Foraging berries and daylilies with Sylvain Cormier
by Allison Cooke
This summer, when you are looking for something different to sweeten up your dinner table, look no further than your own backyard. Both service berries and day lilies are edible sweets growing in the wild, as well as on yards all over PEI.
Service berries (or Saskatoon berries) are those bright red and purple berries that in the past, we may have been a little afraid to eat. But, they are indeed edible, delicious, sweet, and high in iron and copper! They grow on shrubs or small trees, and sometimes can be found higher up because PEI has no bear population to pull the branches down, which would keep the trees low. Service berry trees are ornamental as well, with beautiful blossoms in spring and fiery colors in autumn. It is in the summer that we want to harvest the delicious berries from the tree, but they are only available for a short time—so pick them before the birds get to them. If you already have one of these trees on your property, you could consider a plastic netting to keep the birds away from your berries if you decide to start harvesting them.
You will find service berries almost anywhere. They grow best in moist soils and full sun, but can survive happily in shaded areas as well. Once you harvest them you will have a delicious berry that you can eat raw (they are a little seedy), or make a variety of things, like homemade jams since they have their own naturally occurring pectin. It is always delicious to process the berries to make juices and sweet toppings for desserts.
Another wild edible that most are not aware is safe to eat is the daylily. You can see this growing all over PEI during the summer months when the buds and blossoms appear, which is the best part of the whole plant. These flowers are delicious either raw or cooked. The most common ones on PEI are the orange and yellow lilies, which is perfect because they are also known to be the most delicious.
Daylilies are easy to harvest, and you can find them almost anywhere. They grow in any kind of soil or sun and will do just as well in your own yard as they will in the wild. You can use the raw petals as a sweet crispy treat in salads, and to sweeten up a vegetable dish, but you can also boil and fry the closed buds. Either way, this edible flower is a unique sweet treat to share.
Service berries and daylilies grow wild, but are also very common in yards and gardens throughout PEI, so if you think there may be a landowner, be sure to ask permission before you harvest. Also, when you are trying any new food, especially plants, be sure to clean them well and be aware some common allergic reactions could occur. Try tasting a small amount to begin with. If it tastes foul, spit it out. Both of these edibles are self-sustaining, there will be no shortage after you harvest them. So get out there this month and enjoy some new wild edibles that are sure to sweeten up your table.
Sylvain Cormier is a local forager, and the owner of Everything Wild, a business that promotes unique and wild edibles on Prince Edward Island. It is his top priority to encourage eating locally, and appreciating the food we have growing in our backyards.
Please remember, there are risks, possibly serious, to eating anything that you are not one hundred per cent sure is safe to eat. When in doubt, don’t. Or contact Sylvain.