This phenomenon has always fascinated me how, in spring, life explodes out of the dead winter. The land comes alive with my favourite spring treats of many shoots on trees, roots, or wild edible plants to forage. Likewise, Burnaby, British Columbia, becomes a lively and vibrant landscape with organic and fresh edibles during this season. It is as if it calls us to discover it for foraging and harvesting. However happy I may be, deciding what to forage in spring in Burnaby is quite a task.
1. Foraging as an Ancient Practice
Foraging is the practice of finding and gathering wild food and resources that are edible. Mainly, spring is the season when the land is visible with unlimited growth. At the beginning of history, foraging was the daily routine of ancient life and indigenous peoples in Canada. After winter, collecting wild foods was their primary source of sustenance.
Unlike summer, spring is the best season for foraging. Ideally, a wealth of fresh and new sprouts grows from March to May.
1.1. Is Foraging Legal in BC?
Foraging for wild plants and fungi is not permitted in provincial parks, according to the Ministry of Environment of British Columbia. However, it does not apply to First Nations peoples in summer or winter. Similarly, it is not allowed in National Parks and protected areas.
In British Columbia, the provincial forest area is where you can go foraging. However, with permission, you can also go foraging in private lands.
1.2. Nutritional Benefits of Foraging Wild Edibles
It is a sustainable practice for your garden and foraging is also a way to connect with nature. It allows you to enjoy the freshest greens and locally sourced ingredients as purely organic food.
Additionally, these wild ingredients have minerals, antioxidants, and nutrients as they are naturally grown edibles that absorb sunlight for over 8 hours daily. Consuming them means taking in the vital energy of the sun.
1.3. Foraging as a Trending Culinary Art Form
As opposed to traditional chefs, many culinary specialists are creative and innovative. They venture into nature for wild edible food to add flavour, taste, and aroma to their dishes.
Innovative chefs, like Chef Robin in Vancouver, have effectively incorporated foraging into their cooking. From salads to soups, they have developed unique blends in their cooking techniques. Thanks to such pioneers, foraging is becoming a trending addition to the culinary arts.
1.4. Go Foraging Safely
Before starting to forage, focus on how to identify wild edible plants. Two seemingly identical plants can have vastly different natural attributes. For instance, one could be tasty, while the other could be deadly poisonous.
Furthermore, most foraging takes place purely in natural settings, which can pose safety threats. That is why, if possible, it is best to consult a practicing expert forager for knowledge. Additionally, it is safer to go foraging during the day and be cautious of any wildlife encounter.
2. Foraging in Spring in Burnaby, British Columbia
Spring is the prime time to forage for wild foods compared to other seasons. This season, consequently, many foragers go out for naturally grown food. Here is a list of the edibles that grow in the spring in Burnaby and Vancouver, British Columbia.
2.1. Stinging Nettle
Stinging Nettle is among the abundant greens you must forage for. With a dark green colour, its most distinctive feature is stinging hairs on the stems and undersides of the leaves.
To your knowledge, Stinging Nettle is the most nutritious superfood you can get your hands on. It is high in Calcium, Magnesium, and Protein and a good source of vitamins A, C, and K.
Stinging Nettles beat spinach in the properties that they contain. As extremely potent medicinal herbs, they aid in blood cleansing and strengthen our immunity. Stinging Nettles are used in healing urinary tract infections. They can also treat conditions like eczema, asthma, seasonal allergies, and digestion. Widely recognized for their anti-hay fever properties, they are ideal for foraging.
Spring mushroom season is a unique time when the ground warms after the winter. It allows for the growth of edible morels. Morel mushrooms are highly famous, valued, and challenging to grow. These wild mushrooms are typically hand-picked between March and June. You will see these mushrooms blooming in areas following a forest fire in the wild.
The ideal conditions for Morel mushrooms include elevation and shade. You can combine morels into an incredible dinner. However, take note that morels are not eaten raw. Consume morels only after getting verification by an expert because most mushrooms are poisonous.
2.3. Chanterelle Mushrooms
You can find these in coniferous forests with adequate rainfall, such as those in the Pacific Northwest. They are renowned for possessing artificial gills. These are veiny and do not appear to fall off. When you pull them apart, they have a stingy, shredded quality. Smelling is another method of identifying them. Chanterelle Mushrooms will smell like apricots. They have a fruity and musky flavour.
One way of cooking and eating these mushrooms is through mixing in pasta. You can also use delicious Chanterelle Mushrooms to serve them with steak. They can also be prepared in a simple yet delightful manner. Mix and cook the Chanterelle mushrooms with minced garlic, butter, and olive oil.
Ramps resemble young onions growing in many gardens. You can eat them raw or cooked. But do not consume their roots. Ramps are simple for harvesting. They thrive in damp soil and shaded forests along creek banks.
In the middle of the blooming season, their leaves start emerging, frequently in enormous clusters. It is preferable to harvest a small amount of the bulbs. Ramps typically have two or three leaves. Therefore, attempt harvesting one leaf per plant while leaving many alone.
2.5. Dandelion Flowers
Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area is one of the sites with Dandelions. Dandelions are common plants. This plant offers many medicinal benefits. It is a rich source of fibre, zinc, minerals and vitamins A, C, and K. In particular, it possesses anti-cancer properties. Eating it protects against chemotherapy damage. It reduces inflammation and enhances kidney and liver functions.
Use Dandelion leaves in a salad. However, old, larger leaves tend to be more bitter and rough, the flowers are used in making tea.
Watercress is one of the oldest leafy green vegetables. When eaten, it enhances our immune system. It controls blood pressure, blood sugar, and heart rate. If you are seeking different types of green plants for salads and other meals, Watercress is one option in your garden. This plant is easy to grow. All you need to do is make sure it gets plenty of water. It can thrive with moisture or near-flowing water.
If you have never tasted asparagus, a green plant shoot, you have not gone enough foraging. You can also store it for a couple of days. However, taken fresh from the garden, cooked within an hour and eaten is ideal. It is because this, by far, is the best way to experience the yummy taste of asparagus.
If you have a garden or lawn with a small space, it is worth it to harvest asparagus there. I recommend eating as raw as salad or cooking. Cooking may lessen the benefits of heat-sensitive nutrients like vitamin C.
In March, you can locate fiddleheads in forested areas. All you have to do is use a pocket knife to remove their heads. Fiddlehead ferns have a limited growing season. Moreover, they are renowned for their distinct, mouthwatering flavour, appearance and culinary applications. Therefore, seize them as soon as you find them.
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They resemble a perfectly blenched green bean and have a sharp flavour similar to asparagus. They contain Omega 3s, iron and fibre. However, you can not eat them raw.
2.9. Licorice Fern Root
Although it grows many times a year, March is its best time. Native Americans would chew their roots for a long hike for sustained energy. It was their equivalent of contemporary cough and cold medicine.
You will occasionally find Chef Robin foraging for Licorice Fern for one of her future tasty treats in a Vancouver forest. She often uses it as a braising flavouring. The best part is that it grows in Vancouver and Burnaby in abundance.
2.10. Salal Berries
Go foraging for Salal Berries in Stanley Park. They are big berries grown around April, summer and autumn. Bigger berries are tastier than smaller ones.
You can use them to make salsa and homemade catchup. Although these berries take a few days to dry, you can powder them. Afterward, use this powder to add flavour to cakes or pastries. Its flavour is like rich blueberries.
2.11. Salmonberries and Huckleberries
Salmonberries grow wild on trees in a forest. They are pretty similar in shape to blackberries. Eat them when they are dark red, or make their tea in boiling water to treat diarrhea.
Likewise, Huckleberries, wild foods or fruit, are smaller than blueberries. They taste delicious. As a result, you can use this fruit in baking and preserving. They are also an excellent source of fibre, iron, vitamins B and C.
3. Bottom Line
Through forging tours, the Forager Foundation is making it an emerging venture in British Columbia. As a rewarding way, it offers spring foraging to discover unique edible plants like Miner’s Lettuce. Similarly, West Coast Wild Foods Ltd brings forward wild edible plants. As a result, food lovers treat it as an additional art to give wild foods flavour to their taste buds.
Likewise, nature enthusiasts feel energetic about foraging to support the local ecosystem. For the same reason, eager readers find it helpful and motivating. If so, why not join these fellow foragers in this treasure hunt with friends and family? However, you must know what to forage in spring in Burnaby. In conclusion, happy foraging!