The plants you quickly brush past on a trail run could be the trick to treating your arthritic runner’s knee.
And as you swat away mosquitoes while camping, you may unknowingly be sleeping near the best bug repellent around.
It’s just a matter of being able to properly identify and prepare the roots, stems, leaves and berries of the plants that grow all around us.
It’s information that was once commonplace, but has died off as store-bought remedies have replaced the practice of wild harvesting.
But there are those who still have that knowledge, particularly within the Indigenous community. Last week, Métis Elder Joe Smith led a nature walk delving into all the medicinal and nutritional properties of plants around the Browne Creek Wetlands. The walk and talk was organized by Chilliwack Healthier Communities and attended by about 30 people. Over the course of almost two hours, Smith chatted about the medicinal and historical uses of countless trees, berry bushes, and even commonly ignored ground-covering plants.
Different types of plantain grow endlessly in our yards, driveways and parks.
It’s a sturdy plant with a lot of uses, according to Smith and many others who forage for food and medicine.
Then there is red clover, canary grass, and even a plant called yarrow.
Those are the thigh-high or waist-high shoots that are crowned with tiny white flowers that resemble daisies. Yarrow is one of those plants that has many uses, Smith explained to the crowd. Some of those include hay fever, the common cold, dysentery and diarrhea.
Smith pointed to a pond at the wetlands, specifically at the cattails.
“When the little spike comes out to about four to five inches, you can take those, cook them and roll them in butter and you’ll swear to God you’re eating corn,” he said.
He told stories of threshing wild rice in a canoe, pounding the head of the plant into a flour.
And for those who want a little easier intro into harvesting from the wild, he pointed to the native wild roses blooming at the edge a field.
“You pick them when they’re red, they’re basically dry when you pick them, and you finish drying them,” he says. “In the winter time you can make a syrup for your pancakes, for your cold. You can eat them if you’re going on a walk, if you get hungry. You can eat them and get all the nutrition you require.”
There is a recipe, a story, a bit of history about every plant the group encountered, along with warnings about which plants to stay away from. But he also warned to know the small differences between plants, to make sure you know what you’re picking — some plants taste not so great, and some could be dangerous.
For wild rose tea, The Progress found this recipe:
Wild Rose Tea
1 tablespoon of rose hips
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp sugar or honey
12 oz water
Put rose hips in a tea infuser and place in teapot or mug along with cinnamon stick.
Pour not-quite boiling hot water over rose hips and cinnamon. Let steep 3 to 5 minutes.
To learn more about Metis culture in general, visit www.chilliwackmetisassociation.ca.