Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fall Foraging around Hinton

While on the AMS Great Alberta mushroom foray near Hinton, we found a few other types of wild edibles.

Labrador Tea

Some Labrador tea, sharing a basket with yellow suillus mushrooms

Labrador tea is a little evergreen shrub.  It was once commonly brewed by the natives and used in countless medicinal applications.  It was also part of some of the traditional gruit mixtures of northern Europe.  (For an explanation of gruit, and why it could be important to our provincial brewing identity, please see Alberta Beer: A Thought Experiment.)

The principle flavour of Labrador tea is minty evergreen.  I swear when I bruise the fresh leaves I also get a sweet melon aroma, but I haven't been able to convince others of this, nor have I been able to coax that flavour into solution.  Labrador tea can be used much like young evergreen buds, in tea, syrups, and dry cures for meat.


Many trails we walked were absolutely overgrown with buffaloberry.  The fruit is tart, bitter, and slightly soapy.  There is some good information on-line about the traditional uses of buffaloberry (also known as foamberry, soapberry, and sopolallie).  Most interesting is the practice of beating the berries in a large bowl until a meringue-like foam develops.  This preparation is called Indian ice cream.
A branch full of buffaloberries

Bog Cranberry

I didn't even know bog cranberries grew in Alberta.  These are the low-lying cranberries that are traditionally maintained and harvested by flooding the field in which they grow.

While we stepped over plenty of cranberry bushes, ripe berries were few and far between.  Those I was able to sample had the classic tart and bitter blend we expect from bog cranberries.

Some of the low-lying bog cranberries we found

Walking in the woods is fun.
 A look up through the pines

1 comment:

  1. You would have loved the Junior Forest Warden camp (now no longer in use, as far as i know) up by Athabasca on Long Lake. Clean and beautiful boreal forest and deep water lake... the former director lived off the forest for survival weekends, summer and winter.
    *sigh* I miss my camp... Next blueberry season I'll take you out to a farm my mom's friend, Kathy, has. They had it dedicated a natural preservation site (or something like that) and have a huge meadow of blueberry bushes, with a couple spots of low lying cranberries (and highbush too). You'd love it. Seriously.