In a recent study, 84% of Canadians said that what they eat has a direct impact on their health. The study also found that 80% of women and 72% of men try to eat healthily on a regular basis. Simply by foraging, you can find natural wild food, untouched by pesticides and other chemicals. These are healthy ingredients that you can enhance with herbs and spices and make a delicious dinner from. Even better, they cost absolutely nothing.
Where can I forage?
In Canada, you are permitted to forage on most public land and in the national parks. If you want to forage on private land though, you must have the landowner’s expressed permission. On traditional territory, you should make sure that you get permission from the local First Nation Community. In wilderness, field and forest areas, you may find that you need an off-road vehicle like an ATV to get to where you want to forage. It’s not always easy to get around on foot over large distances, especially if it is snowy or muddy.
What should I take with me?
If you’re planning on mainly foraging for fruits, vegetables and plants, then you should make sure you take a suitable basket or container for storing your finds in. Salad leaf type plants wilt quickly, so you might want to put an ice box in your vehicle to keep them cool. Make sure that you take some hardy gloves, in case of thorns. You will also need some scissors or secateurs for cutting off stalks and stems.
Only ever take what you’re going to eat yourself. Don’t ever strip plants of berries – leave enough for other people. Whilst you are foraging, leave the land as you found it, don’t drop litter or cause any damage. Make sure that you know what you’re picking, and don’t ever eat anything if you can’t identify it. This is particularly important with mushrooms and fungi that can be extremely toxic if you pick the wrong variety.
What are the common plants I can forage for?
Stalky Rhubarb: Stalky Rhubarb grows wild in Canada, and you can find it by the roadside. It is a fruit that is often overlooked, but it has a natural sweetness, and pairs beautifully with wild raspberries and strawberries. You can use it in jams and crumbles, and it also freezes well, provided that you squeeze the moisture out of it first.
Dandelions: These so-called weeds grow wild across the country: just make sure that you pick them in an area that hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides. The roots can be brewed with anise and lemon verbena into a delicious tea, and the flowers can be fermented into a unique tasting wine. It’s even better if you add allspice and fennel.
Morel Mushrooms: One of the most popular foods to forage for is mushrooms – in particular, the morels in Canada are rich, earthy and delicious. Prestigious chefs will pay handsomely for good quality morels to enhance their dishes. Morels are great as part of soups and stews, on top of pizzas or as part of a salad. They also hold spices well, and are beautiful as part of a vegetarian curry. You can find Morels on escarpments or in forest areas.
Ramps: Also known as wild leeks, ramps can be found growing in clusters in dense forest areas. They are commonly found at the end of April and beginning of May. They make a tasty addition to a salads, or can be added to a dish in place of onions. The whole plant can be used, so you won’t need to pick many.
Foraging for fresh, delicious food is a wonderful way of eating healthily. Across Canada you can find fruits, vegetables, edible plants and nuts growing wild, and they are all natural and free.