Urban Edible and Medicinal Plants Class 2014
We spent the last few days in High Park with the Urban Edibles and Medicinals course. What a weekend! We started on Friday night with introductions to each other and to some wild plants. First was some plants made into teas, one with Lemon balm and one with Red raspberry. Then we made some infused oils, breaking up some St. John’s wort that was harvested from a family acreage-great to be used in a healing salve for wounds. The flowers of Common elderberry were put into a tincture with some vodka, in preparation for cold and flu season in the winter. Alexis’ slideshow highlighted some key harvesting tips, especially the golden rule: “make sure you have 100% identification before you harvest something”. We also learned about some of the key medicinal plants in our area, including Burdock, Red clover, Dandelion, Coltsfoot and Milkweed.
Saturday started with a field guides primer, including how to use using Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide and what books were great to get started with. We set to the trail with our field guides and hadn’t even gone very far when we saw a broad-winged hawk just ahead of us on the trail. As a jogger scared the bird from it’s spot, instead of flying away, the hawk perched right above us and ate it’s meal, likely a small songbird. We continued along the trail and found some False Solomon’s seal, Wild sarsparilla, and Mayapple, as well as some other common deciduous forest plants. After lunch we considered why it is that invasive plants species like Garlic mustard have come to our areas and talked about making pesto with the stems. The day culminated with a Sit Spot and Fox Walk in a quiet forested area where we each spent a little time with one plant. We walked out to our spot slowly, took our time coming back in and had a nice moment of contemplation before we shared some stories and ended with some gratitude.
Sunday was Harvesting Day! The morning started off with an excursion to harvest plants to take home with us. We made some teas from Red raspberry, White pine, Wood sorrel and Bee balm. They were put on top of Alexis’ pick-up truck where lots of passers by were curious of the colourful glass jars as they steeped in the sun. A Sassafras tree was spotted as we started an afternoon walk with some tree ID, including some deciduous, opposite-branching trees like Maple, Ash, Dogwood and Horsechestnut. We looked at several pines trees and headed into a Black Oak Savannah, a unique ecosystem in these parts and a highlight of High Park. Certain species grow here that are rare in Canada including the Cup or Compass Plant and Butterfly weed. We did an awareness activity where we were challenged to find a plant that we had been introduced to while blindfolded –opening up our senses beyond simply using sight to get to know a plant. Returning to the sun teas we’d made in the morning, we tasted them all, including some teas left out overnight-to see the difference in steeping methods. There was a toss up for favourite tea between Red raspberry and the moon steeped White pine “Moon Pine”. We shared a round of gratitude before our circle broke for the day and we headed home, hopefully to dreams of Stinging nettle and Yarrow to keep ourselves motivated to keep working with the plants.
Post by Alex Thomson – Earth Tracks Intern 2014