Discover edible plants of Nova Scotia using new smartphone app

Nova Scotians interested in foraging food from nature will now have a guide to what's edible, including recipes and cautions, thanks to a new smartphone app.

Search database for plants such as skunk currant, goose tongue, and hog peanut

Gordon Isnor says he was inspired by his five-year-old son, Emmett, to design the app, because they spend a lot of time in nature. (Erica Butler)

Nova Scotians interested in foraging food from nature will now have a guide, thanks to a new smartphone app.

The app, called Useful Nova Scotia Plants, was developed by software engineer Gordon Isnor and Marian Munro, botany curator at the Nova Scotia Museum.

The free app features an alphabetical listing of plants using their English names, full screen photos, and details such as which part of the plant is edible, possible recipes, and cautions.

The free app features an alphabetical listing of Nova Scotia plants, photos, and details such as which part of the plant is edible, possible recipes, and cautions. (Gordon Isnor)

Users can search by name or browse the directory using the photos. 

"It's very image-rich, which means you can surf those pictures to your heart's content to find something that looks like what you've found" in nature, Munro said.

Accessible in the 'middle of nowhere'

The app is designed so that it can be used in places where there is no cell coverage. "So you can be out in the middle of nowhere and still use it," Isnor said.

You don't need to use mobile data to access the information and images once the app is downloaded, he said. 

Better than blueberries

It wouldn't be possible to sustain yourself on wild plants alone in Nova Scotia, Munro said, but there are lots of edible plants to discover.

Huckleberries are "delicious," she said, and "to me, they make far better pies than blueberries."

Botanist Marian Munro says it wouldn't be possible to sustain yourself on wild plants alone in Nova Scotia, but there are lots of edible plants to discover. (Nova Scotia Museum)

Munro also recommends a snack of beach peas, juniper berries with roast lamb, bunch berry sauce for ice cream, and sweet fern or raspberry leaf tea.

The app also has entries for lesser-known plants such as skunk currant, goose tongue, and hog peanut.

Isnor used the app to find rose hips to turn into a fermented tea called kombucha. (Gordon Isnor)

You can even make tea out of the young shoots of an invasive plant like Japanese knotweed, which reportedly helps target bad cholesterol, she said.

Inspired by 5-year-old boy

Isnor said he was inspired by his five-year-old son to design the app. They spend a lot of time in nature and "we're always curious," he said. "We see all these plants and think: Are they edible?"

They have been using the new app on recent walks, Isnor said, and they've sampled some plants, including turning rose hips into a fermented tea called kombucha.

Munro said there are no mushrooms listed on the app, because she's not an expert and they can be dangerous. But she she said she hopes to make an app for poisonous plants before she retires in the spring.

The app is designed so that it can be used in places where there is no cell coverage. (Erica Butler)

With files from CBC's Information Morning