Last year I started an initiative that I am very proud of and am intending to continue. Over the next months I will reintroduce my Boreal Foraging Calendar and pick up where I left off. Detailing 6 to 10 species each section in a seasonal rollout identification, harvesting and recipes.
This last year has been a bit crazy ( to say the least) and because of the individual trials and tribulations we’ve all gone through, I’ve decided to focus only on the positive. We’re all getting our heads above water in our new lives and this is important. To focus on the renewal of Spring, its essences, wonderment of new growth with each new day more warm then the last. Spring is my favorite time of year.
I need to do a quick recap of the last year because some really good things are in the works and some really great things have happened. To start off with, the company was previously called ‘Wild Feast Catering’ and is now rebranded to Boreal Experiences. I’ve been teaching wild food identification for 3 years now but have had a love of it since childhood. Growing up in a European family, we were taught from the moment we could walk all the forest foods we could collect to bring home. At one time I owned a restaurant and as a chef, wild foraged foods were incorporated as much as possible. I absolutely love using wild mushrooms.
If you haven’t met my Dog Lou, I adopted him only a year and a half ago. He is my greatest nature companion and I’ve been thinking of fitting him with Foraging baskets so he can start earning his keep in earnest. He has discerning tastes and stays perfectly on my side during all forest expeditions.
Last year he saved 3 raccoon kits from certain demise at the height of the first lockdown. We were both out harvesting wild ramps when Lou stumbled across these little guys. While there are only 2 pictured, we found a third a short distance away. Lou quietly sat beside them until I took notice of the increased hissing. It was cute as hell. After reuniting the three, we walked a short distance just in case Mum came back. She never came back and then we found her. She was the victim of a coyote attack. Meenie, Minie and Mo were scooped up into a basket and taken straight to a Wildlife Sanctuary close by. Churkling away on the front seat of my Jeep the whole way.
Students came in with a BANG after the lockdown lifted. Increasing in popularity as the Summer progressed I became so busy and started dedicating half my week to teaching and the other half to harvesting for farmers markets. 2020 went down as one of my busiest Summers ever. Some of my Covid-19 purchases being dedicated to upgrading my teaching equipment along with good camera gear.
Having been a chef for many years, the lockdown afforded me more time to play with my food. I am notorious for not taking pictures of the dishes. I usually enlist the help of a trusty friend or client to snap away while I work. A little harder to do when it’s just you and the dog. Lou is more interested in sampling and his lack of opposable thumbs means I now have to be more on top of the photo taking. I was 32 when I unpacked my first (loaf sized) cell phone so I have to practice at photo taking as an extension of my arms. Selfies are also not my Jam. The Camera equipment included a GoPro that could quietly sit and record everything. Finally some progress.
Late in the Summer I was contacted by a film director for an outdoor wilderness show. I was asked to guest appear in one episode filmed in Algonquin Park. Focusing on wild mushroom identification for a meal they would later serve. It was so much fun. Arriving by canoe to a remote location was the best after such a long drive. In between takes I would wonder off into the forest looking for goodies and ‘Hot Diggity’ did I ever find some. I’ll go into much more detail about what I found in another blog post, along with harvesting tips and recipes. This wilderness series is still being filmed and the guys and I will have another visit soon.
Another request came in for filming from another group for early October. This group is tied to the Canadian Wildlife Federation and is set to air this Spring sometime. This time one whole episode was dedicated to Boreal Experiences and hosted by an incredible person I will forever stay in touch with. One day was spent filming outdoor foraging identification and the second focused on ‘all wild’ ingredient cooking recipes. Once the show has aired I will share the links and go more into the experience. It was amazing and I lived off of that high for a couple of weeks
Mid October something else very exciting happened. I moved into my new home. For years I had been looking for the right property where I could combine all my loves into one place. However, looking for a property for my needs isn’t as simple as liking the house. To me, the house was the bottom of the priority list as the land itself was what I really wanted. That land needed to be explored and the right ecology detected. It needs the right balance of trees, plants and fungi. Add a little wetland to that mix and only then I’ll start to get excited. The last few years only 2 other properties came into my radar. One I lost for really stupid reasons outside my control but I still covet. I found out December 2019 that the land was confiscated by the police. Luckily for me I had not put down any deposit by that point. Back to the drawing board I found another smaller property for sale that was attached to a UNESCO Heritage forest. I had visited that one so often that I became friends with the sellers. Then the lockdown occurred. The banks pretty much shut down and shortly after that the property sold to someone else. I was heart broken and back to square one again. I decided to just not think about it, especially during the outbreak of Covid 19. I still had access to over 2000 acres of land to teach foraging on and I could wait for the right property. I just had to be patient. Shortly after, I befriended a man who had lots of property and he gave me permission to start foraging there in May 2020. Every time I was there I would get more and more excited about what I found. From Old hardwood forests to beautiful wetlands, the property had been left untouched since 1970. It also hosted incredible array of wildlife including a good sized heard of deer… but it wasn’t for sale. Yet anyway. By early October the owner had decided to downsize, take his life in a different direction and move to a new country. It happened so fast. Literally 2 weeks later I had moved and the property was mine. Located on beautiful Amherst Island, I now had a location to teach, plant grow and cultivate native plants, trees and hunt mushrooms. The most exciting thing was that now students could come and stay a few days to learn and experience everything wilderness in one of three off grid camp sites. Starting in April the Farmhouse will host Wild Food Dinner nights every Saturday for those who enjoy finely curated 5 course meals, all from the land. During the Summer additional workshops will look at wild food processing in the farmhouse kitchen. It will be the hub of nature learning. 2020 was very heart breaking and hard BUT 2021 is all about renewal and rejuvenation.
Our 2021 focus – BE Natural
Next week look for ‘Know your Scat – & We’re not talking about underground poetry’ article. It is an article about wildlife observation.