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Helen Chesnut: Salt Spring seed experts offer book on medicinal plants

Dan Jason has produced over a dozen books on organic gardening, seed saving, and heritage grains and seeds.

Dan Jason, owner-operator of Salt Spring Seeds, has produced over a dozen books on organic gardening, seed saving, and heritage grains and seeds.

Together with a food writer and a culinary arts expert, Dan authored The Power of Pulses: Saving the World with Peas, Beans, Chickpeas, Favas and Lentils, a colourful book celebrating the easy-growing nature of the plants and their key role in world-wide food security. Enticing recipes include the now popular Black Bean Brownies.

From my father’s large library of garden-related books I have a 1972 edition of Some Useful wild Plants, by Dan Jason and several other contributors. The book is an encyclopedia of commonly found, useful wild herbs of the Pacific Northwest. Included were miner’s lettuce and chickweed, my two favourite little plants for in-garden snacking on their refreshing greens.

In 2017, Harbour Publishing released Dan’s revised edition titled Some Useful Wild Plants: A Foraging Guide to Food and Medicine From Nature. From alder to yarrow, there are clear descriptions for accurate identification and guides on harvesting and using the plants.

Now, in a natural outflowing from these books and from Dan’s years of experience with helpful herbs and the seed business, his latest co-authored book has been released this month: Medicinal Perennials to Know and Grow, by Dan Jason and Rupert Adams with illustrations by Lyn Alice (Harbour Publishing, 120 pages, paperback $19.95).

Adams runs Kairos Botanicals, whose tinctures are available from Salt Spring Seeds. Also among Salt Spring’s listings is a hefty selection of Medicinal Herbs.

In an Afterword to the book, Dan comments: “During my years with Salt Spring Seeds, a company that sells simple, saveable, organically grown seeds, it has been heartwarming to see the veritable explosion in the number of people wanting to grow their own food. Considering the state of the world these days that hasn’t surprised me. What I didn’t anticipate is the fact that Salt Spring Seeds’ medicinal herb seeds have been outselling all our other seed categories!”

Medicinal Perennials reflects that interest as it presents a user-friendly visual treat to readers. For each entry there is a beautiful watercolour illustration together with a description of the plant and its flowers, its traditional and contemporary uses, and directions on growing it.

Many of the plant names will be familiar: Arnica, Echinacea, lavender, lemon balm, yarrow.

The name Codonopsis pilosula caught my attention, because I’d grown other Codonopsis species of these low, scrambling vines with lovely, bell-shaped flowers. The species listed is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine as a gentle tonic and adaptogen.

Though Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) is no longer used to make the candy-like campfire treats we all know, it continues to be used for soothing irritations and inflammation and as an antioxidant. The tall plant has heart-shaped leaves and beautiful soft pink and white flowers.

Among the 47 listings are plants that help to soothe or energize, improve digestion, aid sleep, or reduce inflammation. A knowledge of them can help to support a user’s well-being.


Peninsula meeting. The Peninsula Garden Club will meet on Monday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. in the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney. Jeff de Jong’s presentation “Plants That Earn Their Keep” will suggest plant choices featuring texture, varied shapes, and beauty even beyond the blooms to ensure a garden that shines throughout the year. The evening will include a parlour show, raffle, and Master Gardeners to answer questions. Guest drop-in fee $5.

VHS meeting. The Victoria Horticultural Society will meet on Tuesday, Oct. 3, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave. Eileen Bancroft will lead a workshop at 6:30 on how to band trees to protect them from winter moths. At the main meeting Kem Luther, a naturalist and writer, will speak about “Boss Mosses of the Pacific Northwest” with a focus on moss landscapes in southern Vancouver Island, their role in the ecosystem, and moss gardening. Non-member drop-in fee $5.

Gordon Head meeting. The Gordon Head Garden Club will meet on Wednesday, Oct. 4, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Gordon Head Lawn Bowling Club, 4105 Lambrick Way. Dr. Barbara Hawkins from UVic will speak about “It all starts with Soil.” Visitors are welcome at o charge to the meeting, which will include a parlour show and raffle.