This past summer, we had the chance to sit down with Marissa Froese. Marissa is a home and community educator with a focus on preserving handed-down skills. She lives with her husband and 3 children on Wyndelin Farm in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. Marissa complements her garden yields with wild edibles and medicinal plants.
FC: What are some of the wild edible and medicinal plants found in the Annapolis Valley?
M: We don't tend to venture far in our foraging; much of what we do is found right here on our land and forest or a very short walk away.
Just a few of the edibles that we have fun gathering are wild strawberries and blueberries, service berries, puffball mushrooms, rose hips, mint, nettles, blackberries, dandelions, maple sap, pine and spruce tips, cranberries, wild garlic scapes and violets . These are all beautiful entryway foraging for children as they are easily identifiable and information on all of them is readily available.
For medicinal plants we regularly identify or harvest yarrow, comfrey, clover, st john’s wort, hawthorn, plantain, elderberry, polypores, turkey tail, elecampane, and uva ursi. I feel sure that there's so many others that I'm forgetting! It's really amazing to me what can be found even in a small radius.
FC: Which plants do you use most often in your family and how do you use them?
M: I would say that our most used plants are the common ones; wild berries are enjoyed fresh, in baking and frozen. My three girls love going on fruiting walks to fill containers that they often want to make into a baked treat. We also gather a supply of rose hips and mint to last us through the winter months of tea drinking. We gather mint through out and wait until the first frost before gathering rosehips. Always, always remembering to leave far more than what we harvest, even on our own property which is where we do the majority of our harvesting. We also love eating dandelion; there's always a good feed or few on dandelion fritters in the spring! And puffballs are a fun find, especially in the fall.
Another commonly used plant in our house is plantain. It's so handily growing everywhere that if there's a bee sting or particularly itchy bug bit, just chew a leaf and put it on the sting; works beautifully!
FC: What are your favourite child friendly resources for learning how to identify edible and medicinal plants in the wild?
M: It's important for kids to always double check with a knowledgeable adult when foraging and ideally have a book or app to refer to confirm what the plant is. Northern Bushcraft has a fairly extensive list of native to Nova Scotia plants and is one I refer to often. There is also an app that I've heard is good but haven't tested myself
We have a variety of plant guides but often we use Peterson's guide to edible and medicinal plants which are very helpful with pictures, information and look alikes.
I would consider myself a novice forager; I'm self taught, using books and websites and passed down knowledge, but I absolutely love sharing this with my children and believe it is vital for this knowledge to be shared and passed on. I'm also always learning and researching and double checking with reliable sources; especially with medicinal foraging. I want to use these resources wisely and with reverence and I want to pass that attitude on to my children that they also can confidently and respectfully carry on the foraging tradition.
Thank you Marissa!
fairechild friends, we’d love to know what you’re foraging for in your part of the world - tag us on Instagram so we can see your plant finds!
Tabitha and the fairechild team