WILD about Foraging for Food

Every summer solstice the Wild Caraway Restaurant hosts a fabulous wild edibles dinner which is so superlatively divine it’d blow your socks off. The 8th Annual Foraging Dinner held this past June 21st was no exception.

Owned by the authentic and energetic duo of Andrew Aitken and Sarah Greibel, the Wild Caraway (WC) is located in Advocate Harbour, a remote village in Cumberland County. The WC is well-known for incorporating local and wild food into their daily menu. They have their own kitchen garden and herb beds on site and they source local food direct from area farms. With the ocean as their backyard, they have access to plenty of great local wild caught seafood, marsh greens and dulse. They purchase their coffee from the Valley and even their mushrooms are local! (See Bay of Fungi at http://bayoffungi.ca/ ).

There are an abundance of wild plants (a.k.a. – weeds, like sorrel, red clover, chickweed, dandelion and of course, wild caraway) that the WC uses on a regular basis, but the annual Foraging Dinner is the showcase for wild edible cuisine. The dinner is served to a packed house – the event is always sold out.

I asked attendee Catherine Bussiere, who has recently produced 3 local videos on wild edibles for the Cumberland Food Action Network (http://cumberlandfoodactionnetwork.ca/resources/wild-edibles/) her thoughts on the dinner and she commented that it was “not only a treat for the taste buds, but a delight for the eyes as well. The sense of smell was wonderfully solicited by their floral soup which brought the aroma of fresh cut flowers. Every dish was a work of art“! As a local guru and educator on the wild and backyard edibles scene, Catherine added that there is a growing interest in wild edibles – “be it that people are more concerned about what goes on their plate, be it the local food movement or the 100 mile diet, or maybe just some food aficionados looking for new tastes to play with. Whatever it is, knowing the names and properties of the plants growing around us gives us a better appreciation of what would otherwise be called a weed or nuisance. The knowledge and use of wild edibles goes hand in hand with local and global food security and sustainability. It is good for our health and the health of our environment”.

While absolutely astonished by the variety of tasty dishes made almost entirely of wild ingredients, I couldn’t help but thinking over the course of our meal, about how dependant we have all become on manufactured food. Lest we forget, that all of our cultivated foods were derived originally from wild plants and seeds. For millennia humans ate from the wild. Prior to this relatively short period in the history of a domesticated food supply, and to this day in the subsistence farming cultures that still exist, we have relied on wild plants for our survival. In rural India for example, these wild areas provide the seeds of resilience in the event of a drought or crop failure. People can eat from these wild swaths, which also contain the seeds to start a crop again. Vandana Shiva refers to this as Wealth Per Acre, in her book by the same title. She contends that true wealth should not be measured by profit from the yield of a mono-crop, but measured instead by the uncultivated fringes of the acre, where biodiversity exists – that is the true wealth on the farm and this is under constant threat by industrialized, globalized agriculture.

But enough about politics! This dinner was a celebration of the natural bounty around us. It was a creative demonstration of not only how to retain the vital knowledge on how to use wild plants as food, but how to go a step further and turn weeds into works of art. For this, we are all so grateful for Sarah and Andrew.

So, back to the amazing food experience…Just take a look at the menu below – eight courses of pure delight:

1 –Amuse: Jonah crab, sweet cicely pods, sea greens, scallop tartar, spruce tip salt. Shad spring rolls, scotch lovage, sumac, rosehip gel, day lily buds.

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2 – Soup – Day lily flowers, cattails. Chive flower sorbet. Red clover vinaigrette.

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3 – Welsh Caviar and Eggs: Sea lettuce and dulse. 3 hour eggs. Smoked dulse and lovage breadcrubms. Roe sour cream. Smoked milt.

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4 – Pasta: Yard greens and ricotta tortellini. Fir tips. Fiddleheads. Sorrel foam. Chickweed. Balsam fir oil.


5 – Beach Fire: Chorizo stuffed squid. Spruce tip sauerkraut. Oyster leaf. Wild caraway. Proscuitto. Rosehip Jus. Squid oil.

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6 – Summer’s here: Wild chamomile Granita. Rose and wild strawberry Sorbet.

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7 – The Canteen: Elderflower. Spruce tip. Blackcurrant leaf ice cream.

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8 – Petit Fours: Sweet fern meringue. Mint marshmallow. Spruce tip cookie tough truffle.

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A well-deserved standing ovation was received by the hosts: Chef Andrew and Sarah (Above). And they are heroes indeed – for their extremely hard work, for supporting local growers and fishers and foragers, and for keeping the vital skill of local foraging alive and well in Cumberland.

If you haven’t ever been to the Wild Caraway, make the effort.
You can Visit the Wild Caraway website at: http://wildcaraway.com/

Blog Written By: Su Morin, Ecology Action Centre, Community Food Coordinator – Cumberland.
Adventures in Local Food is your source for food news in Nova Scotia, from pickles to policy. It is a project organized by the Ecology Action Centre .Learn more about our program at https://www.ecologyaction.ca/ourfood
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