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More Stories from Caring Circle


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First Published on September 14, 2016 Written by The Caring Circle

This article comes to follow-up Caring Circle’s article in the June Bulletin.  You may already know about some of our more visible activities like the Driver’s Program and our partnership in the Lunch Program.  We hope that you will watch for the launch of our Befriending Program this fall.    Caring Circle was founded to help people navigate the health care system.  Often this work is not visible except to those individuals and families whose lives are affected.  The following stories may help you to understand some of the positive impacts our work has in people’s lives.

One young woman in her early 20’s, who has had difficulty with ADHD, was becoming increasingly distressed around her inability to find meaningful work off the island. Caring Circle did some research and found an organization in North Vancouver that meets with people with disabilities.  They did an assessment of this young woman’s skills and interests and matched her with a job in the creative arts. She now has the first secure job she’s had in many years and she is delighted. Needless to say, so are her parents.

An elderly man was hoping to be discharged home from hospital despite his frailty and lack of family to tend to his care. Some close friends created a team of volunteers to support him and came into Caring Circle to get a sense of what needed to be in place to make this discharge occur comfortably and safely.  Caring Circle connected them to a local psychiatrist (who agreed to manage his care on island) as well as to paid companion support people, housecleaners, garden help, medical equipment, home grocery delivery, a private occupational therapist to make the house “walker ready”, and information about setting up an emergency fall button. Caring Circle also guided them to VCH home nursing support and the Geriatric Outreach Team in order to give them professional oversight around this pending discharge. His friends are relieved that he is able to return home and be their neighbor and that they can share the responsibility for looking after him with the network of professionals and care workers on the Island.

A very elderly woman and long time Bowen resident had become increasingly socially isolated. With much encouragement from a relative she finally agreed to attend a Community Lunch.  Once there, the Caring Circle Program Director helped others at the luncheon connect with this old friend whom many had not seen for years. Since that first lunch, this woman has continued to attend regularly and she now has a small circle of friends who visit with each other regularly.

A middle-aged man was very emotionally fragile after receiving a new and unusual cancer diagnosis. He came into Caring Circle just wanting to talk. When asked if he wanted to see a professional about his anxiety and depression, he wondered if it was possible to talk to another man who had the same diagnosis and was going through what he was going through. The Caring Circle Program Director called the B.C. Cancer Agencies’ Counselling Department and found a Counsellor whose work focused on this particular kind of cancer. That Counsellor in turn, found a man in Vancouver who had the same diagnosis and could act as a peer support person.  These connections supported this man through a long and difficult treatment regimen. He came into Caring Circle many months later to report his progress and to express how critically important it was to connect to psychological support through the BCCA’s Peer Support Program and without Caring Circle direction, he would not have known about this program.

These are just a few of the many ways that Caring Circle has supported Islanders. Since opening our doors three years ago, Caring Circle has had 1063 requests for support in accessing health or social services.

KKN AUCTION in support of Caring Circle:  As with every non-profit organization, funding is always a challenge and we are thrilled that the Knick Knack Nook Re-Use- It Society has chosen Caring Circle as the recipient of the proceeds of their large bi-annual auction. We feel truly honoured and want to acknowledge all the KKN volunteers who contribute to this Auction throughout the year.

Please put the Caring Circle KKN Auction date in your calendars now – OCTOBER 15th at Cates Hill Chapel.  And if you have any items of value that you no longer want but would be willing to donate to Caring Circle, please drop them off at KKN and tell them you would like them to be put aside for the Fall auction.

Please visit us at Caring Circle anytime Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 10 – 4 p.m. We’re behind the Library in the back room of the Heritage Cottage.

Phone 604 947-9100  – website:  www.caringcircle.ca

Another year, another Bowfest!


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First Published on August 31, 2016 Written by Sasha Buchanan

Myself and Bowfest would first of all like to thank Bowen Island for being such an amazing and unique place which provides the platform for our annual community festival; Bowen is the full reason why and how Bowfest has successfully run for the past forty one years, and hopefully will do for the next Forty one.

Bowfest committee is run by a small yet truly remarkable and diverse group of volunteers who work year round. I am lucky to call these people my college and friends, so thank you to Jessie Cotrell, Robyn Fenton, Linda, Henfry, Candace Hannah, and Rob Wynen for everything you have done, and the number of grey hairs you have all spared me with your insights, hard work, wisdom, and dedication.

But of course Bowfest is not run solely by six committee members so, thank you to John Stiver our stage manager and booking agent,  Mike, Andrea and The Children’s Centre for hosting this year’s Beer Garden, Maureen Sawasy for being our Potluck organizer a first of what is sure to be an annual tradition, PAC and the CSA for manning the doors in your continual effort to raise money for a all ages playground, Sarah Haxby and Bowen Agricultural Alliance at the Country Fair, Kate Brew for organizing the Lip Sync, Margaret Miller at the shooting range, Bowen Loggers, Anne and the Bowen Flaggers, Dave and Louse at the Boat Building, and Hillary Butler at the Rotary Run.

It was also a great year for sponsors! Thank you to Artisan Office Services  for all our printing costs, The Undercurrent for your continual support, Bowen Island Sea and land Taxi for our new and improved Slug Race Track, First Credit Union for sponsoring the Main Stage, Bowen Building Centre for sponsoring the Country Fair tent, Party Perfect for the donation of the Dunk Tank, Reforma Architecture for sponsoring the Lip Sync, BIM for waiving all Bowfest park fees, Friendly Cedar Fencing for the beautiful cedar beer garden fencing, USSC for the beautify  picnic tables, Doc Morgan’s for the lone of two very last minute kegs, and Heart Stone Brewery for donating 3 kegs.

Thank you you to all the food, community and craft vendors! Thank you to all the musical talent. Thank you to all the volunteers who helped set-up, tear down, and clean up, parade judges, and everyone who attended Bowfest 2016.

VERY special thank you to David and Shael Wrinch (NEED OTHER NAMES). Bowfest was very close to being a very dark event this year, you absolutely saved the day!

And of course Bowfest’s very own fair god mother: Adam Taylor.

Hope to see every on 26th August for Bowfest 2017!

Many thanks,

Sasha Buchanan

Bowfest 2016 Chairperson.

And very, very special thanks to David and Shael Wrinch and Jack Callister. Bowfest was very close to being a very dark event this year – you absolutely saved the day!

And of course Bowfest’s very own fair god mother: Adam Taylor.

Parade:

First: Kate’s Hill Chapel

Second: Doc Morgans & USSC

Third: Bowen Building Centre

Honourable mention: BIHORA

Lip Sync:

Thriller Marie and Roxy Pedley, Malia and Savary Van Strein, Jade and Kate Atkinson, and Shelby Jennings

Country Fair

Tallest flower grown on Bowen winner: Julia Tweten’s 12’2” sunflower

Biggest Zucchini by weight

adult David and Aubin van Berckel’s 14.5lb monster zucchini, and youth Kaija and Ryder Flory’s 6.6lb zucchini.

Strangest Looking Vegetable: youth Alissa and Michaela Schaly’s crazy carrots came in first place and Levi Seaberly’s monster banana squash came in a very close second.

Favourite Animal or Farm Animal Award: Aoife Buckley

The Lego Contest: Jack Hammond

The Fiber Arts Finest award went to Susanne Koeplin and the felted necklace made with her friends and some local wool. The heartfelt story that went with the necklace made the contest judges tear up!

Slug Races: all eight lanes were filled with racing slugs for both races! The 12:45 race was won by the slug “Dread Pirate Roberts” and racing crew of the same name. Dread Pirate Roberts crossed the finish line! The 1:15 pm race was won by Henry’s “Scaredy Slug”at the Country Fair Tent!

Wild Food Spotlight 3: Plantain


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First Published on August 17, 2016 Written by Emily van Lidth de Jeude

This past May, my daughter had a big fall, goring her knee on a rotten branch. She endured not only a week of emergency room IV for the ensuing infection, but then three months of the wound slowly expelling all the remaining bits of rotten wood. Plantain to the rescue! Yes – seriously! What the salt water soaks didn’t pull out, we got out with plantain poultices. Grab a leaf, chew it up, and place it on the (closed) wound. You can even use one of the flat leaves as a bandage to hold it in place (tied with string).

Not to be confused with plantain bananas, the small green inconspicuous plants of the Plantago family are exceedingly common. Find them along the edges of roads, meadows, lawns, paths, and playgrounds. Most common around here are P. major (broad-leaved plantain) and P. lanceolata (narrow-leaved plantain or ribwort). Maybe when you were a child you learned to pluck a broad-leaved plantain and find the veins sticking out where you tore it off. Maybe you discovered that if you pulled those veins you could make the leaf curl up. Apparently some people have used these tough fibres as thread! When I was a little girl, my mother and I sometimes made the long gruelling climb from our home in Bowen Bay up towards Adams Rd. And along the way we saw ribwort, although we didn’t know it at the time. We called them the Crowned Princes and Princesses of Denmark, because of their flowers’ beautiful crown-like flower-heads. Oh the adventures those crowned princes and princesses have had over the two generations this game has persisted! Plantain is a wonderful entertainment system for kids on otherwise boring walks.

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But it’s also a food and a valuable medicine. Modern science is slowly beginning to study and confirm what folk medicine has taught for centuries. In her review, Anne Berit Samuelsen states that “P. major contains biologically active compounds such as polysaccharides, lipids, caffeic acid derivatives, flavonoids, iridoid glycosides and terpenoids. Alkaloids and some organic acids have also been detected. A range of biological activities has been found from plant extracts including wound healing activity, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, weak antibiotic, immuno modulating and antiulcerogenic activity.” (1) In my own life, I often use broad-leaved plantain as a wound or sting poultice. It’s handily available in the wilderness, where stings, nettle burns, and other small injuries often happen, and makes a huge difference to such inflammations when chewed up and applied directly. Ribwort is also valuable, both for the gut-cleaning (bulking) properties of its seeds (psyllium), as well as for its leaves’ value in treating coughs and uterine complaints. As an anticatarrhal and expectorant, ribwort tea is an excellent cough remedy. (2)

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Food is maybe the least exciting thing about plantain, since it’s basically a plain-tasting leaf that gets tough very early in its life. But if you get stoked about the prospect of eating food out of your lawn or healing and nourishing your body naturally, plantain is definitely for you. As with so many wild greens, the young leaves are great in salads, or braised as they grow tougher. They’re also delicious in green smoothies – especially with the knowledge of all those nutrients you’re consuming! And if you are eating a grain-free diet, you may already buy the mucilaginous psyllium as a binder for coconut flour confections, or perhaps you use it simply as a dietary fibre. Either way, find it growing atop a humble plantain. Commercial psyllium seed actually comes from P. afra, ovata, or indica, but seeds of ribwort also have mucilaginous properties. Find some ribwort blossoms that have fully gone to seed, rub the seeds out into a small bowl, blow off most of the separated husks (some remaining is fine) and add a bit of water. After a while you’ll see the mucilage forming around the seeds. The mucilage is, of course, the same colour as the water, so it is only apparent in that the seeds sit increasingly distant from each other in the water, held separated by their growing coating of mucilage. When there’s enough of it you can feel its gooeyness.

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But let’s get down to business. Everybody needs some inspiration to try plantain, so I recommend starting with this lovely green plantain smoothie: Pick a bunch of youngish plantain leaves (either broad-leaved or ribwort will do), wash them, check for unwanted bits, and stuff them in your blender. Cover them with ice cold water (and a few ice cubes if your blender can handle it!), and add some fresh lemon juice. Blend until the leaves are fully macerated and suspended in the water. If you want it sweet (like lemonade!) then blend in a little honey, to taste. If you want it creamy, blend in an avocado or some nut-milk. Enjoy!

 

(1) Anne Berit Samuelsen: The traditional uses, chemical constituents and biological activities of Plantago major L. A review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 71, Issue 1, Pages 1-21

(2) Chloe Sobejko: Materia Medica. https://herbalmateriamedica.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/plantago-lanceolata/

 

 

What a Year for Tourism Bowen Island!


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First Published on Aug 3, 2016 Written by Tourism Bowen Island

Now having completed Tourism Bowen’s first full year as a registered non-profit society, we are doing some navel-gazing and planning for next year! We invite you to join us on Tuesday August 16, 4:30 – 6 PM, for a little summer socializing and our annual general meeting. Refreshments will be served. We’ll share some of our news and recent activities and would love to hear how your summer is going. Here’s a bit of a snapshot of our first year.

We have received amazing support from the Province’s DestinationBC ….  Awarding us Official Status as a Visitor Centre for the cottage on Cardena Road.  Tourism Bowen agreed to be the operators for 2016 as the Chamber of Commerce, years ago, operated an Info Centre out of this site which was subsequently run by the Bowen Island Arts Council the past few years.    Visitor Centre status has afforded us the luxury of some amazing training for our staff, a budget that has allowed us to upgrade the facility and to cover some of our overheads and to increase the staffing so we can have a staff member greeting visitors as they walk off the ferry.

Also, DestinationBC has a wonderful young lady, Heather McGillivray who is responsible for media relations for the Vancouver Coast & Mountains Tourism Region.  She has been so amazingly supportive and her work has resulted in us posting over a dozen articles about Bowen on our www.tourismbowenisland.com website.  Never before have we had so much coverage by travel writers.  It seems like we are posting a new article almost weekly!  Reading through the stories makes one so very proud of our ‘awful island’.

Speaking of media coverage, whether we deserved it or not, so many other articles gave credit to Tourism Bowen for the new Tourism Brand, “tell your friends it’s awful here”.   This resulted in well over $150,000 in ‘free’ press (aka Earned Media) from all across Canada, into the USA and bloggers from around the world were posting and re-tweeting links to the brand.  A huge thank you to the Economic Development Committee’s Branding Committee and to islander, Chris Staples from Rethink for coming up with such an amazing catch-phrase.  The Economic Development Committee and Rethink will be doing the OFFICAL LAUNCH of the ‘Bowen Brand’ at Bowfest.   Come by the booth and spin the wheel to win some amazing prizes!

Tourism Bowen is a 100% volunteer run organization.   There is a handful of people who have worked diligently on behalf of all of the B&B’s, vacation rentals, pubs, restaurants and shops on the island who deserve to be recognized.    Our Vice President Maureen Sawasy (The Undercurrent), Treasurer Alison Morse (representing the  Bowen Golf Course), Basia Lieske (Bowen Island Events), Jacqueline Massey (Bowen Island Arts Council), Glenn Cormier (Bowen Pub .. who hosts coffee and meeting space for us monthly) and ex-secretary Jody Lorenz (Bowen  Island Tours) who recently became our Visitor Centre Supervisor.   Also attending all of our meetings is the amazing Denise Lawson of Windshift Design who has done remarkable things with our website.

Speaking of our website, our volume of ‘hits’ has risen over 75% since that “awful” presentation to Council.  We hope you are using the EVENTS page as your ‘go-to’ page to find out what is happening on our island. We would love you to link our  www.tourismbowenisland.com on your website.  It is a member-driven site that offers many options for coverage.  It is one of the most active sites on the island and the perfect place for you to link to and join.   There is a ‘membership’ icon at the top-left of the home page for Membership.  Click on that and find out all of the ways you, too, can be part of our island’s promotion.

Now the sales pitch. On Tuesday August 16 we will be holding our first annual meeting at the Visitor Centre, 432 Cardena, from 4:30 to 7pm.  It’s going to be a drop-in affair with a little business thrown in for legality purposes.  We need you, not just to attend but to become involved.   When we were the Chamber, we had over 120 members.   Right now Tourism Bowen has only about 30.   The Board is volunteer.   We have one part-time staff member, 3 part-time students for the summer and a couple of awesome islanders who volunteer as Bowen Ambassadors once or twice a month.  We need board members from all aspects of the business community…. restaurants, shops, accommodation, etc etc.   We have the financial support of the municipality, DestinationBC and we were even the recipient of a grant from our MLA Jordan Sturdy.   Now we need the support from the island.

Remember, every Bowen Islander promotes tourism year round.  Every time you invite a mainlander or an international friend or relative to the island, you are welcoming a tourist to the island.  Every dollar spent by you and those visitors while they are here gets circulated at least three times through the island’s economy.

We all know it’s NOT really awful here… it’s just our little bit of heaven we love to share with the rest of the world.

Sex on the beach: is there a better way to spend a beautiful August afternoon?

First Published on July 20, 2016 Written by The Bowen Island Conservancy

The Bowen Island Conservancy is looking for some volunteers to help us with a Forage Fish Sampling Blitz, from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm, on the afternoon of Saturday, August 6th.

What are Forage Fish? They are the cornerstone of marine food webs and are essential food for seabirds, marine mammals, and fish. Multiple species spawn on sandy and pebble beaches around Howe Sound and elsewhere in the Salish Sea. We are mostly aware of herring, which have been seen in increasing numbers in Howe Sound in the last few years. As well, juvenile salmon forage along the high tide line, feeding on land-based insects swept to the ocean’s surface by winds, and on tiny invertebrates living within the beach seaweed wrack line.

What species are we looking for here? We are interested in Pacific Sand Lance, Capelin, and Surf Smelt. These fish form massive schools which are often measured in metric tons, since they are so large. You can learn more about these fish with a quick Internet search, but to give you some high-level information about just one species, let’s look at the Surf Smelt. At maturity these fish will be about 20 cm long, and a typical fish shape with olive green backs and silvery bellies. They have relatively short lives of up to about 5 years, and spawn on beaches in summer and winter. The embryos are usually found buried just below the surface of beaches, between 2 and 4 metres below the high tide line. Watch where you tread next time you’re on a beach!

In 1904, at the peak of commercial harvest, 230 metric tons of Surf Smelt were caught in BC. In 2002 the catch was just 710 kg. As we all know, a number of fish, seabird, and marine mammal populations are in steep decline in BC, and scientists have now started to look at the link between forage fish biomass reduction and these declining populations. For example, 35% of juvenile salmon diet is made up of Pacific Sand Lance, so these fish are critical elements of the food chain that leads to our tables.

Why is there a “Sampling Blitz” taking place? In 2014, Conservancy members formed an Island team that conducts periodic surveys of certain Bowen Island beaches to test for the presence of forage fish eggs This is part of a much larger effort, coordinated by the Sea Watch Society and involving many other communities, to determine the locations of spawning beaches, and estimate the growth in population of these important species.

To date we have not found any evidence of forage fish eggs on Bowen Island. We know that other Howe Sound communities have found eggs, and that they are also present on Sunshine Coast and West Vancouver beaches, but nothing has shown up here. And we don’t know why. Possibly there’s something about our beaches that makes them unsuitable for spawning (could be the length of the beach, or the mix of sand and pebbles, or something else). But we want to sample as many beaches as possible in one day in August, which is peak Surf Smelt spawning season, to see whether we are able to obtain a positive result.

How will the blitz work? We are going to work from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm on August 6th. We’ll divide into two teams, and sample as many beaches as we can. We’ll try to include Pebbly (Cape Roger Curtis), Tunstall South, Tunstall North, Sealeigh Park, Bowen Bay, Bluewater, Galbraith Bay, Smuggler, Cates Bay, Eaglecliff, Pebbly (Deep Bay), Sandy, Snug Cove, Seymour Landing, September Morn, and Alder Cove beaches.

Do I need any qualifications to participate? No, we welcome everybody’s help. We are particularly interested in having children participate: they always enjoy themselves and make the sampling event special.

Do I need to bring anything to sample? All you need to do is dress to match the weather. A hat and sunscreen is probably all you’ll need (we hope that nobody needs rain gear!). And we’ll supply everything else that’s needed for sampling, so you just need to show up.

How do I learn more? Send us a quick email message at “info@bowenislandconservancy.org”, or call 604.612.6572, and we’ll get back to you with more details.

What happens afterwards? After sampling we will meet from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm, with refreshments and snacks, to celebrate a job well done. We’ll process the afternoon’s samples by sieving to concentrate the fine material, and hope we find some fish eggs! And later we’ll be sending our samples to Vancouver Island to be analyzed. We’ll be sure to let everybody know the results once we have them.

We hope that you will be able to join us as we search for evidence of Sex on the Beach on Saturday, August 6th.

 

Wild Food Spotlight 2 – Rubus!

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First Published on June 22, 2016 Written by Emily van Lidth de Jeude

How many times have blackberries scraped big bloody tears from your leg as you simply attempted to access the beach? Or the salmonberries taken over your garden and you spent day after day cutting them down and then digging out their stubborn, tough roots, only to find them growing back again a couple of months later? How many times have you planted delightful raspberry canes in your garden and found them soon interspersed with those godforsaken-spiny-blackberries-whose-fruit-is-inferior-and-nobody-seems-to-know-the-name-of?! Ha ha! Me too. But I love these Rubus anyway.

The Rubus genus is well-represented both in our gardens and in our island wilderness. We commonly grow raspberry, boysenberry, and wineberry in our gardens, but in the wild here we also find an abundance of red and yellow salmonberries, black raspberries, thimbleberries, and various blackberries: Trailing, Himalayan, and Evergreen (that horridly vicious spiky-looking one).

All of these are known for their heavenly berries, especially when ripened and warmed by the sun and picked during a hike through the woods. But did you know that you can use other parts of the plants as well? The leaves of red raspberries are well known for their use in teas as a uterine tonic, and black raspberry and young blackberry leaves can be picked, dried, and used the same way. Wear gloves, though – their thorns grow under the leaves as well.

And then there are the shoots. Every spring for hundreds if not thousands of years, the fresh shoots of salmonberry, blackberry, and thimbleberry have been harvested young and tender, often eaten fresh, steamed, pickled, or stir-fried. It’s June, and we’re a bit past this stage of their growth by now, but if you do find any soft flexible cane shoots extending up off the older canes or out of the ground nearby, you can pull your hand along them until they snap off like asparagus. When you’re ready to eat them, peel off the skin and prepare them any way you enjoy asparagus. It’s certainly very different, but totally delicious. And each species (even each colour of salmonberry bush) has a different flavour!

Finally berries.

Salmonberries – first of the wild rubus to ripen, they grow unstoppably all over the place, here – especially in wet meadows and roadsides. Those with exclusively green shoots grow yellow/orange berries, and those with red shoots grow red berries which darken to nearly black as they ripen. Salmonberries taste a little brighter, and with less of a rich flavour than other Rubus berries, although the red ones are sweeter than the yellow. Salmonberries seem to develop the most juicy flavour when they’ve plumped up in wet weather and sunshine, but then they’re so watery that they don’t work well in pies. They’re also a little too seedy for baking, since they lose so much water in the process that you’re left with mostly seeds. Also watch out if you’re picking after a few days of rain showers; they tend to lose their flavour, or even get mouldy inside.

Blackberries – sweet, rich, earthy, and a little bit terrifying, if you’ve ever been caught among them. And also the best for baking, which is why you may have been caught there in the first place, heading towards the middle of the brutal thicket, trying to fill a five-gallon bucket for pies. They seem to retain a lot of their juice and flavour when baked or frozen. For fresh eating, I prefer the trailing blackberries, which are smaller and less abundant than the huge invasive species, but which taste sweeter and more precious. Like little diamonds compared to big quartz crystals. One thing to watch out for, these days, is the increasing population of D. suzukii larvae (that’s Drosophila, not David, though you might be forgiven for any confusion…). You may not notice the tiny fruit fly larvae as you pick the berries and shove handfuls into your mouth, but if you freeze them on a tray you might discover many little frozen white larvae protruding from between the drupelets of the fruits. It’s OK. Insect-eating is growing in popularity. Just eat them anyway! They’re the last of the Rubus to ripen in our area, and you’ll want to store them all up for winter.

Black Raspberries – these are far less common here, but if you find them they’re absolutely delectable. So try to! The plants look a little like raspberries, more fragile than Himalayan blackberries, and with smaller leaves and stems than salmonberries. The berries themselves are much darker in colour than cultivated raspberries, but have the same dull waxy coating, so can reflect almost purple in some light. The taste is fantastic, and you’ll likely not find enough to satisfy, so just eat them all fresh and quickly, before they’re gone.

Thimbleberries – ripe around this time of year, tall and green and leggy; home to gall wasps and bane of my garden, and I know people complain about their lack of juice and consequent seediness. They don’t even ripen all at once, forcing us to graze very very slowly… just a few every day. But to me they are worth it all for the flavour. They’re almost shockingly sweet, with both the earthiness of blackberries and the tartness of raspberries. I allow them to grow behind my bean trellis, poking their multi-coloured berries through at the sunshine. By the time the beans grow there, I have eaten them all anyway.

Happy summer, neighbours! I hope you enjoy the bounty of Rubus, this year.

Wild Food Spotlight: Maple Blossoms


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First published April 27, 2016 Wriiten by Emily van Lidth de Jeude

Last year for the Earth Day Bulletin issue I began a series called “Earth Day Every Day”, where I explored the island and talked about my discoveries. That year has come full circle, and it’s time for this series to evolve, too. I’d like to share some foraging delights with you! So, every couple of months for the next year, I’ll explore a seasonal wild food opportunity that we can easily find here on Bowen.

One of the most iconic and bountiful plants we have here is the bigleaf maple. As you walk through the springtime coniferous forest you can see a maple a long way off, as it’s brilliant leaves catch and hold the sunlight – chartreuse against the deeper greens of hemlock, cedar, fir and spruce. Even its bulky-looking trunk and often sprawling limbs seem to burst with vivid colour: In early- to mid-spring the moss that covers them is a vibrant rich green, punctuated only with the deep grey-brown and white of the bark, and sometimes with haphazard fields of licorice fern.

Look out to the ends of those sprawling branches, reaching umbrella-like over your head, and if you’re there at the right moment you’ll see it’s blossoms. Maples’ blooming times vary according to their geographic location, elevation, and situation in the forest. Although as I write this most of our local maples have finished blooming for the year, if you explore a bit you’re likely to find a few still going strong.

A maple blossom cluster is referred to as a raceme, due to the fact that many flowers hang off a central axis (or stem) at approximately equal lengths and distances. The flowers develop first at the point closest to the branch, and successively out to the end of the raceme. Therefore, if you pick a raceme at the height of its development and sample it at various points along the stem, you’ll notice that it has various different flavours. (Note: Maples are as delicious to insects as they are to humans! Before you eat it, check the blossom for flies, aphids, ants, etc. and knock them off.) Now start tasting. Any closed or barely-open flowers near the end will have a bitter, astringent taste, due to the oxalic acid which they and many other fresh wild greens contain. Further along, both the stem and the blossoms lose this sharp flavour, and have a much more pleasant, mild taste. The flowers that are in their prime even have a slight sweetness, and this is absolutely delicious in salads! Further up, and nearer the branch, the stem becomes progressively tougher, and the flowers less flavourful. Eventually, where the two pistils in the flowers have turned brown, the flowers will taste very bland, and by the time the whole flower begins shrinking, it’s more like dried leaves – not worth eating!

So now that you’ve familiarized yourself with all the different flavours of the maple blossom… what to do with it? Some people stir-fry them. I’ve heard of people battering and deep-frying them, too, but I prefer to taste them in all their glory: quiche, rice-wraps or salad!

For a quiche, simply prepare a good savoury butter crust, steam some maple blossoms until they’re wilted, and fill the crust with a mixture of the blossoms and some other sweet or mild vegetable such as fennel, mild celery, or spinach. Mix up some eggs, milk, and a bit of sea salt, and pour it over. Cheese is always an option, but I find it overpowers the maple blossoms in this case and prefer to leave it out. Bake and enjoy!

Wraps are as diverse as they are easy. Whether you use pitas, tortillas, nori or rice paper, fill it with some sweet rice, maple blossoms, and a dressing you love. It can be quick and dirty or absolutely elegant, depending on your desire and presentation.

My favourite for last: Salad! Take out the most delicious section of the racemes, and fill your salad bowl half-full of these – flowers, stem, and all. I break the stem into sections approximately one inch long. Now make up the rest of the salad with whatever mild greens you like. Butter lettuce works well, but so do many other seasonal wild plants such as salmonberry or dandelion petals, bitter-cress, or miner’s lettuce. If you grow kale year-round in your garden, it may blossom at the same time as local maples, and kale flowers are also a delicious and beautiful addition. I like to make a dressing of grape seed oil, maple syrup, and lemon juice, as well as sometimes a little salt or wholegrain mustard, depending on the ingredients in my salad. Experiment to year heart’s delight, and enjoy! I hope you love maple blossoms as much as I do.

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