Wild Foods & Medicines

Wild edible foods and healing herbs thrive all around us in yards, forests, fields, and back alleys. Many common “weeds” are nutritionally superior to store-bought foods. Learning about wild plants also helps us to attune to the seasons and connects us with the land. 

GRuB’s Wild Food and Medicine program offers educational resources, teacher trainings, and community classes to help people safely and sustainably harvest and prepare wild edible and medicinal plants. Our work includes:

Convening groups of experts to create innovative educational resources.

We partner with Native educators, Elders, cultural experts, and plant specialists in developing educational tools that are place-based, promote respect for the land, and increase understanding of tribal history, traditions, and food sovereignty. Honoring cultural property rights and protected knowledge is an important part of this work. We respect and honor Native communities’ right to keep sacred knowledge within their communities, and strive to share knowledge that is appropriate for a broader audience. Examples of partnerships include: 

  • Co-designing the Cultural Ecosystems Field Trip Guide, which is being utilized at the Muckleshoot Tribal School and in the Tend, Gather and Grow Curriculum.
  • Co-developing the Plant Teachings for Growing Social-Emotional Skills Toolkit with Northwest Indian Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center staff and a team of experts. 
A group of four people smiling for the camera at a table with leaves and pine cones on it as part of a workshop.
Wild Foods and Medicines Community Class

Hosting trainings, internships, and community classes

We offer seasonal teacher trainings to give educators hands-on support in adopting and adapting the resources to their teaching environment. The Tend team also facilitates year-long tribal community cohorts where 16–20 educators from Washington tribes gather monthly for full-day workshops. Our first two internships focused on serving Western Washington tribes and in 2022 we worked with tribes from the Plateau region. We also offer community workshops on plants at GRuB. Check our events page for upcoming opportunities. 

Providing technical assistance to schools, organizations, and others.

We are available to provide technical assistance to school districts or organizations that need support and/or customized workshops for their staff in adopting the Tend, Gather and Grow and Plant Teachings toolkits. We also support schools and organizations in enhancing outdoor landscapes to include ecosystem gardens.

A mother deer with two fauns walking past a cabinet towards the woods. Above the cabinet a sign reads Community Seeds.
Family of Deer on the Farm

Stewarding models of ecosystem gardens

As part of GRuB’s three-acre farm, we have preserved and enhanced a half-acre green belt including a demonstration food forest, a micro-camas prairie, and a wild berry garden. We also have medicinal herb gardens. Hundreds of students and community members visit our site annually and engage with the many species living there. Deer and rabbits frequent the trail and explorers may find long-toed newts and frogs in the seasonal stream. Many species of birds—from osprey to pileated woodpeckers to song birds—are often heard and seen. Pollinators including hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees visit native flowers in spring through early autumn. This living classroom is a place for people to connect with and learn from nature. 

Why We Do This Work

Children increasingly spend time indoors engaging with media as opposed to exploring wild spaces. The average American child spends less than 30 minutes outdoors daily, but interacts at least seven hours a day with screens. They can identify over 1,000 corporate advertising symbols, but less than ten local plants. Influenced by a fast-paced society, youth share the experience of frequenting supermarkets and convenience stores where they access high calorie processed foods and globally sourced produce. In addition to contributing to alarming rates of malnutrition, obesity, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses, a lack of connection to food production and the path it takes to reach our tables results in detachment from environmental and economic issues that drive food insecurities. 

Educating younger generations on the gifts of the land has always been a cornerstone of indigenous teachings to strengthen mind, body, and spirit. As Skokomish Elder Bruce Miller said, “The Forest was once our Walmart.” The Pacific Northwest is teeming with wild plants including berries, greens, roots and seeds that are nutritionally superior to store-bought foods. Wild plants also provide medicine and materials for traditional technologies. These common and accessible “weeds” are often found in our own backyards.                   

During GRuB’s 20 years in building just and sustainable food systems, the value of revitalizing wild edible and medicinal plant knowledge has emerged as a priority. Our educational toolkits including Tend, Gather and Grow and Plant Teachings for Growing Social Emotional Skills help people to access nutritious wild foods and medicines; create opportunities for students to experience hands-on, place-based, multimedia, and culturally relevant activities; promote the development of sensory observation, storytelling and documentation as a means for self-expression and social change; and build a sense of cultural pride among Northwest Native children and youth, and a greater understanding of indigenous people and connection to local landscapes among non-native students. We also hope to provide a positive programmatic model that is collaborative, driven by community need and student evaluation, and is carried out in collaboration with the beneficiary communities.

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