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Book tour of Vancouver and Gulf Islands

We just got back from a book tour of Vancouver and the Gulf Islands and I wanted to share with you what we learnt and discovered along the way.

We left home on the 24th of May. I was kind of giddy and quite nervous. This was going to be my first book tour ever and I wasn't sure what to expect. Anything can happen while you're on the road!

road trip... feeling crammed yet?

Our first stop was on Granville Island, Vancouver at the bookstore Upstart and Crow for a joint workshop about foraging with Forest for Dinner.

Upstart and Crow is a non-profit literary arts studio that champions writers, readers and stories. They support writers by having a writer-in-residency program. The bookstore is on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓ əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

The event was a collaboration between Upstart and Crow, Forest for Dinner and myself. Ben and Cèlia shared the story about their foraging company and invited people to try delicous treats from the forest. Our conversation turned to how to forage sustainably and I was delighted to hear of the steps that Ben and Cèlia take to ensure that their harvest has minimal impact on the land. They are working to create better awareness of what sustainable foraging looks like and they welcome studies and collaborations both with government and First Nations communities.They shared some of their jams and pickles with us. One of our current favourites is their salal berry jam.

Upstart and Crow bookstore event

salal flowers

Salal (Gaultheria shallon) is a bush in the heather family [Ericaceae]. It doesn't grow in the interior BC but it is abundant on the coast. The berries are dark purple and have a unique flavour. They make a great jelly. I love the berries and so does the bear. The foliage is munched on by deer and elk. The foliage is often used in floral bouquets.

Links to Upstart and Crow and Forest for Dinner:

large Douglas fir at Wildwood Ecoforest

Our next stop was the Wildwood Ecoforest in Ladysmith on Vancouver Island. The forest covers 83 acres and contains beautiful old-growth forest. It sits on the traditional territories of the Stz’uminus and Snuneymuxw Coast Salish First Nations.The ecoforest aims to show that selective tree harvesting can keep forests intact and increase biodiversity. I was aghast hearing that only 0.3% of the original old-growth forests remain on Vancouver Island. Wildwood Ecoforest is cared for by the non-profit EIS (Ecoforestry Institute Society).

finally meeting my hero Dr. Nancy Turner

I was elated to do a workshop on foraging in this beautiful forest together with renowned ethnobotanist and author Dr. Nancy Turner. Nancy Turner has been my role model and hero for decades and I was blown away with a chance to finally meet her. Having a chance to learn about plants from her and going for a walk together through the majestic forest at Wildwood really was a dream come true. EIS is trying to raise money to buy back some of the original properties that was once part of this majestic forest in order to save more of the old-growth forest ecosystem in perpetuity on behalf of the people of British Columbia. I am donating $300 to this fabulous forest to keep it safe and to remain a place of learning and inspiration. To find out more about Wildwood and how to help visit:

In the woods we became acquainted with the beautiful vanilla leaf plant (Achlys triphylla). We grabbed a leaf to dry in the car (to get rid of the stench of dirty socks- being on the road and camping for days). It had a pleasant vanilla smell when it dried but I think we might have needed more than one leaf...

drawing of vanilla leaf plant

We took a ferry across to Gabriola Island, which sits on the traditional unceded territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation. I was very thrilled to meet the staff and owners of New Society Publisher. I have had the great fortune to be published by New Society Publisher and I just love this company. Their purpose for being is to create positive change in the world through books. I have found every employee in this company to follow that purpose in all their interactions. Over the years I have read many of their titles and the books have left me feeling hopeful and driven to take positive action in this world. I applaud the work that New Society does, and I invite you to take a peek at their impressive list of books. I know you will find at least one book you will love (probably more:)

teas and treats event on Gabriola Island

We also had a chance to meet with owner and operator of the beautiful Folklike Magazine. Alina Cerminara organized a book launch (foraged tea and treats) on Gabriola Island and I had so much fun meeting the vibrant community and sharing wild treats and foraging ideas.

visiting the Malaspina galleries on Gabriola Island

plant ID hike in Courtenay

Off we went to Courtenay for a book signing at the Laughing Oyster Bookshop, a visit to the Blue Heron books in Comox and a leisurely plant ID hike by the river accompanied with music by Treebirds. We marvelled at the beauty of the unceded traditional territory of the K'ómoks First Nation. We had a great time visiting with some dear friends. I always find it fascinating how deeply connected you can remain with people despite only seeing eachother every few years. It is a lovely feeling to be able to step back into someone's life after being away for many years and feel like the friendship is unchanged and as strong as ever. The threads of love and connected-ness runs through our universe like mushroom mycelium, touching everything in our lives.

hanging out with Philippa Joly

Next stop Denman Island, on the traditional unceded territory of the Pentlach people, including the K'omoks, Sliammon and Qualicum First Nations. We were warmly invited to the island by author Philippa Joly. She has written a fabulous book called "A Kid's Guide to Plants of the Pacific Northwest". Philippa and I shared a booth at the Denman Farmers' Market and did a playful event together with local families. I had such a great time playing and sharing our joy for plants. Philippa teaches outdoor education for kids, herbal information for adults and teenagers, runs a herbalist store and gives herbal consultations as well as works as a paramedic when she is not writing or illustrating books. Find out more about her here:

visiting one of Mike's boulevard garden projects in Victoria

We drove south to Victoria and onto the unceded territory and ancestral lands of the Lkwungen (Songhees, Esquimalt), WSANEC, Tsartlip, Tseycum, Pauquachin, Scia'new, Tsawout and T'Sou-ke Nations.

In Victoria we had a "Wonderful Weeds Workshop" at the Spring Ridge Commons together with Mike Large. Mike is one of the instrumental people behind Street Greens, an organization who advocates for boulevard gardening in Victoria. Not only is he an avid gardener, he is also an environmental lawyer, writer and philosopher. It was a joy to connect and get to know Mike during our time planning this event.

To find out more about Mike visit:

hanging out at Metchosin Farm with Fiona

Our final stop was Metchosin Farm to visit Fiona Hamersley-Chambers. Peter and I did a summer WWOFing there in our youth and we wanted to introduce Fiona to our children and reconnect after all these years. I was eager to give her a copy of my book given that she has been one of my role models and teachers. Fiona is one of the authors of "Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada" and has been teaching ethnobotany and environmental science at UVIC for many years. She is also running a successful seed-saving farm in Methchosin, as well as collaborating with Les Stroud (Canadian survival expert) on the popular TV program "Wild Harvest".

To connect with Fiona visit:

While we were at Metchosin Farm we had a chance to partake in seed saving of miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata). Miner's lettuce is one of my favourite spring greens. It is so lusciously crunchy and fresh-tasting.

If you have never tried eating it I bet you will be pleasantly surprised when you try it.

The seeds are small, black and shiny. To avoid losing any we hung the miner's lettuce plant above a cloth to dry (to catch all the seeds as they fall out). Once the seeds have dried, the labour intensive work of winnowing the chaff starts. It is very important when saving miner's lettuce seeds to avoid getting any soil in the mixture as this is very hard to remove during the winnowing.

I plant my miner's lettuce in late fall or early spring, or let it grow rampant and spread its seeds on its own in my garden. It is popular with small birds and quail.

miner's lettuce

Thank you everyone who made our book tour so special and fun.


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