This summer, we have been working with youths from Suwalkh School in Coquitlam to expand their Indigenous Medicine Garden and Healing Forest.
At the start of summer, this space looked rather different. A lot has been done with the youths within this space, and we’re excited to show you everything that has been achieved!
Here at Suwalkh Fresh Roots Gardens, our youth have been working hard to maintain the farm: harvesting vegetables, making beds, and much more. Our little team at Suwalkh has come along way since the beginning of the summer, we are excited to see this Garden thrive! We have been learning lots about healthy eating, gardening, and life styles. As well as forest restoration in our Suwalkh Earth Healing Spirit Forest, pulling out invasive plants. We can’t wait to see how much we have accomplished by the end of the program!
The last month and a half, we have been working in the garden building beds and making spaces to grow more! The youth have also been painting signs for our garden! We have Broccoli, Beets, Swiss chard, Tomatoes, Buk choy, Potatoes, Garlic, Peppers, Lettuce and much more! We’ve recently seeded white sage and big lupin. Carrie Clark also taught us how to harvest tobacco and dry it out for ceremonial purpose.
In the Suwalkh Earth Healing Spirit Forest we have been learning about invasive plants such as Japanese Knot Weed, English Holly, English Ivy and English Laurel. Every day the youths work in the forest pulling out these invasive plants! The Forest is Suwalkh’s outdoor education class room. We will be having science class in the forest and on beautiful days we sit out there to do our school work!
Strawberry – Everbearing
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!
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 – Lupinus Poliphyllus
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!
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; Bearberry, Coastal; Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
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.
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 – Gaultheria Shallon
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!
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.