While trekking through the pristine wilderness around the Overlander Mountain Lodge, a hungry hiker may be tempted to snack on tasty-looking flora. Before you pick and eat wild food, though, it's important that you're sure that they're not poisonous. There are quite a few varieties of edibles growing around the Canadian Rockies, so be sure to brush up before you begin foraging for a meal.
1. Black Morel
These tasty delicacies grow throughout Jasper National Park in the early spring. Morels vary in size in color, but they have a distinct honeycomb cap that is joined to the white, hollow stem. When you pick morels, make sure to examine them closely. Be sure that the cap is connected to the stem and that the stem is hollow; false morels do not have a continuous hollow chamber. It's also important to cook morels before you eat them, and not to consumer morels with alcohol, as they may be poisonous.
2. Golden Chanterelle
Famous for their egg-yolk color, pleasant taste, and fruity odor, Golden Chanterelles are delicious and safe once cooked. They are funnel shaped, depressed in the center, have ridges -- distinct rib-like folds -- and a solid, tapering stem that has a stronger orange color than the cap. Be on the look out for False Chanterelles, which have gills instead of ridges and grow on rotting wood. Unlike many other mushrooms, Chantrelles do not grow on wood or around the base of trees. They often appear in the summer and fall.
With their fanlike light brown caps and lack of stem, Oyster mushrooms are easy to spot. They grow in overlapping patterns on living trees in the Alberta spring and fall. Safe once cooked, they make a mild, firm addition to savory dishes. Oyster mushrooms have many look-a-likes but most are safe to eat as long as they grow on living trees. Oyster-like mushrooms that for on decaying trees are poisonous -- be particularly careful of the Angel wings mushroom, which is completely white and grows on dead wood.
1. Black Currant
Black currant berries are tart when raw, but sweet when cooked and make fantastic jams. The berries are round and so dark purple that they look black. The plants from which they for are shrubs that grow about 1 - 2 meters tall in foothills and mountainous woodlands. Be careful when foraging for black currants, though. It's tough to differentiate between black currants and Northern black currants, which can cause digestive troubles if you eat too many.
2. Black Huckleberry
Growing in mountain forests, black huckleberries are evergreen shrubs that are very high in vitamin C. They're dark blackish-purple with a small recession at the tip. The plants are easily identifiable by the yellowish dots of resin on the underside of their leaves. Although they can be eaten raw, black huckleberries are often dried or cooked.
Beargrass is easily spotted on the slopes of the Canadian Rockies. Its base consists of clumps of grassy, slender leaves and its puffy clustered flowers are tall, bright or creamy white and very fragrant. As the blooms mature, they can grow up to six feet tall. Once boiled or roasted, beargrass rhizomes (the root-like part that grows underground) are thick and tasty.
Because they grow across plains, foothills and mountains, chicory plants are a favorite for foragers. They look a little scraggly, with stalked leaves and tough, grooved stems. Chicory flowers are usually bright blue, but can be white or pink, and open and close at the same time each day. When young, the roots are edible raw, but can be split, dried, roasted, and then prepared like coffee. Young chicory leaves can also be eaten raw, although older leaves are best when boiled. It's important not to eat chicory regularly, though, because it can slow down your digestion. Whenever picking and consuming wild plants, be sure to examine them thoroughly and follow the proper preparation procedure. If you're not absolutely sure what you're picking, it's best not to eat it. If you are confident that you can identify and prepare wild plants safely, then happy foraging!
The Overlander Mountain Lodge is an ideal spot to base yourself while visiting Jasper and the surrounding area. The Overlander offers a unique mountain log lodge experience, with award winning gourmet dining, friendly and attentive service, and comfortable and relaxing accommodation. We also have Jasper Park's only vacation home rentals to accommodate larger groups and families.
References Photos: www.northernbushcraft.com 1. "Wild Edible Mushrooms of Alberta." Northern Bushcraft. n.d. n. page Web. 1 Aug. 2012 2. "Edible Berries of Alberta" Northern Bushcraft. n.d. n. page Web. 1 Aug. 2012 3. "Wild Edible Plants of Alberta." Northern Bushcraft. n.d. n. page. Web. 1 Aug. 2012.