Strawberries – That’s what we are all really after…

At the Suwa’lkh School program we propagate native plants with the students both for sale and to help rehabilitate and reindiginize our forest. In the future we will have native varieties of this delicious berry, but for now we have loads of these everbearing cultivated plants!

Strawberry – Everbearing

Physical properties: Perrenial small bush (20cm diameter) with large, juicy, red strawberries. Will send runners and establish a patch if left alone.

Preferred conditions: Dry heads, wet feet. Prefferably no more than one plant per sq. foot. Mulch will prevent fruit rot. Sunny loaction is best. Will die back in winter, but come up again in spring.

Edibility: YEAH! (but don’t tell the kids…)

For best results, replace every 4th year with new runners as old plants are less productive.

Large Leaf Lupine – Native Wildeflower of beauty and fame!

At the Suwa’lkh School program we propagate native plants with the students both for sale and to help rehabilitate and reindiginize our forest. This one is just too beautiful not to spread around!

Large Leaf Lupine – Lupinus Poliyphyllus

Physical properties: Perennial, upright, up to 1.5m high

Preferred conditions: Moist to wet open habitats (sea shores, streamside, meadows, disturbed sites). Low elevations. Likes sun, will die back in fall and come right back in spring!

Edibility: Wild lupin contain toxins – Not edible

First Nation Uses: Unknown

Beautiful purple flower heads, fixes nitrogen, self seeding.

Kinnikinnick – Native ground cover to outlast them all!

At the Suwa’lkh School program we propagate native plants with the students both for sale and to help rehabilitate and reindiginize our forest. This amazing ground cover is not just beautiful, but has been used in many ways by First Nations all throughout the area.

Kinnikinnick (Bearberry, Coastal) – Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Physical properties: Perennial, trailing groundcover, evergreen, 20cm tall, bright red fruit

Preferred conditions: Sandy and well drained exposed sites, dry rocky slopes, dry forest and clearings, from low elevation to alpine tundra. Does not need much of anythig but sun and space, will tolerate our winters no problem!

Edibility: Edible but mealy and rather flavourless, leaves were used for medicine (see below)

First Nation Uses: Dried leaves smoked as a part of a smoking mix. The leaves were  chewed on to suppress thirst. Kinnikinnick fruit berries were also mashed to create a sealant on baskets.

In terms of medicinal use, the leaves were infused (by steeping them in water just above the boiling point to make tea) and drink it as tonic. This infusion could also be used as mouthwash for canker sores or weak gums. It was also made into a decoction (made by boiling the plant material in water) and drunk for colds and Tuberculosis. This decoction could also be used as wash for broken bones. Moreover, decoction of Kinnikinnick was used as eye medicine for sore eyes. Amongst the Haida, the leaves were used as a diuretic in kidney diseases and infections of the urinary passages.

 

Salal – a Native Plant you all want to know!

At the Suwa’lkh School program we propagate native plants with the students both for sale and to help rehabilitate and reindiginize our forest. One of our favorites, this one has an incredible fruit!

Salal – Gaultheria Shallon

Physical properties: Bushy perennial, 0.2-5 m tall (layering and suckering) – will grow into the space it has available.

Preferred conditions: Sunny edges of coniferous forests, rocky bluffs, to the seashore. Does not require watering once established. Winter hardy, just plant and forget till fruit is ready! Low to medium elevations.

Edibility: Berries are edible and delicious! Great for Jam, ripen in August

First Nation Uses: One of the most plentiful and important fruits for the northwest coast first nations people. Eaten both fresh and dried into cakes. The Kwakwaka’wakw ate the ripe berries dipped in oolichan grease at large feasts. For trading or selling, the salal berries were mixed with currants, elderberries, or unripe salal berries. The berries were also used to sweeten other foods and the Haida used salal berries to thicken salmon eggs. The young leaves were chewed as a hunger suppressant by the Ditidaht. The leafy branches were used in pit-cooking, and cooked as a flavouring in fish soup.

 

 

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Coquitlam school partnership to create First Nations forest garden

By Diane Strandberg / Tri-City News
JUNE 10, 2017 09:00 AM

Fresh Roots executive director Mark Schutzbank, left, and Malcolm Key, aboriginal youth program co-ordinator for School District 43, explore the land around the Suwa’lkh School in Coquitlam that will be used to teach students how to grow crops while staying in balance with nature. Part of the project will include removing invasive species in a forest next to Como Creek, beside the school.

A partnership between School District 43’s Suwa’lkh School and a non-profit that teaches young people how to grow healthy food could help revitalize a local creek and expand a horticultural program at the school.
Fresh Roots has already worked with three Vancouver high schools to grow produce and is starting another community farm in Delta. But the program at Suwa’lkh will be the first to specialize in growing native plants with First Nations students who will harvest the crops for medicine or for food.

Executive director Marc Schutzbank and Malcolm Key, the aboriginal youth program coordinator at Suwa’lkh, say they want to use organic and permaculture strategies to grow plants in a way that mimics nature. And they see the project as a way to introduce urban aboriginal youth to nature and their cultural practices. “It’s such a great opportunity for using this space. The kids are going to be hands on and immersed,” Key told The Tri-City News, adding, “No matter how deep they are in the city, they [will learn] they still have the Earth beneath their feet.”

The Coquitlam school property is perfect for such a vision because it sits next to Como Creek and a small forested area, and includes a school field. There is also a greenhouse purchased with grants and installed with the help of Suwa’lkh students while raised beds, already filled to the brim with rhubarb and other crops, supply the school lunch program with healthy veggies.

But the plan for the Suwa’lkh horticultural program is much broader than growing vegetables. Thanks to the school’s partnership with Fresh Roots and the Galiano Conservancy, the goal is to improve plant diversity in the forest while also creating an edible forest garden. Salmonberry, thimble berry, salal and Oregon grape will replace invasive blackberry and ivy among the trees while decaying logs will be used to provide nutrients for the plants and store rain water, building resiliency in the face of climate change.

EDIBLE FOREST
Similar techniques are being used to create an edible forest on Galiano Island and Fresh Roots’ Schutzbank said these type of gardens more closely resemble nature while fitting in with First Nations traditions, including the Coast Salish culture of the area. “This project honours traditional indigenous management practices and the pressing need for healthy, local food,” Schutzbank told The Tri-City News, adding that students, staff, community stakeholders and elders will be involved in the planning process. A passionate urban food farmer himself, Schutzbank is looking forward to introducing a new crop of students to the joys of food production in harmony with nature. He notes that the skills they will pick up are also part of the new provincial curriculum. “It’s going to be a learning forest not just for Suwa’lkh but other schools as well,” he said, noting that students will also benefit from being outside in nature because being close to the Earth is known to reduce anxiety and stress.

Eventually, the goal is to turn the space into an aboriginal community hub for the Tri-Cities centred around food. Key said one of the ways of connecting the school’s 72 high school students is through hands-on programs that bring them close to nature, such as a recent paddling trip through the Broken Islands. And food is a draw for everyone. Last year, children in the aboriginal summer program enjoyed kale chips, with produce picked from the school garden. “Some enjoyed it while, for some [others], it was a new taste on a developing palate,” he said.

This fall, however, students will get a close look at a forest garden and learn about ecological stewardship when they visit the Galiano Conservancy, and Key is excited about the opportunity for a similar project here.
If all goes as planned, students will have salmonberries to go with their kale chips, and a greater understanding of the role they play in nature’s food web.

For the online version of this article, please visit this link.