CherriesBrush chokeberry.

Nlaka'pamux Use:

Zəlkʷu̓ʔ are eaten fresh, made into jelly, syrup or dried for winter use.  Gathering would start from August to October depending on elevation and weather.  The branches are used any time of the year for medicinal purposes.

Traditionally Zəlkʷu̓ʔ were ounded and the seeds were removed before being made into thin cakes to dry on racks or pounded into a flour like substance to store for later use.  The dried Zəlkʷu̓ʔ were pounded together with salmon heads, tails or salmon eggs and then soaked in water.  They were also boiled together with salmon or meat.  Pemmican was made using the dried Zəlkʷu̓ʔ and stashed away for winter use.

The green branches of the Zəlkʷu̓ʔ are speared into the meats to add a spicy taste to the meat while being cooked.  Dried Zəlkʷu̓ʔ is made into a pudding or used as a flavouring and/or thickening agen when added to soups and stews.

Zəlkʷu̓ʔ wood is used for handles like root diggers, and bark is used to decorate basket rims.  Dye can be made from the Zəlkʷu̓ʔ leaves, inner bark, and fruit.

(from Nlaka'pamux Traditional Food Field Guide, 2011)

Home Canning Safety (from

With the renewed popularity of seasonal, local eating, and the desire to be more environmentally friendly, many people are looking to home canning (also known as home bottling) to keep food for later use. While the food we eat in Canada is among the safest in the world, if home canned foods are not prepared or bottled properly they can cause botulism.

Before you start canning

Foods for canning are classified into two types: high-acid foods and low-acid foods. Each type needs to be prepared differently to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Before you start canning, you need to determine the acid level of the food.

  • High-acid foods (require a boiling water canner)
    High-acid foods have a pH (acidity level) of less than 4.6. A boiling water canner heats food to 100°C (212°F) at sea level. The natural acid in the food will prevent botulism bacteria from growing and the heating will kill most yeasts, moulds and bacteria that could be present.
  • Low-acid foods (require a pressure canner)
    Low-acid foods have a pH (acidity level) of more than 4.6. Tomatoes are a borderline high-acid food and need an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, to be added for safer canning. Mixtures of low and high acid foods, such as spaghetti sauce with meat, vegetables and tomatoes, are considered low-acid foods. The level of temperature needed to kill botulism bacteria for low-acid foods can only be reached by using a pressure canner.
High Acid Foods Low Acid Foods
Fruit Most fresh vegetables except tomatoes
Jams, jellies, marmalades Meat, and poultry
Fruit butters Seafood - fish and shellfish
Pickles and sauerkraut Soup and milk
Tomatoes with added lemon juice or vinegar Spaghetti sauce with meat, vegetables and tomatoes

Safety tips

Home canning requires special equipment like glass jars, metal lids, metal rings, boiling water canners and pressure canners. There are many steps involved in home canning. If you have never done any canning before, it may be a good idea to take a home canning course, or read current books and magazines. It is important to follow current, tested practices for home canning.


Cleaning your hands, kitchen surfaces and utensils, fruit and vegetables will help eliminate bacteria and reduce the risk of food related illness.

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wash your fresh fruits and vegetables gently under cool, running, drinkable water before preparing and eating them.
  • Use one cutting board for produce, and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood.
  • Use paper towels to wipe kitchen surfaces, or change dishcloths daily to avoid the risk of cross-contamination and the spread of bacteria and avoid using sponges, as they are harder to keep bacteria-free.
  • Sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils before and after preparing food. Use a kitchen sanitizer (following the directions on the container) or a bleach solution (5 ml household bleach to 750 ml of water), and rinse with water.
  • Clean during all stages of the canning process to avoid cross-contamination.


Cooking food at high temperatures usually kills bacteria contained in your food. Home canning or bottling requires special attention because the botulism bacteria can grow when there is no oxygen. Follow the safety tips below to protect your family.

  • Use a boiling water canner or a pressure canner according to the acidity of the food.
  • Add an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, to some foods to help lower the pH and increase the acidity of the food.
  • Never change the processing times or pressure levels. Substitutions can affect the time the canned or bottled food requires in the boiling water canner or pressure canner and can allow the botulism bacteria to remain in the finished canned or bottled product.
  • Check from time to time that cooking or heating temperatures are maintained.
  • Make sure the steam pressure is being maintained.
  • Remember your process for each batch.

Safe equipment and recipes

  • Only use proper jars for home canning or bottling.
  • Only use new self-sealing lids and make sure the sealing compound is not damaged.
  • Do not reuse old lids, even if they appear to be in good condition.
  • Use only current, tested home canning recipes.
  • Never substitute the jar size or the amounts of ingredients that are recommended in the recipe.
  • Fill the jar leaving the recommended space at the top.


  • Label and date all home canned foods before you store them.
  • Store them in a cool, dry place.
  • Once the container has been opened, refrigerate leftovers.
  • Once a container containing seafood has been opened, refrigerate it immediately and throw it out no more than 3-4 days after opening.
  • Use all canned or bottled foods within one year for best quality.

Did you know?

The bacterial spores that cause botulism are widespread in nature and commonly found in soil and dust. However, these spores rarely cause problems because they cannot grow if they are exposed to oxygen.


Hunting season:

Mooseprep1 Photo by Marshal Kraus courtesy of Arnie Narcisse

Moose hunting provides valuable nutrition for the months to come.  Moose meat provides 25% or more of the daily need for Protein and Niacin.  It is a good source of Iron and Riboflavin, and is fair source of Vitamin C.  Plus it is delicious and lean!

Did you know that there are three parts of the digestive system of a moose which have traditionally been eaten. One of the four stomachs, the one which has a pattern that looks like a beehive, is called grandmother’s tooth marks. A second part is the tripe, the small intestine – the part which, when split open, looks like rough pages in a book. This is commonly called the Bible. The third part is the large intestine, the last few feet of the intestine. This is referred to
as the bum gut.  (from Traditional Food Fact Sheet, First Nations Health Council)


Summertime is a prime gathering time for berries. Eaten fresh or preserved for consumption for later in the year, each family has its favourite (and secret!) harvest spots. Do you have a favourite recipe to share? We’ll post it here!

BlueberriesOval-leaf Blueberry:  Xwixwek’

Xwixwek’ were traditionally preserved by being boiled, mashed and scattered thinly on a mat, then dried over a fire on racks.  These thin cakes were used later in various treats.

Nowadays, the berries are eaten fresh, frozen or jammed with huckleberries.

Black Mountain Huckleberry:  c’əlc̓áleHuckleberry

C’əlc̓ále were traditionally dried in the sun for winter use, or if the weather was bad, dried over a small fire.  Today they are eaten fresh, whole or mashed with sugar.  They preserved either by freezing, canning or jamming.

Cascade Huckleberry: ʔímixʷ

ʔímixʷ is primarily eaten fresh as it is time-consuming to harvest and found in remote mountainous locales.  Nlaka’pamux cherished the berries for their flavor, even though the berries are often sour or tart.

ChokecherryChokecherry: zəlkʷúʔ

Zəlkʷúʔ are eaten fresh, made into jelly, syrup or dried for winter use. The branches are used any time of the year for medicinal use.

Traditionally, zəlkʷúʔ were pounded and the seeds removed before being made into thin cakes to dry on racks or pounded into a flour-like substance for later use. The dried zəlkʷúʔ were pounded together with salmon heads, tails or salmon eggs and then soaked in water.  They were also boiled together with salmon or meat.  Pemmican was made using the dried zəlkʷúʔ and stashed away for winter use.

When chokecherry is ripe, it is an indicator that huckleberries are ready.