Delving into foraging w/ The Deerholme Foraging Book

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Bill Jones, an award-winning writer, Chef, and experienced forager. 

One dreary, spring afternoon, a small group of media gathered at Edible Canada on Granville Island to celebrate the launch of Mr. Jones’ newly published cookbook, The Deerholme Foraging Book

While sampling canapés inspired by said book, we also had the opportunity to pick his brain about the ostensibly “lost art” that is coming back into fashion.

“It has been abut 12,000 years since we emerged from an existence based on hunting and gathering… One could easily imagine that back then the ability to forage was the most important skill imaginable. Today, it is thought of more as an interesting hobby, or perhaps a way of hedging a bet on an imagined future world apocalypse.”

If you’re not familiar with foraging, in a nutshell, it is searching for wild food resources, often for provisioning. Our prehistoric ancestors relied on this activity as a means to get by, as do our friends in the animal kingdom. Nowadays, it acts as an example of one’s resourcefulness in the 21st century, though ultimately deriving from those prehistoric days where there weren’t a plethora of restaurants and grocery stores to supply one (and one’s family) with food.

The first half of Mr. Jones’ book details the “pathway to foraging”, including potential hazards, the terrain and climate certain wild foods thrive in, and how to pick, store, and prepare each one.

He prefaces the book by announcing that it is not meant to be a “field guide” to foraging, but rather a recipe book that presents techniques, tips, tricks, and the nutritional benefits to eating foraged foods. He also offers the idea that foraging is an approachable means of obtaining food, rather than a daunting feat.

With a bit of knowledge, a sense of adventure, and some common sense, it seems that even a monkey could do it. Oh wait, they can…and do.

Jeremy Inglett, Food Gays

Jeremy Inglett, of the Food Gays, one of my favourite “food seeking monkeys” 😉

The rest of the book contains more than 110 recipes from the sea to the forest, and everywhere in between. Each recipe features at least one (often many) type of wild food from the Pacific Northwest.

While most of them look delicious and chock full of antioxidants and nutrients, there were a few that instantly drew my attention:

  • Poached Eggs with English muffin and stinging nettle sauce (deluxe version w/ smoked salmon or Dungeness crab)
  • Cedar-planked salmon with rose hip butter and lemon
  • Braised lamb shank with morels, leeks, and cider
  • Olive oil and hazelnut cake
  • Thai flavoured spot prawn and seaweed bisque
  • Wild rose petal scones
  • Grand fir infused honey
  • Weed pie (wild greens Quiche)

For your reference, below are examples (not complete lists) of common wild foods listed by seasonal availability:

SPRING: stinging nettles, young horsetail ferns, dandelion leaves, salmon berry sprouts and ox-eye daisy leaves, morel mushrooms, new shoots of grand fir trees.

SUMMER: Himalayan blackberries, high bush huckleberries and salmon berries, chanterelle, lobster mushrooms, salal berries, Oregon grape, Nootka rose hips, wild cherries, plums, wild strawberries.

FALL: persimmon, blackberries, mushrooms, chestnuts, hazelnuts, wild dill, wild fennel, wild garlic, hawthorn, nettles.

WINTER: cranberry, walnuts, clams, cattail, watercress, sloes, oysters  (and other shellfish), big leaf maples.

What and where is Deerholme Farm?

Deerholme Farm is a culinary destination in the Cowichan Valley. It offers local food experiences that introduce you to the wild and untamed side of Vancouver Island’s food system. This includes:

  • Local Seasonal Food Events (mushrooms, French country cooking, etc)
  • Hands-on Cooking Classes
  • Wild Food Forages in the spring and fall (mushrooms)
  • Offsite Catering for selected events
  • Food and Wine Consulting and Advice
  • Food Writing and Photography
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