Yes, You Can Eat Them, Red Deer, AB, Canada, Fall 2011

In the small community of Red Deer I explored possibilities of using wild growing plants for food. I was surprised how many plants and their blossoms, fruits and roots are edible, not only wild-growing ones but also those planted in city parks for ornamental reasons, especially in fall when berries and fruits ripen. I learnt about traditional food preservation processes, such as jarring and drying. I documented all my processes on video – from fruit collection to their final food product. The result of this project was shown in the college’s gallery space on five media stations, each of them including two screens with videos, samples of preserved foods and a computer with short texts about each food item, and opportunity for audience feedback. In exchange for sharing experiences with wild growing foods, visitors were offered to take samples of the foods I had preserved.

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Audience Feedback

There was a crab apple tree right by the school I went to growing up. Every morning during the early days of September I would walk by this tree on my way to school. I would crab a few grab apples off the tree and eat them for my morning breakfast. This tradition continued throughout my years in my town and whenever I would walk past that tree in the spring or summer I would grab a few apples to eat on my way.

I used to pick saskatoons and wild rubarb with my grand mother, she would make jam out of the saskatoons we gathered, (best jam I ever had) and a desert called rubarb crisp. Though I haven’t done this in a long time. Kinda regret not doing it more.

I cannot help but be reminded of my grandparents when I see your home made crab apple sauce- my Nana made crab apple jelly herself! I remember sneaking into their basement where she would store mounds and mounds of those goodies, my brother and I would always manage to sneak a few jar fulls home. Thank you for the pleasant reminder.

I never thought about using crab apples as apple sauce. I have eaten many in my life though. It seemed like that at every house I ever lived at that there was a crab apple tree in the back yard, both in Alberta and BC. I find it very odd. Anyhow, we often ate crab apples at my house as a joyous snack.

It’s truly is fascinating to see what can come out from our very own backyards! This reminds me of walks where I would encounter the classic Saskatoon berry bush, and snack on those on my way through. The preserves come to represent memories, in my opinion, and that is my way of looking at it.

I have learned to make home preserves later in my life and have experimented with many kinds of berries and apples.  My family enjoys these home preserves very much.  I find this art installation very interesting and unusual.  Sometimes it is the simple and everyday activities that are the most interesting.  Unfortunately, the art of home preservation is being lost to more convenient foods. Thank you for this wonderful trip back in time.

Every summer my friends and I go for what we call “Hobo Picnics” where we take a long walk and gather fruit from the bushes growing in the back alleys. The rhubarb, raspberries, apples and Saskatoon berries that most people let rot on the trees make a delightful meal. The act of picking the fruit and eating it in the same moment was a visceral pleasure, like the earth and sun was our sustenance, not the food itself. This exhibit brought back that warmth and sun to an otherwise dreary fall. Being privy to this artwork also stirs other memories. The sounds of preparing food brings about a nostalgic glow, bringing my thoughts back to making food with my mother, and grandmother. What a full experience this has been!

I enjoyed being treated to rosehip tea in this exhibit.  The flavor is delicately sweet and intriguing.  I have many roses in my gardens west of Sylvan Lake known as BruceHeart Gardens and many of them produce very large rose hips.  Because of this exhibit, I would like to explore making some tea of my own.  I often will take a snack of the larger rose hips while wandering the gardens and eat them like a tiny apple.  I know they are sweet and a bit starchy from my experience.

Apparently, a big part of my grandmother’s vitamin C intake in the long Saskatchewan winters came from eating rosehips. I have never tried it myself…yet.

I have eaten fresh rosehips from my garden, made rose petal jam, and used the dried rosehips for tea. We have a llama that is normally out in the pasture. One day it somehow got into the driveway, along which we have rows of wild roses. The llama pretty much cleaned the rose bushes of their rosehips.

I’ve always seen rose hips around the forest outside my house and wondered what they are and what they would taste like. I’ve made jams, sauces and tart filling with my Mom before out of raspberries we would go and pick so I am very interested and intrigued to see what rose hips will taste like. It’s also really awesome to see the final product of what I have seen you (Sonja) working on over the period of time that you have been in your residency with RDC. I remember watching you take the seeds out of the rose hips in the ceramics studio wondering what products would come out of your project. Thanks for the chance to try this rose hip jam, I look forward to it!

I grew up in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia where we would pick Huckleberries in the mid to late summer. They are similar to wild blueberries, which we would find while a searching for the ‘Hucks’, but we would pass them over as the huckleberries had such a superior taste. We dismissed the blueberries as not being worth the effort to pick! So at an early age I became a Huckleberry snob and would leave the blueberries for the black bears.

Way back when I was growing up (I’m guessing around age 8-10) I used to tag along with some family members when they used to make trips up to the Canoe Lake area (far north in Saskatchewan). I remember during the summers that me and a few family members would take a few days off to gather and pick wild blue berries. I remember the sights, the sounds, and most of all…the bugs!
The multiple mosquito bites were totally worth the amount of wild blueberries and Saskatoon berries that we had harvested (usually more than enough to fill 3 or 4  10 gallon containers. In short…Yum!!!
Ahh the memories!

When I was a little girl my grandmother would make us tea from dried rosehips whenever we were sick. I never knew why and I was never overly fond of the experience but considering how much vitamin C is contained in one berry I understand her logic now. I guess grandma does always know best.

When I was young about 13 and 14, in early fall my neighbor would always make jam from wild berries on an open fire in his yard. I would sneak out of doing my chores so I could help him pick, clean, strain and boil them. Your presentation was very nostalgic for me. I found myself remembering all the smells, sounds and even flavours! I loved it thank you so much!

When I was a little girl I would love to pretend that rose hips held an intense magical power.  I knew of their poison and their colour seemed dangerous as well.  I would harvest them and write magical potions calling for them as ingredients.   I feel as though you have nearly brought this to fruition as you collect and wash and mix them and then seal them in their jars. 

Throughout my entire life growing up on the Sunchild Reserve, me and my family picked wild blueberries and wild strawberries… It would take hours to fill up a small bucket! Later we would mix it in with dried meat (totally dehydrated over a fire by the smoke as well as heat). It is really good! I enjoyed watching your labour throughout your project. Thanks.x

When I was young, my dad taught me all about different edible plants and berries that grew wild around our farm. I used to get in trouble at summer camp for eating the berries I found, because everyone thought these berries were poisonous. 

In our area wild strawberries grow, producing fruit the size of peas or smaller.  I have often taken the time to sit and eat them, searching carefully through the grasses to find the tiny plants.  They are an especially sweet nibble.  We never had enough to collect them for jam.  To cook them would not be right, as they are so good first hand.

We also have wild raspberries that are wonderful to snack on.  The berries are not full or large, but there is something special about picking a naturally occurring berry even if it is not as large as the domesticated plants.

I have often harvested the small crab apples in our yard.  I like to make applesauce from them as they are redder than other apples and the sauce is very pink and flavorful.  Cutting the stem off of each small apple is very tedious, so some years I don’t bother to collect them.

My mom harvests the crab apples in our backyard every fall to make jelly and juice. She will make apple cinnamon jelly and apple mint jelly. Most of the apples on the tree end up being bird and squirrel food. We enjoy watching the animals pick their fair share of fruit from the tree.

It is amazing how much work goes into something like this it reminds me of a time I went with my mother-in-law to pick saskatoons and I would not stop picking.  I ended up with Three 5 gallon pails and hours and hours of work to clean and store them.  It was worth the effort.