Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center

Native Plant Newsletter: Eat your natives!

May 12 699

The whole Oxbow team was thrilled with our native and edible plant sale two weekends ago. We learned a lot of valuable lessons in our sale’s inaugural year, one of which was that plants that are both native AND edible are hugely popular.

Luckily for us and for our customers, there are plenty of uniquely tasty native plants. In her most recent newsletter, Oxbow’s native plant expert Bridget McNassar offers some information about the edible varieties of native plants existing in western Washington:

Being well-adapted to our climate and soils in the NW, most natives need little care beyond some extra water in their first year or two to get established. Additionally, many are fairly disease-resistant in comparison to the cultivated fruit and veggie plants we grow, which make them very welcome additions to the garden. Additionally, as plants that have not been cultivated or altered by breeding programs, natives typically have a wide variety of phytonutrients that naturally exist that you might not find in their more engineered cousins. Plus many of them are quite delicious and have complex, unique flavors that can contibute to all kinds of culinary creations!

Convinced?  OK!  Here is an extremely brief list to get you started cultivating natives in your garden: Wild strawberries (Fragaria vesca, F. virginiana, F. chiloensis) behave much like the cultivated varieties, and have smaller, but very sweet fruit. Nodding onion (Allium cernuum) can be used like chives, have edible flowers, and bulbs much like spring onions. Miner’s lettuce (Claytonia sibirica, C. perfoliata) is a lovely edible annual shade-loving green which easily re-seeds itself. Salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis, ripening sooooon!) are a native raspberry-like shrub, and are closely related to thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus), which produce delicate ruby red berries in early summer. Just beginning to bloom right now, wild roses (Rosa nutkana, R. pisocarpa, R. gymnocarpa) have fragrant, edible petals, and later form hips, chock full of vitamin C, that can be used to make tea. Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) is a native shrub with delicious purple fruits that can be eaten raw, cooked or dried for later. Salal (Gaultheria shallon) berries are sweet though a little dry, but good in jams. Beautiful purple Oregon grape (Mahonia nervosa) fruits are a bit sour, so might need to be sweetened or mixed with other berries.

This list is by no means comprehensive, there are many more tasty natives that can be added to your garden. Make it a goal to add some edible natives to your garden to munch on this season!

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