Shop local? Eat Organic? Why not take it to the next level and try picking your own local wild organic food – with no cost but your time!?
In BC, Indigenous Peoples have been living off the land for more than 10,000 years and thanks to their rich history, we have a wealth of knowledge on edible wild plants in our province. These plants are literally growing right in our backyards and forests!
So take advantage of the nice summer weather, explore British Columbia, and have some fun with your family and friends by foraging for a meal!
Below we’ve broken down the benefits of foraging and why its becoming trendy, how to get started with foraging, our top five wild edible plants to try, and finally, our suggestions for the best foraging inspired restaurants to try out in Vancouver, Tofino, and Galiano Island.
What are the Benefits of Foraging? Why is it a Trending Culinary Art Form?
There is a growing trend of people exploring the world of foraging. It not only gets you outside and back into nature, but there are also a lot of nutritional benefits to boot – let’s state the obvious, it’s as organic as can be!
But why is it ending up on menus in top restaurants around BC?
A few factors are in play here:
- People have become more conscious of what they put in their bodies and they are looking for healthier alternatives.
- Sustainability and environmental impact is a hot topic and many people want to do their part to buy local… so naturally, foraging achieves that goal
- Thanks to shows like Hell’s Kitchen and Top Chef Canada, the culinary industry has exploded in popularity, turning novice cooks into inspired chefs
- At a basic level, the challenge of combining the unique and rich flavours that come from wild plants is any chef’s dream
Useful Beginner Resources
So there’s no need to be intimidated. All you need are some good resources to identify edible plants. Visit your local library, books like The Deerholme Foraging Book and Luschiim’s Plants: Traditional Indigenous Foods, Materials and Medicines are a good start for beginners.
Or if you are really serious about taking this on as a hobby, there are local foraging clubs or tours available to help you grow your passion for wild sustainable food sources. Just always make sure when you pick something that it is safe before eating it.
Get Out and Start Foraging
Foraging has piqued the interest of chefs looking to create exquisite dishes for their restaurants. Our team had the pleasure of attending a webinar session with renowned chef Robin Kort of Swallow Tail.
She has a knack and palate for combining flavours from locally foraged wild foods including bracken fiddleheads, wild seaweeds, and morels. Her foraging experience and passion had our team buzzing with excitement. We wanted to race out into the forest to start the treasure hunt for wild foods!
It is best to forage during the daylight hours. To be safe, avoid doing it at dusk or dawn. Here is a seasonal breakdown of the best plants to forage:
- Stinging nettle
- Salmonberries and huckleberries
- Wild Chamomile
- Rose Hips
- Stinging nettle seeds
- Salal and Saskatoon berries
- Sword fern roots
- Sweet chestnuts
Here’s what you need to get started:
- Proper clothing for the season (hat and cool clothing for summer or raingear for fall)
- Map of the trail (remember, it is illegal to forage in city, provincial, and national parks, or protected areas). Refer to local government sites for accurate foraging maps.
- Know which wildlife in the area to be cautious of (bears, cougars, etc). Understand how to handle an encounter with wildlife.
- Safety supplies (first aid kit, bear spray, whistle, compass, food, water, extra clothing, sunscreen)
- If foraging alone, be sure to tell a friend which trail you are hiking and what time you will be back
- List of plants you will be foraging and plant ID resources
- Small knife and trowel to dig up plants
- Containers or bags to carry your finds
Nutritional Benefits of Local Wild Plants
Here are our top five wild plants for foraging beginners:
Bracken Fiddleheads are the young immature fronds of a fern plant which are abundant around us. They taste much like asparagus and green beans and are full of antioxidants and potassium.
Maple Blossoms are flowers that appear in early spring on Maple trees. They taste similar to sugar peas and are high in vitamin C and can reduce inflammation.
Red Huckleberries grow on a delicately formed deciduous shrub and are slightly sour if eaten fresh. Their tart flavour is perfect for baked goods and preserves. They are packed with vitamins A, B, and C.
Thimbleberries resemble raspberries but are more tart and seedy. They can be eaten fresh or dehydrated. Bonus fact, the leaves of the shrub can be brewed into a tea to treat nausea.
Stinging Nettle has flavours similar to spinach but must always be cooked to remove the fine hairs on the leaf which can cause irritation. it is commonly used to treat urinary infections.
Our Recommended Foraging Restaurants to Try:
Visit one of these restaurants to discover what all the hype is about!
- Forage “connects diners to local fishers, foragers and farmers. Our menu is – first and foremost – delicious, but also reflective of our uncompromising commitment to local ingredients and building community through shared plates.”
- Wild Origins “This culinary adventure encompasses foraging and gathering wild food in areas near Tofino and Ucluelet, then enjoying a meal created with the bounty from the day.”
- Pilgrimme “Paying homage to our region and the seasons of the West Coast, our two restaurants, Pilgrimme and Charmer, offer visitors an opportunity to enjoy locally-sourced and foraged foods in two different contexts.”