Monday, October 31, 2011

More Apples and a Wapato hunt


Fall was in the air today.  It was sunny and cold as Katrina and I walked over to Beacon Hill Park to meet Ryan for some Apple picking.  We thought we were already saturated with Apples, but we couldn’t turn down a harvesting adventure with a good friend.  The picking couldn’t have been better.  With the salt breeze in our hair and the sun warming our rosy cheeks we filled our bags with the free fruits of the earth.  The trees we picked from may possibly pre-date the park, and though they were partially obscured by a ring of Snowberry, they proved their fortitude by supporting me as I tested some of the highest and farthest reaching limbs.  I believe that Apples, like many other wild food plants, have co-evolved with bears and their strong wood is nature's design for supporting beasts with a larger belly than my own.  However, when limbs do break, instead of harming the tree, they stimulate new, more productive growth.  When we prune Apple trees, we are only making up for our dainty picking habits.

After lugging our Apples home Katrina and I walked over to the Royal BC Museum to visit Ken Marr, the curator of the Provincial Herbarium.  We wanted to find herbarium specimens for some food plants that we have been having a hard time finding like Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum edule) and Wapato (Sagittaria latifolia).  Herbarium specimens include information about where they were collected, which we hoped would give us clues for finding these food plants.  Many herbariums have all the herbarium data catalogued on an electronic database, but due to funding cuts, this herbarium hasn’t completed a database for the 218,000 specimens at their facility.  To my surprise, we found several Wapato collections from Vancouver Island—A few even from Thetis Lake.

We decided to run out to Thetis Lake to see if we could find some Wapato but I think the recent frosts have killed the above ground vegetation and the Wapato is happily hibernating in its tasty tubers.  I still hope to pick some Wapato from a few spots that I know on the Fraser River, but it looks like it might be too late to collect from all but the places that I know exactly where the plants are.  Our afternoon foraging mission was not a bust, we found two amazingly large Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius).
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