This project, started in May 2009, was a year-long initiative to develop a food plants component at Natural Abundance, NALT’s native plant nursery. Susan Fisher coordinated the project one day a week, and co-coordinator, Stephanie Mills, is a local herbalist who volunteered in the past with the NALT nursery for salvaging and at sales. Chantale Poulin, Rachelle Evans, Curtis Brandolini, and Allison Bell made up the project team with Susan and Stephanie.

This project was an extension of the native plant nursery and its promotion of wild plants for gardening and landscaping, and addresses issues of sustainability, food security and eating locally with  a " Vancouver Island Diet”. The project activities included:           

·        Design and development of a demonstration garden of wild food plants

·        Preparation and distribution of literature about growing, harvesting and eating wild food plants

·        Planning, publicizing and carrying out a full schedule of presentations, workshops and guided walks for the community and for schools (fall 2009 to spring 2010); plus the creation of a cookbook of wild foods recipes

·        Salvaging, propagating and planting the most popular and versatile species of wild food plants as field stock at the nursery, in preparation for spring 2010 sales. 



Trailing Blackberry


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Sword Fern: Polystichum munitum
Deer Fern:   Blechnum spicant
A Fiddlehead is the young unfurled frond (or shoot) of a fern that appears in early spring. The spiral tip of the fiddlehead, and an inch or two below it, presents a gourmet addition to any meal.  The taste has been compared to asparagus, artichoke hearts and green beans, but fiddleheads are certainly distinct and contain a hint of the “wild” in every bite. Fiddleheads are versatile to cook with and can be stir-fried, pickled, used in soups and salads or on their own as a side dish with some butter and salt and pepper.

If not purchased already cleaned from a market, fiddleheads harvested fresh from the wild have brown chaffs that need to be rubbed off. After that, they need to be thoroughly rinsed to clear off any dirt or grit. The Canadian Food and Inspection Agency advises to fully cook fiddleheads before consumption as they are known to cause stomach upset and contain carcinogenic properties in their raw state. Boiling  fiddleheads between 5-15 minutes and changing the water once or twice is adequate.

Note: Mature ferns of all kinds, spiny wood ferns and bracken ferns, are not edible raw or cooked. Sword ferns and deer ferns are two reliable ferns that produce safe edible fiddlehead shoots on Vancouver Island. When picking fiddleheads it is important to apply sustainable harvesting practices and pick no more than between 5-10% of stock from any given area or plant.



Look closely at the ground while strolling through city lanes and forest paths and you might spot the sprawling trailing blackberry.  This smaller cousin of the introduced and highly visible Himalayan Blackberry, is the only native blackberry species on Vancouver Island and has long been a traditional food source of First Nations people. The berries can be eaten fresh, used in baking and cooking, or dried. The leaves can be picked and dried to make tea throughout the year.The plant has white flowers that can be eaten fresh or used in tea.

 According to The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, raw berries contain high nutritional contents of vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, magnesium and fibre, and are a strong source of antioxidents. The seeds of the berry contain healthy oils and are a source of omega-3 fatty acids.


There are male and female plants, so gardeners take note that you must have both plants in order to propagate berries. Trailing blackberries are also known as pacific blackberries and are sometimes referred to as dewberries.

Featured Wild Plant Recipe

SUN TEA (recipe courtesy of Darcy Cyr)  

 You will need a large glass jar with a lid.


 -1/4 Cup dried Wild Ginger leaves loosely packed.

-1-2 Cups dried or fresh Fireweed leaves.

-1 Cup of dried or fresh Fieldmint.

-1/4 Cup of dried Yerba Buena.

-1/8 Cup dried Stevia leaves.

Add to the empty jar 2 Cups of dried Stinging Nettle leaf or large handful of fresh leaves. (Be sure to use gloves when picking stinging nettle as hairs under leaves will sting you with their folic acid).
Fill the jar with water and tighten lid. Place outside in full sun for at least 2 hours. The longer you warm the jar in full sun the stronger it will be. Long steeping will also create a ‘concentrate’ that can be diluted with more water to your individual taste. Each of these ingredients can be increased or decreased in their amounts according to personal preference, and any other ingredients such as lemons or other sweeteners such as honey may be added. Refrigerate.
This tea will keep well in the refrigerator for many days.


 Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica 

Stinging Nettle

High in vitamin C, Beta-carotene and amino acids. One of the most protein-rich plants, also contains calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. A spring tonic can be made from stinging nettle that cleanses the kidney and bladder and is good for strengthening hair, nails and skin. Traditionally it was used externally to treat arthritis by whipping or rubbing whole plants on affected areas, although this is not recommended.

Wild Ginger (Asarum caudatum) 

Wild Ginger

Used as tea to help with stomach pain, headaches and as a tonic for colds and fevers. Traditionally it was  used as a poultice to treat sores and knee pain, and to treat tuberculosis.

Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium)


Young shoots are eaten as a vegetable. It is high in vitamin C and pro-vitamin A  and has chemical compounds with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Traditionally a tea was made for gastrointestinal and bronchial problems and was drunk as a cleansing spring tonic. Externally it can be used as a poultice for burns and other skin conditions.

Fieldmint (Mentha arvensis)

Field Mint

Wild mint has digestive, anaesthetic, anti-septic and anti-inflammatory properties. It was used traditionally as a kidney aid and to treat fevers, settle the stomach and strengthen the heart muscles.  A calming tea can be made from fieldmint to alleviate colds, fevers and to help with heartburn, indigestion and other digestive problems.

Yerba Buena (Satureja douglasii)

Traditional uses  include treating toothaches and for colds and fevers. An infusion was made for kidney problems and as a sedative for insomnia. It is a strongly scented herb used to make delicious and refreshing teas and is also sometimes in cooking.

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana)

This is South American herb used for centuries by Guarani Indians in Paraguay. Although this plant is not native to our area it is a natural plant sweetener and is a great ingredient for sun tea. It is a sugar substitute that is safe for people with blood sugar irregularities and diabetes. It also helps regulate pancreas function. It lowers elevated blood pressure (hypertension), aids digestion and diminishes stomach acidity. It is a general tonic that increases energy levels and inhibits bacteria in the mouth when used in the form of a natural toothpaste.