Wetlands are an important part of our environment. They are home to wildlife and there are also native foods that grow there. Home gardeners may have areas of very wet soil where they can grow these foods. You can even create your own boggy growing conditions. Foods that need to grow in water can also be grown hydroponically.
Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is a North American native berry. Cranberries are grown in bogs and very wet soils. The reason cranberries are submerged in water is to make the fruit easier to harvest. Hand picking cranberries is too labor-intensive for commercial growers. In the home garden they can be picked off of the bush just like a blueberry. This is a low-growing evergreen shrub that can be grown as a ground-cover in very moist soils. Cranberries can be kept wet by installing a drip system or creating a sunken bed that is flooded periodically. Once a cranberry bed is established, it can produce fruit for many years. The fruit is harvested in the fall. These are healthful berries high in vitamin C and bioflavonoids. The natural antibiotic in cranberries is good for the urinary tract.
Chinese water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) can be grown in the home garden. it is an aquatic plant, so it will need to grow in a marshy area or a created wetland situation. They can even be grown under water in large containers. In some regions, you will need to start them indoors early, because they need a long growing season. They are easy to grow in warm climates like California or Florida. Water chestnut is a grass or sedge but it is the corm that is harvested and eaten. The edible water chestnut is native to China. There is another plant (Trapa natans) also called water chestnut. Do not plant his one, it is very invasive and damaging to native wetlands.
To gardeners camas (Camassia quamash) may not be thought of as a food. The bulb of camas was one of the Native Americans major food staples. They roasted the bulbs and ground them up to make pemmican. Camas must be cooked all day to become digestible. It turns into a sweet starchy potato like food. In days past it was dried and ground up for use as a sugar substitute. As a garden flower, the blue spire of camas is a welcome sight in early spring. It will grow in very wet soil and camas is often found growing submerged in wetlands and drainage ditches. Camas is native to the Western states and is a common roadside flower. Start by planting a row of bulbs in a wet area of the garden. Wait until they begin multiplying to harvest them. Harvest part of the bulbs each season so the bed can continue to proliferate.
To cultivate wild rice (Zizania aquatica) you will need a pond or deep body of water. This is not a true rice but an aquatic grass seed. It will only grow in cold regions, completely submerged in water. There are no shortcuts when it comes to growing or harvesting wild rice. It is a native plant found in the Northern states and Canada. To obtain wild rice in its native habitat, you will need a license and must follow very specific rules. This nutty-tasting black seed is high in protein and, due to its precise needs, is destined to remain a gourmet food.
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