By Ted Morris, Student Native Plant Conservationist
If you’re a fruit lover, then you probably get excited for the summer when berries are in season and available at markets and grocery stores. If you’re like me, your first quart is finished on the walk or car ride home from the store. What I’m learning this year though is that you don’t have to purchase all the berries you eat this season from a store. Foraging, which is searching for wild food sources, is a great way to collect delicious wild fruits without having to pay a cashier. If you know what you’re looking for, when to look for it, and where to find it, then you can return home with an abundance of fresh fruit.
Some of my favourite fruits are blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and cranberries, and they are all native to the Acadian Forest Region, which means they can be found naturally alongside trails and in the forests of Nova Scotia. Just recently, I was travelling in Cape Breton with my roommates where on a trail we found some lowbush blueberries on which to snack. Finding this little treat gave us joy and some extra energy to hike! Blackberry season is also upon us and I’m starting to see berries ripen all over, including along the Harvest Moon Trail in Wolfville. Eating foraged food brings me great satisfaction because it’s fresh right from the bush, there is no monetary exchange, and there is little to no carbon footprint.
There are many more native edible plants that aren’t typically sold on store shelves. For example, serviceberry, otherwise known as shadbush, grows in the Acadian Forest Region and produces tasty berries perfect for pies, jams, and jellies. Mountain cranberry, or foxberry, creates a rich fruit that can be preserved, juiced, or made into syrup. When harvested in late summer or early fall, the berries from staghorn sumac can be soaked for 24 hours, then strained to make a refreshing drink similar to lemonade. Nature holds many foods which we don’t normally see at a store, and it is worth learning about them so you will know when and where to find them.
While there’s no monetary exchange between you and the plant when foraging, your payment for the food occurs through stewardship and care for the earth. Without protection from major human disturbance, there would be no forests and ecosystems to grow these wild foods. If you are planning on foraging, make sure that you are certain of what you are eating. As well, I like to follow the principles of the honourable harvest, which are to never take the first one you see, to share it with others, and to never waste what you’ve taken.
The Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens are a great space to learn about native edible plants. However, we cannot accept visitors at this time while the Acadia University campus remains closed to the public. To stay up to date with what’s happening in the gardens, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.
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