Resilience: Growing Edible & Medicinal Wild Plants

A food forest takes time to create.  It’s a big job, especially when you’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

Although most of our property is forest, there are several acres that were cleared. Inch by inch we’ve been replacing grass with trees shrubs and other wonderful perennials. One of the lessons we’ve learned over the past four years is that native wild species are essential when building a resilient and dependable food supply.

Of all the things we write about, one of the most important messages we have for our readers is to learn about the wild edibles plants and trees available in your area and try to incorporate as many of them into your landscape as you can. You’ll be surprised at how many wonderful and beautiful edible plant varieties there are once you start looking for them.

We are focusing on planting native wild edibles whenever possible.

The more functions that a plant offers, the better. We’ve got a variety of fruit trees planted including apple, cherry and plum,  and they struggle to such a high degree with the drought and pests. The native plant that we grow do not have these issues.

This week we brought home 11 new plants (a hundred might have been better) yesterday and have been busy preparing holes for planting.  The first thing I do when I bring plants home is to read up on the conditions and requirements to help me choose the best location to put them. Here are the four varieties that we’ll be planting today. They all offer edible, nutritional and medicinal values.

Highbush Cranberry (vibumum trilobum)

North American Native Plant. Full sun / Zone 4 (-34c/-30F) Prefers moist, well drained soil.

The highbush cranberry can reach up to 8FT in height. It is part of the Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle) family.  In late spring, it is heavily laden with white flowers. The flowers are followed by clusters shiny red berries that ripen in late summer. Finally, in autumn, the 3-lobed foliage takes on stunning shades of burgundy.

This shrub needs cross pollination otherwise poor fruiting will happen. It is best to plant at least 2-3 shrubs. It is an excellent support for wildlife and pollinators and is favoured by butterflies and moths.

Medicinal/Edible Properties

The berries are edible, although quite tart. The berries are an excellent ingredient when making  jelly, ketchup and other home-made preserves. The bark was traditionally to make a medicinal tea and is a natural muscle relaxant remedy. (source)

Resilience: Growing Edible & Medicinal Wild Plants

canadian serviceberry (amelanchier canadensis)

North American Native Plant. Full sun / Zone 4 (-34c/-30F) Tolerates clay soil but prefers well-drained slightly acid soil

The Canadian Serviceberry (Also known as June berry)  is an  early-flowering, large shrub or small tree growing up to 15-30 feet tall. It is part of the Rosaceae (rose) family.  White flowers appear before the leaves emerge in early spring. Finely toothed dark green leaves change to orange & red in autumn. After flowering small, round, green edible berries develop which turn red and finally mature to a dark purple later in summer.

Medicinal/Edible Properties

The edible berries resemble blueberries in size and colour. You can use the berries to make jams, jellies and pies, cordials and syrup …  that is if you manage to pick them before the birds have a good feast.  The Canadian service berry has similar benefits to saskatoon berry.

Resilience: Growing Edible & Medicinal Wild Plants

Saskatoon Berry (amelanchier alnifolia)

North American Native Plant. Full sun / Zone 2 (-45c/-30F) Prefers moist, well drained soil.

The Saskatoon berry (Western Serviceberry) is part of the Rosaceae (Rose) family.  It is a compact, medium to large upright, multi-stemmed shrub that grows four to six feet tall and wide. Clusters of fragrant, white  flowers appear in spring, followed by large purple edible berries. The small blue-green leaves turn yellow and red in fall. lowers attract butterflies and fruit attract many song birds

Medicinal/Edible Properties

Saskatoon berries are becoming popular for their antioxidant content. They are also high in fiber and protein. Saskatoon berries are also an excellent source of manganese, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, copper and carotene. The Saskatoon Berry Institute notes that the berries are considered a better source of calcium than red meats, vegetables and cereals. (source)

Resilience: Growing Edible & Medicinal Wild Plants

St. Johns Wort (hypericum kalmianum)

North American Native Plant. Full sun / Zone 4 (-34c/-30F) Prefers wet/moist, well drained soil & limestone.

St. Johns wort is a small evergreen shrub with upright branching that typically grows in a dense mound up to to 3’ tall. It is covered with a burst of bright yellow flowers, famous for their medicinal properties. This is generally a low maintenance plant with little to no common pests or diseases.

Medicinal/Edible Properties

St. John’s wort has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries. It is best known for its sedative and anti-depressant properties but is also said to have diuretic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic properties. You can use the dried flowers in teas and tinctures.

Resilience: Growing Edible & Medicinal Wild Plants

When getting to know the wild edibles around field guides can be an exceptionally helpful resource. Look for those that are specific to your region. Local forest walks and guides are also truly valuable so be sure to sign up for a guided walk if the opportunity presents itself!

We are passionate about growing perennial food and you’ll find quite a bit of content on our website that focuses on these resilient and valuable plants.


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