Food and Medicine in the Woods

There’s something epic about being in the bush. I’m not going to break it down for y’all because I think it’s part of human programming for all of us to just know. Sometimes we forget to honor that. We can be stressed, tired, and lonely but when we spend a minute in nature those feelings fall away like autumn leaves from a tree.

I wanted to show off some of the awesome foods that are available to us up here in the forests of the beautiful Peace Country in Northern BC, Canada.

We are particularly fond of mushrooms and have a big collection of polypores. These are hard woody fungi that grow on trees. They have demonstrated medicinal qualities (antiseptic, cancer-inhibiting, immune-boosting) and are relatively easy to find in our region.

Polypore; harvested; tea
Red belted polypore; harvested; tea

The best score for wild mushrooms is Chaga. It’s a beautiful golden color and makes an incredibly yummy tea with cream and honey. It is more elusive, but a little bit goes a long way and a single chaga mushroom harvest can keep you drinking tea daily for months on end. You can buy chaga if it isn’t available in your area; even Amazon carries it. I wrote about how we process chaga here but if you purchase powdered chaga it’s ready to mix directly into your favourite tea, coffee, or shakes. Yes, those are affiliate links. Thank you for your support Xx.

I drink 1-2 mugs of hot chaga every day since giving up coffee a month ago but I used to half-fill my cup with chaga before topping it off with my regular breakfast blend brew. It is sooo good and you can feel good about drinking it because it’s a major supporter of good health. The Siberians (who are known to have traditionally consumed it regularly for generations) have longer life expectancy and fewer cancer rates than comparable regions where chaga is not widely consumed.

Some less- spectacular but still noteworthy mushroom we often collect while we are out are usnea, tinder conk, lions’ mane, and if there’s been a recent fire, morels.

We are lucky to have some wild berries too. Raspberries, gooseberries, cranberries and the occasional blueberry bush.

Raspberries, Gooseberries, and Saskatoons

A common berry to our region- and my favourite- is saskatoons. Some people call them serviceberries and with good reason! They’re versatile, abundant, and delicious. Local first nations traditionally used them for making nutritionally-packed pemmican (pimihkan) which can last for months to years. We actually gave this a try last year and I wrote about how we did that here if you might want to see how it’s done. We have tons of saskatoon bushes right outside our house so as fall looms we begin packing them into ice cream tubs and loading them into the freezer for berry pancakes, crumbles, muffins, and syrups.

The Peace River Valley near where we live is a unique valley that supports some diverse varieties of edibles like wild asparagus, chives, and prickly pears. You wouldn’t expect to find this kind of stuff so far north but the climate in the valley lends itself to some pretty extraordinary finds and that attracts some rare migratory birds as well as caribou and elk, resident eagles and other full-time foragers.

Some very common and often overlooked herbs in our region can be found in our own backyard. Comfrey, chickweed, plantain, dandelions, thistle, marshmallow and mullein are only a few of them. Mullein is one of my favourite herbs because it makes a great cure-all remedy for the most common household ailments. You can soak the leaves in olive oil with a few cloves of garlic to make a natural ear infection treatment or put the flowers in a jar with sugar on a sunny window sill until it becomes a syrup great for loosening a congested cough.

Mullein – Fights cough and cold; ear infection

Also in the Peace River Valley are a few natural tufa springs that formed millions of years ago. A tufa seep is so rich in minerals that as moss accumulates at it’s surface the minerals collect and harden into stone. The stones, called tufa, look like coral fossils and although they aren’t edible, they look nice in your backyard pond or as garden ornaments. One of the springs has been tapped and when we visit the area we always bring jugs to collect some water to take home with us. The spring may not be there much longer as the whole valley is slated to be flooded with the construction of a hydroelectric dam underway. But, while it lasts, we will be frequent visitors returning often to honour all that the valley has to offer.

GIANT Tufa Rock
Tufa Seep
Tufa Spring

As for consumable tree parts, we’ve got maple trees for sap out of which we have tapped and made syrup. We also have spruce trees which deliver tender new tips in the spring that provide a huge punch of vitamin c. We save them in our freezer for the following cold and flu season and they make an interesting addition to any dish that would be complimented by a citrus undertone.

Spruce Tips – Vitamin C

Although I am sure a much more extensive list could be compiled of the endless bounty of nutrition that can be found beyond our front door, this pretty much concludes my personal list of what our family harvests and uses most often. I hope this inspires you to venture into the woods and see what kind of discoveries of your own can be made!

Happy Homesteading Xx

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3 thoughts on “Food and Medicine in the Woods

    1. There’s five different seeps in the flood zone! I have only seen the one that’s been logged where the spring has been tapped by Watson Slough. The giant tufa rocks don’t seem to be near an active seep; they’re scattered on the shoreline of the river a short hike from the Hudson Hope fishing spot and you can only go when the water level is low πŸ™‚
      Lets go there for sure! β™‘β™‘β™‘

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