daughter and her horseIt all started innocently enough. . . my daughter’s horse comes down with rain-rot on occasion and unless we want to pump her full of dewormer constantly, we had to come up with alternative methods to kill the fungal infection.  Last year we had some success directly applying in alternating turns, tea tree oil and lavendar oil. This year, while walking through the “Made in Canada” bazaar downtown on Canada Day, we found a booth by a herbalist and thought to inquire what he would do.

edible burdockHe suggested obtaining chickweed, plantain, burdock and optionally, violet and make a double-boiled oil infusion.  We were to use the leaves of three of the plants and the root of the burdock.  No turtle tongues were harmed in the making of this infusion.  Promise!

Off we go trying to identify the apparent weeds in our list.  A week later filled with bouts of online research and visits to the local farmer’s market to hunt down a guy nicknamed “the weed whisperer”, we found ourselves discovering the world of foraging!

Our first discovery was that chickweed is edible!  That was followed quickly by the discovery that so was plantain and the root of the burdock plant being used by the Japanese in cooking, and going by the name gobo!  After doing a little research on the “weed whisperer”, we decided that we’ve been living around food for a long time and never knew it!  We could have been saving ourselves money at the grocery store years ago, simply by shopping in the woods instead!

1024px-Портулак_огородный_-_Portulaca_oleracea_-_Common_Purslane_-_Тученица_-_Gemuse-Portulak_(23184809024)Well, now it was time to see what we all thought of these plants.  My daughter took the plunge first, trying out both broad-leaf and narrow-leaf plantain, and a succulent we discovered in a blog article the night before.  She quickly made an additional discovery that many travelers face when eating foreign foods for the first time.  Her stomach wasn’t used to the wild food and initially didn’t know what to do with it.  A few hours later, it stopped feeling strange and she was fine.  During her system’s recovery, I went next and made a tiny salad of dandelion heads, a couple dandelion leaves, and a few narrow-leaf plantain leaves (as that’s all that grows in our yard).  I added a few rasberries and a bit of canned salmon, then used a vinegrette salad dressing.  I LOVED IT!  But then I had to remind myself that as a child, I used to nibble on clover tops, pine needles (which are also on one blogger’s edible plants infographic), and grass fronds.  Back then I didn’t know pine needles were edible, so I chewed them for the flavour and spit them out.  But my stomach was not anywhere near as upset as my daughter’s, and recovered faster from what little upset it did have.  Clearly eating such things as a child had done something to prep my system that never left.  Next came my son and our boarder.  I made similar tiny salads for them and let them use the salad dressing of their choice.  I was so excited to hear “not bad, it would taste better if it also had. . . /this needs. . . “.  To me, that was a resounding success!

The double-boiled oil infusion for Bella has been made and she had her first topical treatment today.  This mare is discovering trail rides, prompting my daughter to see about making soft-walled saddle bags so she can go on trail rides and collect our grocery greens while she’s at it.  We are now designing these bags, drafting measurements, etc.  These bags will be unique because most of what exists out there for English saddles looks more like glorified hip packs than actual saddle bags.  The closest thing we’ve seen so far for a saddle bag looks for all the world like a purse attached to the two D-rings that occur only on one side of the English saddle.  I guess the idea of balanced loads isn’t as prevalent in English riding as it is in Western.  But suffice to say, this horse that was gifted to my daughter back in the Fall of 2014, will start to “earn her keep” in a way none of us had ever considered before!

According to the “weed whisperer”, he harvests over 300 edible plants between the Okanagan and Revelstoke.  It is now our goal to learn more about the flora and fawna in the area to discover just how much we can reduce our grocery bill by heading into the bush.  I’ve also put in a call to the BC Parks Authority to learn any rules they may have about foraging in BC provincial parks.  I’m not sure if those rules even exist as this weed forager was found foraging at the base of Knox Mountain recently.  I can find them for Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Alberta however.  So hoping to hear if there are any rules for BC provincial parks. We’ll see where this story takes us.

EDIT:  Bella’s rain rot spots are responding quickly!  This blog article was actually written 7 days ago, but not posted till today (July 18th).  Those saddle bags have reached the design, draw and cut out stage with one pinned together already and my daughter is now nibbling on weeds at work rather than going through the granola bars!  Saving money on groceries already and we’re not even into this whole-hog yet!

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