Foraged foods, sometimes known as “weeds,” are showing up on the tables of the coolest restaurants in the world. The New York Times says that when you see ramps (Allium tricoccum, better known as wild leeks) featured in the finest gourmet magazines, you know that something is up.
In Lynn Headwaters Park, Robin Kort of Swallow Tail Tours leads tours for curious foodies through the underbrush pointing out various scrumptious edibles invisible to the untrained eye. Kort, a naturalist and former chef herself, leads walks for gourmet foragers. Since Lynn Headwaters is a park, Kort doesn’t pick anything on her weekly tours, but she points out such delicacies as salmonberries, thimbleberries, wild sorrel, miners lettuce, sweet cicely, Indian rhubarb, and ferns. Lots of ferns.
Nearly all types of ferns are edible. So are most mushrooms. There are thousands of types of mushrooms you can eat. The rule with mushrooms is simple. When in doubt, throw it out. Dandelion greens are (as any gardener will tell you) very plentiful everywhere. Oregon-grape are purple-blue berries that grow in bunches on evergreen bushes. Stinging nettles are good for soup greens. Wild watercress and freshly sprouted clover greens and wild flowers are great for salads.
Plantains can be found growing right on your front or back suburban lawns. Those aren’t weeds, they’re lunch! Currents are everywhere on bushes in BC. Elderflowers make a wonderful syrup. Wild asparagus is very tasty. The tips of fir branches are great for making tea, as are rose hips. Oyster mushrooms can best be found around alder trees, growing on dead logs. Nature’s bounty is everywhere.
The woods these days are alive with mushroom and fern pickers, and specialty food stores are popping up for the discerning gourmet. Don’t have time to crawl about the forest? Restaurateurs with sufficient clientele are turning to bulk specialty food providers like Ponderosa Mushrooms in Coquitlam. They will also sell wild asparagus and ramps (wild leeks) if you ask nicely, and order in bulk.
Want to learn more? Well, join the club. Kort’s Swallow Tail Supper Club is dedicated to creating underground, secret and totally bizarre one-time only dining events (“pop ups”) where you will find famous chefs from the town’s top restaurants like Vij’s and Hawksworth slaving over hot pots of hand picked chanterelles grilled and served in white wine sauce. Local foodies can become supper club members via e-mail and then the fun begins. Dinners are held in strange places featuring equally strange (but delicious) food, including foraged seafood like crabs from the inter-tidal zones. For more information contact www.swallowtail.ca/trips.
By staff reporter