First, I would like to acknowledge that I reside in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People, and support their right to a moderate livelihood as per the 1999 Supreme Court Decision in the case of Donald Marshall Jr.
In the following blog I will be offering a complete beginner's reflection on getting closer to nature and understanding that plants are not just indistinguishable objects that blend into the background; if you take the time to look into what's around you, you can see the diversity of our landscape. If you reside in North America, I would recommend supporting your local indigenous population by attending events and workshops. In my area, the community of Membertou offers guided Medicinal Walks aimed to educate on the role plants play in ceremonial, medicinal and nutritional ways.
Today I went to a local park to try to find and identify some plants. I had seen in a newspaper article that there has been a rise in people mapping out areas for foraging and other nature encounters. The app I used is iNaturalist (unsponsored). It's user-friendly and free to download as well.
I headed out at 9:30 am. I'm still in denial that summer is coming to a close, but there was no pretending today. At 7 degrees Celsius this morning, the air was crisp, but the sky was bright and clear. Open Hearth Park is in the heart of my city and is split by a road. I think this side of the park is the best kept secret of downtown - most people keep to the other side, and may not be aware that there is a much larger trail that takes you to a beautiful view of the harbour.
I opened up the app and was pretty overwhelmed at the amount of sightings logged in my location - I narrowed it down to plants-only, as I didn't particularly feel like encountering wasps or angry Canada geese.
One of the first plants I managed to find was just a few metres off of the walking track. Pictured here are rosehips - from a quick Google search, these are used in teas, oils, fragrances, jellies, syrups and even soup!
I then continued down the walking trail. I tend to gravitate toward quiet and peaceful areas; I don't think I could ever live in a large city without having a place to 'cool off' from social interaction, so to speak. There were just a few others on the same path, some on bikes, some running, some walking in a group.
This next plant is called a Northern Bayberry. I remember seeing lots of these in my backyard growing up. I could always find them close to our blueberry, raspberry and strawberry plants, but never knew the name of them. From a search, it appears that they are used for medicinal purposes, but can also be made into candles and soap. There were no berries on this plant (I suppose because it's past the season) but apparently they are also edible and can be used in soup as flavouring.
I think I would be hesitant to try anything I didn't know for 100% certain wouldn't kill me. I didn't take anything away from the park for this reason. This is one of the subjects I think should be taught in school; not just as part of an extracurricular activity. I think having a farming / nature unit in school would also be a great step in breaking away from our reliance on Big Box stores to get our food, but that's an issue to be discussed on another day.
My next find is Canada Goldenrod. I was surprised with this plant - I always assumed it was just a weed. They seem to come in different sizes; this was the largest one I could find at the park. My Googling indicated that it's completely edible - as garnishes on salads, added to soups and casseroles, even as tea.
Finally, the one I feel most comfortable about; the raspberry! I ate way too many of these when I would go berry picking with my dad as a kid. There were quite a few of these plants along the creek; when the berries come in, I think it would be a great addition to a trailmix.
Overall, I think this walk was successful! I definitely will be using iNaturalist again on future walks, as long as the weather is still nice. It'll be nice to try out in early spring as well.
I encourage you to get out for a walk and really take in all that is around you; you may be surprised at just how much you learn.