Foraging for your food

BC, and the the Pacific Northwest in general, is blessed with a variety of edible plants, mushrooms and fruit.  It is legal to forage for edible plants and mushrooms in Canadian crown lands, and if you are knowledgeable, the forests contain a wealth of food.  There are many resources that can help you identify edible plants and mushrooms.  Here are a few of my favourite free edibles:

Berries

This month marks the beginning of berry season in the Lower Mainland which is great news for me.  Berries come into season from July to August, although this year’s crop seems later due to the late start to summer.  Berries are relatively easy to identify and they taste great after being frozen!  Common berries in Vancouver include raspberries, blackberries and salmon berries.  These three types of berries are examples of “compound” berries which are generally edible to humans.  Keep in mind, wild berries are often tarter and smaller than store-bought varieties.  We pick berries by the bucket, wash them, and freeze them to have in the months to come.

Plants

Most people are aware that dandelion leaves are edible – but did you know that cattails and fiddleheads are as well?  Cattail stalk, root and POLLEN can all be eaten, while fiddleheads (the young shoots of ferns) can be cooked and eaten like asparagus.  When harvesting fiddleheads, remove the brown “wrapper” around the fern and be sure to cook it thoroughly, otherwise you might get symptoms similar to mild food poisoning.  This is normal, and expected.  Wild plants contain more natural chemical defenses against herbivores than domesticated plants.  These chemicals can accumulate as the plants age, so it is generally advised to harvest younger plants for a milder taste (and less chance of upsetting your stomach with new foods!) and to cook the plants in order to neutralize some of these compounds.

Mushrooms

There are many edible mushrooms in BC. There are also many inedible mushrooms.  My ex used to brag about foraging for the er… magical … kind of mushrooms in suburban parks!  I would not advise foraging for mushrooms (magical or otherwise) without a reliable reference book and, ideally, a guide who is knowledgeable about mushroom foraging who can teach you the ins and outs.  That being said, this site provides very good images and descriptions of edible mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest.

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Foraging is a great way to supplement your diet and get you a bit closer with nature.  Why pay $5.99/lb for blackberries or $6.99/lb for fiddleheads when they are literally a few steps away?  For FREE!  And money aside, recognizing which foods are edible and which are not is also a great survival skill that’s severely lacking in our processed culture.

Posted in: Food and Grocery, Life Hacks

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