Adventures in foraging

The Sunshine Coast — situated just 40 minutes by ferry northwest of Vancouver — is best known as a quaint getaway of historic villages and seaside parks. But along that 180-km (112-mile) coastline, underneath a canopy of towering firs and cedars, is a little known and exceedingly tasty secret: one of Canada’s richest stocks of wild, edible mushrooms. For a new wave of urban foragers, it’s a gourmet smorgasbord, free for the picking.

From Toronto to Vancouver, foraging — the art of harvesting and preparing Mother Nature’s wild delicacies — has emerged as a new pastime with ancient roots. Dedicated locavores across the country pick and prepare everything from wild blueberries to greens like watercress and cicely and even fiddleheads, the curled tips of fern fronds. All told, some 350 different species of wild edibles thrive in Canada’s forests, meadows and mountains — making for a real movable feast, if you know where to look and what to look for.

A variety of tours and festivals offers entrée to the exciting world of wild Canadian edibles. Every autumn, the Sunshine Coast community of Madeira Park celebrates its bounty of savory chanterelles and mouthwatering morels with the annual Sunshine Coast Mushroom Festival. Venture into the local forests in search of edible delights with mushroom legend Daniel Winkler — the “Indiana Jones” of foraging, whose adventures have taken him from Tibet to the Amazon ($30). Then enjoy a gourmet dinner of wild ‘shrooms paired with local wines at the Restaurant at Painted Boat, a world-class resort tucked into the remote harbour ($90).

In Vancouver itself, the Wild B.C. Edibles Walking Tour brings foragers on a two-hour ramble through local rainforests in the company of a trained naturalist ($39). Fall tours highlight edible ‘shrooms, from honey to porcini, while spring and summer tours rustle up native plants and berries, including wild sorrel, Indian rhubarb and the scrumptious salmonberry. The walk concludes with a riverside lunch of wild herb tea and mushrooms.

In Ontario in the Victorian city of Stratford outside Toronto, trails along the Avon and Thames Rivers offer up an abundance of wild delights. Local outfitter Puck’s Plenty provides freshly harvested wild foods to local restaurants and also leads groups on foraging outings for delicacies including ginger, watercress, wild leeks, May apples and dozens of varieties of mushrooms ($30).

Foraging opportunities can be found in communities across Canada — wherever city streets give way to meadows and marshes. Just remember: Always forage in the company of a trained guide and never eat a wild plant or mushroom until confirming it’s safe.

Photo ©Canadian Tourism Commission

Article courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission.