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Restaurant Review - The Acorn

The Acorn

Delicious vegan-friendly cuisine

Words Amy Logan

Photos Sean David

From its artfully arranged plates to the geometric shadows cast by sculptural lamps in its minimalist interior, The Acorn is a restaurant where form and function hold equal sway. Owner Shira Blustein, with a background in music and film, and chefs Rob Clarke and Brian Luptak, have managed to create a space that is at once soothing and stimulating, with sleek wooden furniture, cascading greenery, and a bustling bar serving artisan cocktails.

The vegetable-forward menu, which changes seasonally, offers plenty of vegan and gluten-free options. Fresh local, seasonal, and foraged ingredients are sourced from Sole Food, Barnston Island Herbs, and Fresh Roots Farm, and a collaboration with Victory Gardens allows The Acorn to even have its own garden.

The kale salad is a vibrant combination of West Coast flavours. The dark green leaves are studded with smoked paprika croutons and slivers of Kootenay's Alpidon hand-rubbed, organic cheese, and beautifully finished with crispy capers, tempeh, and earthy black olives.

The haloumi is a formidable tower of decadent, beer-battered sticks of cheese perched atop a perfectly crisp zucchini and potato pancake. Served on a base of bright green smashed peas, it is accented with creamy minted yogurt and lemon balm from The Acorn garden.

The cocktails are equally inventive. The Lavendula is a perfect balance of Vancouver's Odd Society Wallflower gin, a delicate hint of St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, egg white, a squeeze of fresh citrus, The Acorn's own garden lavender syrup, and a dash of white pepper lavender bitters.

The Acorn’s seasonal approach means that they are always creating gorgeous, inventive vegetarian cuisine, with a sustainable and uniquely West Coast focus.

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Historical - Red Elderberry Rising

RED ELDERBERRY RISING

ABE LLOYD EXPERIMENTS WITH TRADITIONAL USES

Words & Photos by Abe Lloyd

Every year when the red elderberries (Sambucus racemosa) ripen, I marvel at their beauty and quantity. Clusters of bright red fruit cascade from black stems and dark green foliage with branch bending abundance. Resembling a northern version of Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), they seem better suited to ripening during Christmastime than the heat of the summer, yet ripen they do by the first hot days of summer.

It is hard to ignore a wild edible that grows as commonly as red elderberry, but most wild food books caution against eating the berries, despite traditional use by nearly all the First Nations groups in the Pacific Northwest. On several occasions I have cooked and sampled the fruit, but until recently, my enthusiasm never lasted beyond a tentative taste of the cooked fruit. This year, however, I resolved to carry my experiments through to completion, and what follows is my first serious attempts to try and crack the palatability secretes of red elderberry. But first, a little background:

The genus name Sambucus comes from the Latin word sackbut or more properly, sabb’ka, which was the name of a little known ancient Aramaic stringed instrument supposedly made from elderberry wood. In the middle ages, the word was also used to describe a wind instrument made from hollow elderberry stalks. The species epithet racemosa refers to the clustered flowers. Red elderberry wood is used for flutes, funnels, and bows. The flowers and fruit are cooked and eaten or made into wine or syrup. While the roots, bark, and leaves are poisonous, they have medicinal value in small doses as emetics. The fruit has been used for centuries by numerous cultures as a herbal remedy for rheumatism, which may explain the common name “elderberry.”

Physical Characteristics

Red elderberry is a woody perennial forming bushes that are 3.5–6 metres tall. Young stems grow quickly, often 30–¬60 centimetres per year, and have hairless to sparsely hairy green bark with white warts (lenticels) in the early season that darkens to tan-purple with grey-orange warts by fruiting time. The bark assumes a grey-brown colour with the passing years and the warts grow larger until the bark loses all signs of smoothness in old age. Stems have a pithy core that makes the wood brittle when young, but as the stem ages the outer wood increases thickness while the pith remains nearly the same size, making older branches considerably stronger than younger ones.

Leaves emerge from large yellow-green to purple-red buds comprising several pairs of large scales. Leaf scars connect around the circumference of the twig. Leaves are pinnately compound with 5–7 lanceolate leaflets that have acuminate tips and serrated margins. In April and early May, small white flowers are born in upright to drooping cone shaped clusters (panicles). The fruit changes from green to orange, ripening to a bright red by the end of June. Berries (drupes) are about 5 millimetres wide, spherical to egg-shaped, with 2–5 seed (nutlets) that are up to 3 millimetres long and 1.5 millimetres wide. Red elderberries thrive in our moist mild climates throughout nearly all of the forested Pacific Northwest. Look for them in forests and forest margins from sea level to subalpine.

Red elderberry can readily be distinguished from blue elderberry (Sambucus cerulea) by its flowers and fruit. The flowers and fruit of red elderberry are in cone-shaped clusters whereas those of blue elderberry are flat-topped. Red elderberry also flowers in the spring and fruits in the summer whereas blue elderberry flowers in the summer and fruits in the fall. For those who like to test their wintertime elderberry identification skills, notice that the young stems of red elderberry are purplish grey whereas those of blue elderberry are orangish grey.

Traditional Uses

Red elderberries were traditionally harvested and processed for food by virtually all the First Nations groups throughout the plant’s range in the Pacific Northwest for several thousands of years. Berry-laden branches were bent to the ground using hooked sticks and entire berry clusters were broken off and placed in baskets. When several baskets were full, the berries were stripped off of their stems and steamed or boiled in bentwood boxes, small canoes, or skunk cabbage lined pit ovens for several hours.
The cooked berries were then spread out onto skunk cabbage leaves to dry above a hot fire or in the sun to make berry cakes (fruit leather), which was often stored until the winter before being consumed. Though abundant, elderberry fruit was considered second rate and was often mixed as a bulking agent with better tasting berries.
During the historic period many First Nations steamed red elderberries in steel pots, sweetened the fruit with sugar, and canned them in glass jars. Red elderberries are very seedy and the Kwakwaka’wakw, who generally believed it was rude to drink water during or directly after a feast, made an exception for red elderberries so that people could rinse the seeds out of their mouths. Today few people eat red elderberries, perhaps on account of their slightly bitter-pungent flavour.

Elderberry Fruit Leather

Last summer, the first red elderberries began to fully ripen in the middle of July. My wife Katrina, and I plucked off entire berry clusters and quickly filled two grocery bags. We put our berries in the freezer for a couple days with the hope that the frozen stems would come off more easily (which is the case with Blue Elderberry). Unfortunately, the frozen red elderberry stems turned out to be brittle, so we allowed the berries to thaw before removing the stems. Once all the stems were removed we boiled the fruit in a pot with a little water in the bottom until the fruit began to juice, and then reduced the juice on low heat for several hours until the pan began to dry out. Then we ran the berries through a fruit mill to separate the seeds from the pulp.

The abundance of seeds caused the fruit strainer to bind, so I loosened the screen to allow more space between the auger and the screen. Approximately a quarter of the seeds were crushed into meal and pushed through the screen but we did our best to separate the seed meal from the pulp. I wasn’t keen on eating the seed pulp as some studies suggest that the toxic compounds are concentrated in the seeds. Archaeological recovery of aggregations of elderberry seeds suggests that First Nations were removing the seeds, but aside from spitting them out at the time of consumption a mechanism for removing the small seeds isn’t known. After all the fruit was pulped we sweetened half with ½ cup of brown sugar, and left the other half unsweetened before spreading the pulp onto food dehydrator sheets and dehydrating them for 12 hours.

Our finished fruit leather was a dark purple with a flexible nature and oily texture. Initially, the flavour was nice but the aftertaste has a difficult-to-describe pungency that I don’t like. We packaged and froze the fruit leather in the hope that the flavour would improve with storage, which wasn’t an unreasonable suspicion given the pervasiveness of this practice among First Nations.

Storage and Soaking

Besides storage, a few ethnographies also mention soaking the cooked fruit in water. While working with the Puyallup and Nisqually, Marian Smith noted that after red elderberries were boiled they were “put into loosely woven baskets which had been well lined with maple leaves. The basket was carefully covered with the same kind of leaves and submerged in a running stream. It took about a month for the berries to cure and be ready to eat. When finished they formed a thick paste ‘as yellow as butter.’ After the basket was opened it had to be kept in the water and the paste was used regularly until it was gone.” Contrary to other ethnographies that ascribe marginal flavour to red elderberry, Smith goes on to say “Elderberry paste was mixed with other dried berries to heighten their flavor.”

Albert Reagan documented a similar method of storing (or treating?) red elderberries among the Hoh and Quileute: “The cooked product is wrapped in skunk-cabbage leaves and buried in the muck in some swampy place, to be dug up when needed.” While cool temperatures and low oxidation rates in submerged environments provide the most likely explanation for this practice, it is conceivable that water storage was a desirable means of leaching out bad tasting constituents in the cooked berries, or slightly fermenting the fruit.

Water storage of red elderberries was also practiced in other parts of the Pacific Northwest. According to elders interviewed by Nancy Turner and Randy Bouchard, the Squamish also stored red elderberries in water. The berries were cooked until they formed a “molasses-like mass” and placed in a special red cedar basket called tl’pat, which was anchored underwater.

When the berries were needed, they were pulled up, the required amount removed, and the remainder re-submerged. August Jack concisely describes the process in a 1955 interview with Major Mathews: “Elderberry put in sack, you know Indian sack; put sack in creek so clean water run over them and keep them fresh. By and by get sack out of creek, take some berry out, put sack back again.” The Skagit similarly employed this method, as described by McCormick Collins: “the women might preserve [red elderberries] by wrapping them in maple leaves and putting them in a hole dug in wet sand.”

The Kwakwaka’wakw also produced an elderberry paste by soaking the cooked elderberries, but rather than storing the berries in water for several weeks, dried berries were only soaked in water for the duration of four winter ceremonial songs, at which point they were mixed into a paste by hand, and eaten.

Another Taste

After several months in cold storage, I recently decided it was time for another taste and removed the dried elderberries from the freezer. The flavour had mellowed with age, but I still detected a bitter aftertaste.

Taking the experiment one step further, I soaked my fruit leather in water. Yellow-orange oil quickly separated and floated to the surface, and the water slowly took on a similar colour. After an hour, I poured off the water and added fresh water. This time the water darkened much less, so I drained the water and sampled the remaining fruit paste. Initially a pleasant cranberry like flavour dominated but as it dissolved into my mouth, I still caught a faintly bitter flavour from a few small seeds that I failed to strain.

My experiment yielded a product with a distinctive flavour that, while still not exceptional, is growing on me, and mixes well with other foods. What’s more, red elderberries are remarkably nutritious. According to tests conducted by Harriet Kuhnlein and Nancy Turner, elderberries are 5 percent oil by fresh weight. This is higher than any other Pacific Northwest native berry they sampled, and must be considerably higher when the fruit is dried.

Red elderberries certainly will never replace black huckleberries or thimbleberries in my wild food diet, but having found their true flavour, I can better appreciate their colourful bounty when they ripen next summer and will collect enough for some northwest coast inspired chutney each year.
Warning: The roots, wood, bark, leaves, and to a lesser extent, the raw flowers and fruit of red elderberry contain cyanogenic glycosides and should not be eaten.

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Harvester's Tale - Bryce M. Watts

Harvester's Tale

Foraging and Forager Foundation

Sitting at my desk with my morning coffee, I look out the window at the mountains surrounding Squamish, where I live. I am trying to think of how I came to be so involved with foraging. The air is calm, and a fine mist hides the tops of the peaks. I can’t help feeling a sense of excitement and optimism for the soon approaching spring. New flowers are making their debuts out of barren garden beds and the trees are shaking off their winter slumber as their sap begins to flow.

It’s easy to forget the beauty of the place I live and to take the abundance my own backyard offers up for granted. When I get bogged down with emails and meetings,  it is difficult to remember and appreciate what is going on around me. Foraging gives that back to me: getting out and being immersed in nature, seeing my food growing in the forest, and tasting the nuances that each ingredient offers up.

The Influence of Elders

When I was a child, my family used to visit my grandfather in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. It is a tiny town nestled in the boreal forest on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. My mother’s family had been farmers: a difficult path to take in a remote place in the early 20th century, and not one everyone would choose. My grandfather was very much an outdoorsman; he was in love with the forest. Every visit we made would include walks through the forest just outside of town. Being under ten for most of these visits, I wasn’t too interested in learning the names of all the herbs growing along the forest floor. Instead, I just wanted to run around and splash in the little streams snaking their way through the muskeg.

It wasn’t until this year, when I was being asked why foraging was such an important part of my life, that I realized how influential these forest walks with my grandfather really were. Now that he is gone, I finally appreciate what he was doing: he was trying to pass his knowledge on to my sister and me. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, his enthusiasm sparked an interest in me that would become a driving force in my life. Through this realization I also gained a new and stronger appreciation for the wisdom of Elders and for their importance in our communities.

Looking back, I can see the source of my love of sharing my knowledge with people on plant walks of my own. I find it intoxicating when I find someone who shares my passion towards foraging.

Building Skills

After high school I took a summer job at the Salmon Habitat Restoration Program in my hometown, and began to build the more detailed knowledge and tools that would be necessary to start my foraging career. That summer was full of nature and it was wonderful. Every day we soaked in the sunshine and planted native trees along creeks and streams throughout the city. I took every opportunity to learn the names of plants I came across.

As soon as I began to discover all the wild edibles in the forests around the south coast of BC, I couldn’t stop myself. I had to try these new plants; I had to experience these foods for myself. At the University of British Columbia, I had the pleasure of taking a course taught by Dr. Felice Wyndham. It was she who first introduced me to ethnobotany, a term that I quickly came to realize was the perfect marriage between my two loves: plants and world cultures. It took me several years of switching into every faculty I could to finally make that discovery, but thankfully, I got there in the end.

In the Forest

One of my early ideas for how I could incorporate foraging and ethnobotany in my life (while feeding myself and keeping the lights on) was Voyageur Teas: I wanted to create a line of small batch, herbal teas from wild plants. Once I graduated, I dedicated myself to setting this up. During the spring and summer, I set out into the forest every day, often accompanied by my dad.

With our bamboo baskets, gloves, and scissors at hand, we  would spend most of the day wandering through the forest picking a few leaves from each bush we came across until we had enough to make a few batches of a blend. Willow leaves quickly became our favourite, because collecting them meant we were by water and in a shady spot. The willow also makes an exceptionally flavourful tea. Each day would end by putting our wild harvest into the dehydrators, and planning where we would explore the next day.

When I was selling my teas at farmer’s markets, a lot of people were really interested in the plants themselves and how they could be used. The teas had become quite popular but I started to shift my focus to how I could help other people learn more about local plants and start their own journey into wild foods.

Birth of a Foundation

When I founded Forager Foundation in 2013, I hoped to create a space where I could engage with my passion for plants and reinvigorate a sense of identity with my heritage. I wanted to create a space where people from all different walks of life could gain a better appreciation for the edible bounty of their communities. Two and a half years on and Forager now has a community of people stretching five continents. It has been a fantastic vehicle for me to share my passion for different cultures and plants with thousands of people.

My journey with foraging didn’t start with Forager Foundation, but I hope that my continued journey will grow along with the organization and help others begin their own explorations in turn. Foraging has become such an important part of  my life. Wild foods make cooking more interesting for me, and make a healthy lifestyle an easier prospect. I hope to continue this for as long as I’m able to get out in nature, and I’m grateful every day for those first seeds planted by my grandfather all those years ago.

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Forager's Guide - Salmonberry

Salmonberry

Rubus spectabilis

Squamish Language: yetwán (berry), yetwánaý (salmonberry bush)

Range: Found growing in abundance along the coast from Alaska through British Columbia and as far south as Oregon.

Habitat: Found growing in moist to wet conditions in both forest habitat and shaded swamps. Can be found growing along stream banks as well, and is often found growing in dense thickets.

Parts of plant used: Berries, spring shoots, leaves and bark.

Salmonberry is a shrub that can grow as tall as three metres in height and has papery, brown bark and small prickles all along the stem. The leaves have three lobes with toothed leaf margins and are compound with two lateral leaflets and one larger terminal leaflet. If you fold down the larger terminal leaflet the remaining leaves look like butterfly wings.

Salmonberry is one of the first botanical gifts that spring offers. In the early spring the plants send up succulent new shoots that can be picked, peeled and eaten fresh. The spring shoots have been harvested and eaten as a spring green by First Nations in the Pacific Northwest for thousands of years. My home community of Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation, Canada) holds these shoots in high regard. The Skwxwú7mesh name for the shoots is stsá7tskaý pronounced saskay. My father told me once that he remembered picking these as a young boy. He said he would pick them when they were still tender and easy to bend, like a licorice, and then peel them on the spot and eat them as he played and walked in the forest.

The beautiful, papery, pink blooms of the salmonberry bush are one of the first splashes of color to grace the forests of the Pacific Northwest in the spring. These lovely flowers can be harvested and used as decoration for desserts. The leaves and bark have astringent qualities and can be thoroughly dried and used as a tea to treat diarrhea. It is important to ensure the leaves are dried completely as the wilted leaves can be mildly toxic.

The delicious, juicy berries can be eaten fresh from early to late summer depending on where in the geographic range of the species you are harvesting them. The berries range in color from yellow or orange to red. Some suggest that the appearance and color of the berries resembles salmon roe and that this may be where the common name originates. The berries are very juicy and for this reason were most often eaten fresh by indigenous peoples or blended in with other drier berries to make dried fruit cakes.

The Skwxwú7mesh people believed that the song of the Swainson’s thrush ripened the salmonberries on the bush.


Note from the author: I have always been taught to respect plants and to be sure not to harvest too much from one single plant. There are many other animals that rely on the food and medicine that plants provide. It is also extremely important to go out harvesting with someone who is confident with plant identification and who can help to harvest and prepare the plants in a safe and responsible way.

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Chef's Table - Hiro Takeda

HIRO TAKEDA

CHEF AND OWNER AT 293 WALLACE

Words by Lindsay Vermeulen

Hiro Takeda once fed his sister live ants. It wasn’t a prank; they were a garnish on a dessert he made: a cheesecake with baked meringue, Douglas fir kombucha, and seasonal berries, to be precise. “They have a very citrusy flavour to them,” Takeda explains. “A very soft lemon flavour. A lot of people use ingredients like that just for wow factor…but ants is one of those ingredients where it has a very distinct and really delicious flavour.”

Takeda foraged the ants near Hope, BC, where he is chef and owner at 293 Wallace Street restaurant. The collection process is simple: “You put a piece of parchment paper on top of the hill, and you take the ants off of the parchment paper…When it’s really nice and sunny out they’re a lot more active, so that’s when you want to get them.”

His ant dessert was inspired by dishes served at Noma, a prestigious restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. “They were using the ants whole to put on raw langoustines. Citrus and seafood go very well together, so that was a play on that.” Last year, Takeda was one of 120–130 chefs selected for an internship at the award-winning restaurant. Close to 5,000 people applied.

Rene Redzepi, the head chef of Noma, is known for his commitment to showcasing northern ingredients. “He did a lot of foraging,” Takeda explains. “His menu represents everything Nordic. Coming from a landscape and a region where the growing season is very short, and there’s not a lot there, he’s transformed some of the humble ingredients into stars of the plate.”

The approach seems to be working: “They do a maximum of 45 guests in their restaurant for lunch and dinner, five days a week, and they charge I think just a little bit less than $300 a person. They’re booked three months in advance, full every day, and they have people who come from all over the world to eat there. Some make special trips just to eat there, and they’ll leave the next day.”

Before leaving for the internship, Takeda needed to fundraise for the trip. He held a fundraising dinner, and in the spirit of Noma, he decided to use foraged ingredients in his menu. He connected with local forager Justin Brown, one of the owners of Wild Forest Food Co. Since returning from the internship, Takeda has become more focused on foraging and incorporating wild ingredients in his work.

Paying His Dues

Takeda has been cooking professionally for about twelve years. After high school he did an apprenticeship at Newlands Golf & Country Club in Langley, and then he worked at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. He did show dinners in their lounge for Rocky Mountaineer tours, and spent a few months at Diva at the Met. He left the city in 2010 to work as an assistant cook at Squeah Camp and Retreat Centre just outside of Hope. His contract was for six months, but he ended up staying an additional three years as Head Chef.

“That was a very pivotal experience in my life, where I was able to learn how to manage people. I was working mainly with a group of volunteers. Most of them had very little to no cooking experience, and most of them didn’t really want to become chefs or anything like that…we really made everything from scratch there, and we worked very hard. So I had to find some kind of reason behind why they were doing the work they were doing. I tried to incorporate teaching life skills into the kitchen environment.”

During his time at Camp Squeah Takeda met Jason Harper, the chef of a restaurant in Hope called Joe’s Restaurant and Lounge. He and Harper decided to buy the restaurant from the previous owners, and they began operating on May 1, 2013. A year later they changed the name to 293 Wallace Street Restaurant, and around the same time Takeda bought Harper’s share of the restaurant.

A Strict Japanese Upbringing

Good food has always had a prominent place in Takeda’s life. “My dad was a chef for a long time. One of his main jobs was at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver… My mom did the daily cooking, and she was a fantastic cook as well. So I grew up eating really, really good food.

“My parents met in Canada, but they’re originally from Japan, so I grew up in a pretty strict Japanese household. We ate a lot of food that would be quite foreign to most peers that I had growing up. I definitely remember going to school with bento boxes, rice and seaweed and fish and that kind of thing, and people would be eating cheese sandwiches and looking over and seeing what I was eating.”

Takeda’s Japanese heritage has influenced his cooking to some degree: “I’m very comfortable with [Japanese] ingredients in terms of flavour profile. The Japanese use quite a lot of different fermented ingredients and pickled goods.” At the moment he is focusing on cooking more Western food: “Part of the reason is the market in Hope—we have three sushi restaurants here.”

He attributes much of his professional success to his upbringing. “I grew up, like I said, in a very strict household where we were expected to have very good grades, expected to work very hard…the discipline of perfecting every little thing that you do, and working hard to become the best at what you’re doing, really influenced cooking in general for me. To push forward and actually learn to cook really well, and open a restaurant, and have that dream come to reality—the origins of that were based on the culture that I grew up in.”

“My dad just retired in June of 2014, the same day that I took over the restaurant. So that was a really cool phone call.”

The Challenges of Going Wild

Many restaurants are deterred from serving wild foods because of their seasonality. An ingredient may only be available for a short period of time each year, which makes it necessary to change the menu frequently. This can be labour-intensive and costly. “In North America, I don’t think we’re really in tune with or appreciate the idea of seasonality,” says Takeda. “All year round, if you want a tomato on your burger, you’re expecting to get a tomato on your burger. But really good tomatoes aren’t available year round.”

Takeda has found a few ways to get around this challenge. One is the restaurant’s fresh sheet, which changes every three weeks to two months. “It doesn’t make sense for us to put stinging nettle on our regular menu because it’s not available all year, and so we use a fresh sheet as an opportunity to feature some of those seasonal ingredients.” Another is his Monday Night Tastings series, where the regular menu is replaced by a set menu that changes every week. The entire team comes together to brainstorm and create new dishes.

“Small farms and small suppliers…can’t handle supplying us with proteins and vegetables for our busy season or for our regular menu; we are able to now showcase them using this formula.”

Takeda also manages to source some locally grown foods out of season thanks to his friends at You Grow Food, an aquaponics farm. “They’re growing some interesting stuff, like shiso and lemongrass, three different types of basil, mizuna, arugula, that kind of stuff, so we get a lot of cool products from them.”

A Sustainable Future

Going forward, Takeda is committed to incorporating more wild and foraged ingredients in his cooking, and doing so in a sustainable way. “We’re always thinking about sustainability and making sure we’re harvesting properly so the crops grow back. We never take more than a small percentage of what we find in a spot. Part of the philosophy is, we want to enjoy these things, but we want to make sure they come back every year. We don’t want to be part of changing the ecosystem in a negative way by taking too much of something in one spot.”

He’s also focusing on simplifying his dishes a bit. “Since coming back from Noma…we’ve tried to make our dishes a little bit more simple. My style was always to put a lot of components onto a plate and now I’m doing that less, and letting the few ingredients that are on the plate shine.”

He hopes that his restaurant will continue to be an important part of the local dining community. “[Hope is] a very slow market, but we’re trying to be a restaurant that’s progressive and forward-thinking. We have a pretty cool following of young up-and-coming young families and young people in town, people who are really following what we’re doing with a lot of interest…We want to be a restaurant that changes their menu all the time, and we want to keep in mind seasonality and creativity.”

Takeda focuses on the future not just of the environment, but also of his staff and the restaurant industry. “Our team is a very young team with very little experience, but we’d like to think that we’re cooking pretty high-quality food that’s done well, using a lot of different techniques…We want to essentially create a kitchen culture in Hope. We want to be the employer where, if a young person in Hope wants to become a chef, then they have a local restaurant they can go to to learn some skills, to move forward and be successful."

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Restaurant Review - Salmon n' Bannock

SALMON N' BANNOCK

MODERN NATIVE CUISINE

Words by Amy Logan

Photos by Lindsay Vermeulen

Tucked into an unpretentious room near Oak and Broadway lies Salmon n’ Bannock, Vancouver's only First Nations restaurant. With a focus on fresh, regional cuisine with a modern twist, its name reflects two traditional west coast staples: wild salmon and homemade bannock. In 2009, while visiting a friend in Kelowna, Inez Cook stumbled upon a Westbank cafe called Kekuli that served First Nations cuisine. Smitten with the house-made bannock, she began to hatch an idea. She and her colleague Remi Caudron decided that the 2010 Olympics was the perfect time to open a First Nations-focused restaurant in Vancouver.

Highlighting wild game meats such as venison and bison, and fresh-caught, seasonal seafood like halibut and oolichans, the core ingredients are traditional. Fresh-baked bannock is always on the menu. Originally made from corn and nut meal as well as flour made from ground plant bulbs, bannock is often cooked over a fire. “There are many different kinds of bannock,” Caudron explains. “Some regional, some specific to a certain family. Sometimes bannock is made into a big loaf, baked, and sometimes animal fat is even added into the dough.” The complimentary bannock at Salmon n’ Bannock is slightly sweet and doughy, with a hint of smoke; mildly salty and deliciously chewy. Also on the menu is wine from the Nk'Mip Cellars, an Okanagan winery that is also owned and staffed by First Nations people.

The flavours here are clean and simple; the food speaks for itself. A creamy corn soup was garnished with fresh dill and studded with subtly sweet kernels of Iroquois white corn, an heirloom variety that dates back over a thousand years. The Quebec-sourced venison, sliced thin and seared, had a moist pink interior, and tasted faintly of grass and wood smoke. The halibut came expertly grilled, lightly charred on the outside, flaky and flavourful on the inside, and accompanied by a tangerine smear of sweet potato puree, with steamed carrots and green beans.  A peppery Nk'Mip Pinot Noir, with its lingering berry finish, was the perfect complement. Dessert was wild rice pudding, with organic black cherries, blueberries, and blackberries. Under the caramelized crust, velvety cream dotted with chewy bits of wild rice, and at the very bottom, a rich pool of tart magenta berries.

Caudron sums up the philosophy behind Salmon n’ Bannock’s careful choice of ingredients: “Food is definitely part of traditional activities depending on the seasons. In the western world, we just need to go back a couple of generations to remember that we did the same. It’s globalization that makes us eat strawberries from Chile in the middle of a Canadian winter. We have forgotten to live with the cycles of nature. Our grandparents and great grandparents had that knowledge.” At Salmon n’ Bannock, these cycles are reflected in their traditional, season-based approach to the pure flavours of nature, flavours that shine through every dish.

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Rare Sightings - Blue Camas

Blue Camas

Flowers like clear blue lake

Words Kaitlyn Gendemann

Blue camas (Camassia quamash), a perennial lily found in the meadows and valleys surrounding the Cascade Range, was once an abundant food source and valuable commodity for the native tribes of the Pacific Northwest. Part of the Asparagaceae family, blue camas consists of an edible onion-like bulb, grassy leaves, and a multi-flowered stalk. Known to colour an entire meadow when in bloom—so much so that Captain Meriwether Lewis once mistook them for “lakes of fine clear water” during the Corps Discovery Expedition in 1806—they can reach approximately 75 centimetres in height.

Foragers must be careful when harvesting camas bulbs: death camas (Zigadenus veneosus), a toxic relative of the common camas, often grows in the same fields. Nearly impossible to identify from the bulbs alone, gatherers must wait until flowering occurs in the spring (April–June) to distinguish the two species; blue camas flowers range anywhere from pale lilac to deep violet, while death camas flowers range from white to beige.

Although not easily digestible in their raw state (blue camas contain high amounts of inulin, a gas-inducing carbohydrate), roasting the bulbs in a pit oven for 24–36 hours allows ample time for the release of natural sugars; the result is a sticky, caramelized bulb similar in flavour to a sweet potato. Camas, derived from the Nootka Indian wood chamas (“sweet”), was often used as a natural sweetener, but the bulbs have also been found to contain high amounts of protein and fibre. Cooked bulbs were regularly dried and stored for later use, making them a popular article of trade among aboriginal groups and settlers in the early 19th century.

Found exclusively within Garry oak ecosystems, blue camas fields were harvested and maintained by the Coast Salish, Cree, Nez Perce and other native peoples in Canada and the United States. Characterized by wet meadows, shallow soils, and shady woodlands, Garry oak ecosystems were once scattered from southern British Columbia to the northern tip of California, but have since degraded as a result of urban and agricultural development. Today, only five percent of Canada’s Garry oak system remains along the southeast coast of Vancouver Island (a region once known as Camosun or “place to gather camas”).

Although rare, blue camas continues to have a significant role in BC’s aboriginal culture and efforts are being made to preserve what’s left of the island’s Garry oak habitat. When the ecosystem was declared endangered in 1999, First Nations and volunteers banded together to form the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team (GOERT); they have since been working to restore and conserve these unique environments and the rare species that live within them.

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Forager's Guide - Ostrich Fern

Ostrich Fern

Matteucia struthiopteris

Range: The range of ostrich fern in Canada spans the country from east to west and grows almost as far north as there are trees growing. The overall range in North America is from Alaska down to northern California.

Habitat: This fern is found growing in abundance in shaded river bottom forests and along the banks of rivers and streams. These ferns can also be found growing, in less abundance, in rich wooded sites near ponds and ravines.

Parts of plant used: The new spring shoots, called the fiddlehead, can be harvested, cooked and eaten as a delicious spring vegetable.

When people refer to “fiddleheads” they are usually referring to spring shoots of ostrich fern. All ferns go through the fiddlehead stage, but not all fiddleheads are edible. It is important to be sure about the species of fiddlehead before harvesting it and to prepare it properly.

The fiddleheads of ostrich fern are a highly regarded spring vegetable. Ostrich fern is deciduous and grows in a rosette formation of five to nine fronds that make a funnel shape. The fronds can grow as long as two meters in length. There are two types of fronds: the large leafy infertile green fronds and the much smaller brown fertile fronds. These smaller fertile fronds are found growing in the centre of the rosette.

Ostrich fern can cover large areas of land and thus can be harvested at a large-scale level. That being said, sustainable harvesting practices should be employed so not to over harvest a single stand of ostrich ferns. When harvesting you should not take all of the fiddleheads from one rosette, and you should only harvest once per season from each plant so as not to overstress the plant.

Ostrich fern fiddleheads have a distinct u-shaped groove running the length of the top of the fiddlehead and stalk. The stem of the fiddlehead is bare and smooth. When harvesting fiddleheads they should be snapped off at about 30–60 centimetres in length.

Harvesting the curled top of the fern along with the smooth stalk yields much more food than collecting only the curled tops alone. The lower quarter of the stalk is usually too tough to harvest and eat. Fiddleheads should be cooked by steaming, sautéing or boiling, but can be eaten raw in moderation.


Note from the author: I have always been taught to respect plants and to be sure not to harvest too much from one single plant. There are many other animals that rely on the food and medicine that plants provide. It is also extremely important to go out harvesting with someone who is confident with plant identification and who can help to harvest and prepare the plants in a safe and responsible way.

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Forager's Larder - Pickled Fiddleheads

PICKLED FIDDLEHEADS

INGREDIENTS

1 lb/450 g fiddlehead ferns, rinsed and trimmed
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
2 cups white wine vinegar (substitute cider or rice wine vinegar)
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
2 star anise
1 tsp Rainbow Peppercorn blend
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed chili peppers
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
1/4 cup sugar (Demerara or Turbinado)
1 bay leaf
1 cup water

METHOD

  1. Rinse the fiddleheads under cold running water and trim the broken ends with a sharp knife.
  2. Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling. Blanch the fiddleheads in the boiling water for about 30 seconds, then drain immediately and plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain again thoroughly and place into a large non-reactive heatproof bowl.
  3. Peel and thinly slice the shallot into rings and toss into the bowl with the fiddleheads.
  4. In a large, non-reactive pot, heat the remaining ingredients to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Pour the hot vinegar/spice mixture over the fiddleheads. Allow to stand until cooled to room temperature.
  5. Cover tightly or ladle into jars and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

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Edible Impostor - Holly & Oregon Grape

Holly or Oregon Grape?

Save the holly for the holidays

Words Breanne Rogers

For the savvy forager, the natural habitats of the West Coast offer a plethora of wild plants and herbs that can be used to treat minor medical issues or to provide a source of food. But sometimes the vegetation in the verdant forests and trails of the Pacific Northwest can look the same, as is the case with European holly and Oregon grape. Mistaking one for the other can have some uncomfortable consequences, so it’s best to be certain which plant is which.

When you think of holly, it is likely an image of European holly that comes to mind. European holly (Ilex aquifolium) is an evergreen and deciduous plant that was likely brought over to North America by the early European settlers. The shrubs and trees have distinctive dark green foliage with spiny leaves that are slightly lighter in colour underneath. It is most commonly used for aesthetic purposes in gardens and parks, and is a staple in the wreaths and garlands of Christmas decorations. The plant is not, however, a source for food for humans; though not fatal, the berries can be difficult for humans to digest, and so their consumption in large quantities can cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Unfortunately this holly is sometimes mistaken for Oregon grape.

Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) is the state flower for Oregon, and grows primarily in western North America. Though the plant is not classified as a holly, its leaves are very similar in shape and colour to those of European holly and many other plants in the Aquifoliaceae family: shiny, lush green, spiny, and curved into a number of pointed tips.

Oregon grape, unlike European holly, can be a source of food. Many Indigenous peoples, including the Kwakwaka’wakw, Secwepemc, Squamish, and Straits Salish, have incorporated the berries into their diets, often mixed with sweeter fruits. The juice has occasionally been used to make wine, though the berries are very tart in flavour. For medicinal purposes, herbalists often tout the Oregon grape as an invaluable source for natural remedies. It can be used to ease internal discomforts such as indigestion, stomach ulcers, heartburn, and upset stomach, and its root has similar properties to goldenseal. It can also be used topically in homeopathic creams and salves as a way to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.

The primary differentiating factor between the two is each plant’s respective flowers and berries. In the spring and summer months, European holly blooms with dull white flowers, each with four petals. Oregon grape, by contrast, blooms in the spring with flowers in a bright, cheerful yellow. Beginning around October, European holly has clusters of the rich, cherry-red berries that make it popular for festive decorating. Oregon grape, however, has deep purplish-blue berries that are similar in colour to the traditional grapes that give the plant its name. European holly is also typically found higher above the ground than Oregon grape; the trees of European holly usually grow to be four to eight metres high, while shrubs of Oregon grape are generally less than one metre tall.

Confusing European holly for Oregon grape is an easy mistake to make, but it can cause unwary foragers unnecessary trouble; know the plants’ physical differences, and save the holly for the holidays.

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Forager's Guide - Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle

Urtica dioica

Squamish Language: ts’exts’ix

Range: Stinging nettle is found growing in abundance from Alaska, through British Columbia as far south as Oregon.

Habitat: Found growing in rich, moist soil along streams, rivers, meadows, and open forest. This plant thrives in disturbed habitats such as village sites, roadsides, and barnyards.

Parts of plant used: New spring shoots and leaves

Stinging nettle is a nutritious spring green that has many uses, and once identified, may become a staple for your spring foraging. This plant is a perennial and grows as tall as 1.5–2.5 metres at maturity. The stem is usually less than one centimetre in diameter and the coarsely saw-toothed leaves are lance-shaped to oval and have a pointed tip and a heart-shaped base. The leaves are found growing in opposite pairs along the stalk.

The leaves and stem have stinging hairs that contain formic acid and can cause a stinging reaction when they come in contact with the skin; thus, many people opt to wear gloves when harvesting. Cooking or drying destroys the stinging properties; this includes drying nettles for tea, sautéing, steaming, or baking.

Stinging nettles are best harvested for eating when the young shoots are less than a foot tall and still have a purple tinge to the leaves. They are at their most tender then. They can continue to be harvested beyond this height but they do get more fibrous as they grow and eventually will be too tough to eat. These nettles are rich in Vitamins A and C as well as in minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. They are a delicious substitute for spinach, and can be added to soups and stir fries for added nutrition and vibrant color. The leaves can also be dried and used to make a healthy tea. Stinging nettle can be used in a bath to help with rheumatism, and the mature plant can be processed to make strong cordage. Many coastal First Nations, including Squamish, used this cordage to make strong fish nets and fishing line.

The origins of this plant are not certain. It is likely that Uritca dioica was brought here from England long ago but there were also species of Urtica native to Canada that hybridize readily with Urtica dioica. The food uses and plant properties are identical.

The Squamish name for stinging nettle, ts’exts’ix, comes from the root word ts’ix meaning singed or burned. My great uncle has told me that the stinging indicates the power and medicine in this plant. He has used the fresh plant to sting himself on his arthritic joints to help with pain. He believes that the local sting from the nettle increases blood flow and helps with swelling and pain.

Squamish People know that when the stinging nettle is a few inches tall this marks the time that the baby seals are born. This is an example of the deep connection that develops between people and their natural environments over thousands of years being spent out on the land.


Note from the author: I have always been taught to respect plants and to be sure not to harvest too much from one single plant. There are many other animals that rely on the food and medicine that plants provide. It is also extremely important to go out harvesting with someone who is confident with plant identification and who can help to harvest and prepare the plants in a safe and responsible way.

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Founder's Letter - West Coast Bounty

West Coast Bounty

The beginning of our exploration

The West Coast is fortunate to be made up of such beautiful terrain. This rugged coastline, blanketed in lush temperate rainforest, is abundant with wild foods. As we get more accustomed to the ease of supermarkets and prepackaged foods, it is easy to lose sight of our connection to and dependence upon the land for our survival. We see nature as something separate from ourselves. Something removed from our everyday lives. Something only for weekend visits.

Losing that connection creates a divide between our food, the land, and ourselves. Our identities are no longer tied to our local communities but to a global community that gives us ready access to whatever we seek. This is one of the great achievements of the modern age, but when it comes to food it has had effects on our health and identities. Geographic variability and seasonality have been replaced by a few core staples we can choose from at any point throughout the year. West Coast Wild Harvest is a resource for change; a resource that helps reengage ourselves with our landscape by showing the myriad of wild foods available in our own backyards.

West Coast Wild Harvest is a part of Forager Foundation’s Wild Harvest Network and we have created this publication to act as a catalyst for people to reintegrate themselves with their surrounding landscape. Each seasonal issue will introduce new wild plants, wild food recipes, and stories from other wild harvesters. It is our mission to use this magazine as a way to help readers take those first steps towards a new relationship with their food and with their communities.

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Spring 2016 Host Nation


Host Nation


Kwantlen First Nation

A rich history and legacy

Since time immemorial, we live by the seven traditional laws that guided our ancestors: health, happiness, generations, generosity, humbleness, forgiveness and understanding. Through learning, family, health, our culture and traditions and looking after our lands and resources, we are tireless in our spirit to make a better world for our future generations. In working together and learning from our Elders, we are respectful, proud, independent and responsible.

Kwantlen translates to tireless runner. Following our rich legacy and traditions, we continue to work tirelessly at building a strong sense of community within our traditional territory.

We are united as one nation and one family. We believe in leadership with vision that values stewardship, protection of resources, prosperity, equality and inclusion of our membership.

Kwantlen First Nation is committed to environmental sustainability that preserves our natural resources for generations to come. Kwantlen Traditional Territory extends from Richmond and New Westminster in the west, to Surrey and Langley in the south, east to Mission, and to the northernmost reaches of Stave Lake.

Environmental stewardship

Kwantlen First Nation is committed to taking care of the environment through stewardship programs that increase awareness and improve habitat for local fisheries and wildlife. Seyem’ Qwantlen Business Group of Kwantlen First Nation was the recipient of the Township of Langley’s Environmental Hero Award for Species at Risk work that has addressed the decline of the Salish Sucker, the Eulachon, and the Western Painted Turtle. Members of Kwantlen promote awareness of local environmental features through the annual summer Walking Tours from Lelem Arts and Cultural Café. Kwantlen First Nation will continue to engage in projects that protect and enhance Kwantlen Territory to ensure prosperity and abundant resources for all future generations.

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