The place the Wild Issues Are: Edmonton meals consultants information foraging

Links to the breadcrumb trail

Pilot project connects restaurant and river valley to produce delicious local dishes

Author of the article:

Liane Faulder

Publication date:

17th August 201817th August 2018Read for 4 minutes Join the conversation Chef Blair Lebsack, center, leads a group on a forage forage in the Edmonton River Valley. Chef Blair Lebsack, center, leads a group on a forage forage in the Edmonton River Valley. Photo by Larry Wong /Postal media

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Once nothing more than an annoying intruder squeezing between the cracks in the sidewalk, pineapple weeds are now my friend.

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Because when it is roasted in a cast iron pan over a wood fire, the green-yellow plant (also known as wild chamomile) becomes a delicious side dish, perfect in the tumbleweed salad from RGE RD chef Blair Lebsack, which is our special and delicious Lunch belongs to the day.

On that day, a collaborative effort between RGE RD, local collector and filmmaker Kevin Kossowan, the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance and Travel Alberta, around 15 people happily hiked Whitemud Creek Gorge in search of wild food. The hour-long adventure ended with lunch at RGE RD, which included some of the collected items as well as a range of other Alberta delicacies from local farmers. The event was a pilot project that should be started in earnest in the next summer season and will certainly be of interest to anyone who has ever hiked the river valley and thought about the wild premium.

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Foraging for food, says Lebsack, “is becoming increasingly popular with people who love food”.

“This is one of those steps for people starting out hiking in the river valley … learning our green trails is a natural evolution,” said Lebsack, who has built a thriving culinary career around local food.

Lebsack, one of the pioneers of the local food movement in Edmonton, recently set up shop. While still devoting himself to preparing for the harvest from local indigenous producers (from Prairie Gardens to Nature’s Green Acres), Lebsack is now adding a range of seasonal game products to its menu. He and his kitchen staff can do some light foraging on a spring or summer day, and he also buys game forage for RGE RD from professional collectors in the Edmonton area who are familiar with secret rooms full of wild edibles.

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Armed with baskets, the guests collected lamb quarters, shaggy parasol mushrooms and wild mint (the perfect palate cleanse) on last week’s hike. Kossowan, a local food expert, and James Beard, nominee for a culinary video series titled From the Wild, were the tour’s resident plant experts. While Kossowan (one of Western Living’s 2018 Foodies of the Year) claims to be just a newcomer to the world of animal feed, he could hardly leave the path without calling our attention to local delicacies like horseradish and milk thistle.

It took me a while to grasp the talent of foraging.

“I don’t see anything,” was my first complaint.

“I know!” Kossowan countered. “We don’t see any food. We see weeds, and yet there is food everywhere. “

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However, he has issued a strong warning.

“You don’t come into this room and just start eating,” says Kossowan, who learned a lot from local wild plant and herb expert Robert Rogers. “There are poisonous plants that will kill you. Slowly step into the world of foraging … choose a wild plant or two to learn more about each season. “

Kossowan begins his personal foraging in the spring, when young nettles are a sweet addition to a salad. In summer he looks for mushrooms, which are abundant in the river valley. (For our lunch, Kossowan has with little effort collected a large number of shaggy parasols, although he knows exactly where to look.) In autumn, he keeps his eyes open for the bright red, translucent tall bush cranberry, which is ideal for jams or glazes.

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The highlight of the river valley hike, however, was perhaps our lunch snack: still warm Heritage bread from RGE RD, coated with a toasted kale spread, as well as RGE RD’s famous canned rillette (available without a prescription on butchery days) in the restaurant, which is usually every third Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the month. Please visit the RGE RD website for more information.)

On our hike, Kossowan and Lebsack pointed out rose hips (good for tea) and spruce tips.

“(Spruce tips) have a citrus flavor and can be used as a lemon substitute in this climate,” said Lebsack, who also suggested that the green needles make a good substitute for rosemary and a fragrant base for an infused vinegar.

While hunting for wild edibles was certainly fun and educational, I’m glad we didn’t have to make a living from it as we didn’t end up with a large amount of products. But as Lebsack and Kossowan noted, the search for wild foods reminds culinary hobbyists of the cycles of nature and the joy of eating food when it should be eaten.

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Guests on a recent river valley foraging at RGE RD enjoyed wild mushrooms on toast, which were part of the harvest after a day of gathering wild forage in Whitemud Gorge. Guests on a recent river valley foraging at RGE RD enjoyed wild mushrooms on toast, which were part of the harvest after a day of gathering wild forage in Whitemud Gorge. Photo by Larry Wong /Postal media

Back at the RGE RD, guests (who each paid $ 100 to partake in the day’s adventure) enjoyed a light four-course meal that highlighted our harvest. Our salad dressing was made from forged raspberries, and onion dumplings we fed were chopped with local horseradish, onion flowers and mushrooms. Our third course with roasted broccoli consisted of chopped burdock and lightly roasted fresh hazelnuts (surprisingly plentiful and actually easy to spot). For dessert there was mixed berry clafoutis with wild cherries.

The RGE RD website provides news on future outdoor food events, including a family picnic series that will start next summer.

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