ready to become a delicious syrup - Photo by The North Woods Cookshop
Spruce Tips ready to become a delicious syrup – Photo by The North Woods Cookshop

Your foraging adventures not only can help you stock your pantry with wild goodies, but they could also get you a delicious free lunch!

The North Woods Cookshop and Lunchbox, a Dawson City based catering company, is looking for generous foragers to share a bit of their spruce tip loot with them. For every four cups of spruce tips you bring them, they will treat you to a free lunch at their amazing new food truck, located in the lot next to the Westminster Hotel.

They have great plans for those spruce tips, including delicious syrups for their homemade sodas, as well as the spice mixes, rubs and gourmet salts they are known for.

Hurry up before the picking season ends, and remember to spread your harvest out over many trees to keep them healthy and strong. Georgia and Allie will thank you!

Sweeeeeeet! A Bucket of Birch Syrup

Suzanne’s main sweetener for her year of eating local will be birch syrup from Berwyn Larson and Sylvia Frisch’s birch camp not far from Dawson. The sap has been running well and Suzanne is starting her year with a 12-litre bucket of delicious Uncle Berwyn’s Yukon Birch Syrup .

Photo by Scott Buchanan

Suzanne recently talked about her experience at the camp on Yu-Kon Grow It on CBC North‘s A New Day with host Sandi Coleman.

Traditional Plants Community Info Session in Dawson City

On April 18th, Dawson City based ethnobotanist Leigh Joseph hosted a community information session at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre .  It was a great chance for Dawsonites to learn about the area’s traditional plant foods and medicines, as well as an opportunity to take part in the conversation.
Ethnobotanist Leigh Joseph
Ethnobotanist Leigh Joseph working with Devils club, an important medicine plant in Squamish.

Seedy Saturdays and Birch Syrup workshops in Dawson

Next weekend, Dawsonites will have a chance to participate in two amazing workshops!
Seedy Saturdays will be held on Saturday March 25th at the Recreation Centre, and it will include presentations by Karen Digby and Grant Dowdell about northern gardening and by Scott Henderson about mushroom cultivation.
The following day on Sunday the 26th, there will be a Birch Syrup workshop in which participants will meet at the Rec Centre and then go hunting for Birch sap.

There are limited spaces on both, so make sure you sign up soon!