Native Edibles session from West End Food Festival

Three rose hips have as much Vitamin C as an orange, says Lori Snyder.  It’s one example of the powerful nutritional and health characteristics of some plants growing wild around us.  Expert facilitator for the ‘Native Edibles Workshop and Walk’ at the West End Food Festival on Sept 19th, Lori gave participants fascinating examples of plants that are edible or otherwise beneficial to human well-being.  These included Asian dogwood, red cedar, dandelion, blackberry leaves, plantain, gingko and additional species.   Some can be eaten, while others are best as teas.  Some are the basis of tinctures for skin sores, and others can be used in hot water as soothing foot baths.

native edibles rose hips

The session gave participants a glimpse into the world of naturally-occurring foods and medicines that are often dismissed as ‘weeds.’  Lori recently found an anti-depressant medication jutting out of the rocks at False Creek.  But it was not from a pharmacy; it was the plant called St. John’s Wort, which has long been known in native communities and by some scientists to possess anti-depressant properties.  

Lori also shared some of her philosophy of gathering.  When looking for ‘Usnea’ lichen, eg. ‘Old Man’s Beard,’ she waits until after a windstorm when some lichen will have blown off the trees. Then she can collect them from the ground without harming the plant. 

native edibles Lori Snyder

In one way or another we all have our hands in the earth, she said.  Yet many of us are afraid of nature – and are definitely nervous about ‘dirt.’  Lori recalled a recent day at a school garden, where she works teaching young people to grow food.   She pulled up a fresh orange carrot, with a little organic soil still clinging, and asked kids if they wanted a bite.  They recoiled in horror, so Lori ate it herself with a smile. Soil is not necessarily dirty, she says.  Besides, “we are nature.”

If you’d like to attend one of Lori’s workshops, she’ll be presenting at the upcoming fall Sustenance Festival, details of which will be online at, or on the site for Village Vancouver.

By Eleanor Boyle
GNH Community Journalist/Blogger