Archive for the ‘Native BC plants’ Category

I first discovered Okanagan Okanogan when it’s author Harold Rhenisch linked to Girl Gone Wild & Weedy for my nettle soup recipe. I have been reading his words ever since. It’s not often that someone captures my attention this way, but Harold has such a fresh, lateral way of thinking that I find myself wanting to know more about his work. Harold seems deeply rooted to the Okanagan/Okanogan valley that runs down into Washington, and writes of his observations of the unique ecology and water systems of this valley that transcend colonial methods of land and water use, and how these observations could empower the social and economic fabric of this land. Underground clouds, sky rivers and rock face collection systems. Alternative crops that can reform land use. Wow. Just wow.


Darke Lake, BC.

Darke Lake, BC.


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Lush little gully full of life at James Lake, BC.

I have not written in while now and have much to catch up on so I can continue in some sort of seasonal flow here with the plants I discover and learn to use in my area. So I will start with my late spring/early summer wanderings and hopefully next time I can focus more on one plant at a time with each subsequent posting.

We had a strangely cool and wet Spring here in the Okanagan and the Summer is unfolding much warmer but the rain has yet to fully burn off for the season. Just this afternoon we had an impressive thunderstorm that flooded my garden and driveway for a little while. This is great for our water supply and the wild plants and cultivated fields are looking lush for now. The spring rain came every few days and although light and misty it made the harvest of wild herbs rather difficult to plan around at times considering other commitments must be fulfilled and I had to wait till late afternoon for the plants and flowers to dry off some days.

Like recently, I had planned a trip to gather some arnica while they bloomed as I am nearly out of arnica balm, a medicine kit staple. I arrived to find what arnica had flowered was spent and the majority of the arnica fields had not reached inflorescence anyways. So I wandered off  in search of other good things growing in the woods and wild fields.

Wild rose. It doesn't get any better for me.

As it turned out the wild rose was blooming and looking vibrant and lush so I gathered some petals, a handful of unopened buds to blend into my favourite tisanes and a few leaves as well. I made the petals and leaves into my first rose tincture. I want to get to know the Wild Rose much more intimately this year along with Elderberry and also Choke Cherry as I have never met a wild cherry tree before now nor have I tasted it’s fruit or bark. As it happens there is a stand of choke cherry trees near the wild rose I visit.

Pikitau with James Lake in the background.

On the weekend of Fathers day we went on a camping trip up to James Lake. It’s a lake in the hills behind my house, it takes about an hour to drive up there from where we are. What’s kind of cool is it’s so close yet a completely different ecology. The Okanagan is awesome like that, so much diversity in such a small area.  I couldn’t  believe my luck, there were so many herbs and mushrooms up there to get to know. Some I have seen before like violets although the James Lake violets are the yellow flowered stream violet. Others I had noticed previously while reading my local field guide for leisure like the dork I am. Like Cow Parsnip. You can eat the young stems, peeled and sauted in butter and garlic would be superb camp fire fare. We nibbled them raw just to have a taste and become familiar but left the rest undisturbed. A word of warning about cow parsnip, it is from the carrot family and lives in similar habitat as the highly toxic water hemlocks and poison-hemlock. Even small amounts of these poisonous plants can be fatal. I cannot stress positive identification enough! If your are not 100% sure of a carrot family plant, or any for that matter, leave it alone! I bear no responsibility for others foolishness, if you cannot ID a plant and choose to ingest it that is your business but don’t say I didn’t warn you… I write these articles for your general interest only. Take care of your own health, please. That said, cow parsnip is quite distinguishable from other carrot family plants, if you know what you are looking for. A good field guide and/or real live human guide is not optional.

Cow Parsnip - heracleum lanatum. AKA Indian celery and Indian rhubarb. Note the big dried out flower stalk from last years inflorescence.

Viola Glabella or Stream Violet. Abundant around James Lake, BC.

Mountain Sweet Cicely - Osmorhiza chilensis. Anise flavoured leaves and roots reminisent of baby carrots.

Mountain Sweet Cicely root. Please be very mindful when harvesting a plant for it's roots, you are taking the whole plant and it will not grow back. Use your common sense and do not harvest if there is lack of abundance of the plant you wish to take. If you do take it, use it all. Don't let the plants life be in vain.

Naturally there were Nettles, my favourite! I finally found a healthy abundant patch of nettles and I was stoked. I gathered the tops carefully and thankfully and still have a little steamed and frozen for my autumn soups. I actually came across gold while I was enjoying some time alone fishing. Morel mushrooms!  They have to be, in my opinion, the best tasting mushrooms ever. It was really cool to be able to pick some wild morels and serve them sauteed with garlic and dandelions on top of campfire steaks.

Need I introduce you?

Camp fire cooking is the best kind of cooking.

Basket o' nettles...


A little friend hopped over to say hi.

Can I kiss you little prince?

My boy loves the natural world. I caught him kissing a plants leaves once!

Who doesn't love a camp fire?

I also found wild angelica, fields of wild strawberries and heart leaf arnica and many varieties of horsetail. There were gooseberry bushes everywhere! I hope to get up there when they are fruiting. I would love some to play around with in syrups and maybe an elixir. Does anyone reading this make a wild gooseberry elixir? Is it done? It sounds good to me, perhaps when I get to know it’s energetics better I will know if this is appropriate.

As the summer has progressed and all kinds of plants send out their flowers to worship the sun I have been able to positively identify all these new plants with greater ease and certainty that I am beholding the plant I think I am. Very important. I am very happy about all the sweet clover that lives around my semi-rural neighbourhood, I couldn’t be completely sure the young plants were sweet clover or alfalfa as I had seen neither before in real life and they looked similar to me when they were emerging. Apparently, sweet clover makes awesome pesto and I really love using wild greens in my cooking to boost nutritional value of our meals but also because they bring fresh, new, vibrant flavours to our palates and my palate happens to be very tired of commercial vegetables. Of course I shop at my farmers market and grow a small garden but wild greens are primal, they thrive without requiring human interference and they are free. Nobody’s going to complain about you taking so called weeds like sweet clover, lambs quarters and dandelions so why not go out and get them…

Ahh it feels good to have a catch up and get out what has been in my head. I’d like to get much more in depth with individual plants however I realize this summer will be all about discovering new plant allies, what they look like, where they grow, the basics of how they help people. Only once I have become acquainted can I begin to walk deeper into each plants mysteries and hopefully emerge with wisdom that can be shared with fellow herb seekers. I hope your Summer (or Winter as the case may be) is going wonderfully for you.

See you next time!


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