If you spend every day in the bush, why not take advantage of a lucrative opportunity? Northern Saskatchewan's forests are ripe with berries, mushrooms and plants for the picking.
The challenge of foraging for wild edibles is knowing when and where to look. I am by no means an expert on foraging, but I do enjoy learning about plants. And I definitely love to eat. So, I feel compelled to share with you the progress on this journey I'm on, marked mostly by deliciousness and only occasionally by indigestion.
Check out some of the wild edibles in the list below, ordered by the time of year you can expect to find them in Saskatchewan.
Disclaimer: Eating wild mushrooms and plants at will is an adventurous way to live. If you want to live longer, please be sure they're properly identified.
Black Morel (Morchella elata)
Best time: Early spring, typically late April to late May. There is also an edible lookalike called Early Morel (Verpa bohemica) that comes out a bit sooner but doesn't taste half as good, although I've met people who do enjoy them. If the cap is sealed around the stem, you've got a morel; if it's detached and sits loose like a thimble, you've been had.
Where found: Disturbed sites, mostly deciduous woods, driveways
Suggested preparation: Rinse very well, especially if you picked them from a sandy ditch like I did. Slice them up and toss them in a mushroom risotto, balogna sandwich or wherever else you think mushrooms ought to be.
Fiddleheads (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
Best time: Early to mid-spring. Pick before they've unfurled
Where found: Moist mixed woods, rich sites, floodplains, common throughout Jurassic Park
Suggested preparation: Fiddleheads are young ostrich ferns and their flavour is somewhere between spinach and asparagus. They’re slightly astringent, like licking a 9-volt battery (not bad), and they fry up nice with butter and garlic. Wash them well before cooking.
Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)
Best time: Mid-spring to early summer. These seem to be most common when the wild roses are in bloom.
Where to find: Dead standing trembling aspen, black poplar
Suggested preparation: I know I'm a one-note pony here, but, they fry up well with butter. Also gives +1 Texture to most pasta dishes. Be sure to wash all the little black bugs off of it.
Dewberry and Wild Strawberry (Rubus pubescens and Fragaria virginiana)
Best time: Early to mid-summer
Where to find: Common along bush roads, throughout mixed woods. The fruit are small and tough to find in quantity. The leaves of wild strawberry and dewberry are nearly identical, with dewberry appearing more diamond in shape and strawberry more round.
Suggested preparation: They always get eaten before they get home, so I have no advice.
Saskatoon Berry (Amelanchier alnifolia)
Best time: Early to mid-summer, but can be found into August in some areas
Where to find: Riparian areas, river valleys and moist woods. It has a distinctive leaf that is round in shape with a serrated distal edge.
Suggested preparation: Pie. Duh.
Strawberry Blite (Chenopodium capitatum)
Best time: Throughout summer
Where to find: Disturbed areas, roadsides
Suggested preparation: I might get flak for even including this one. You can eat the fruit raw (high in oxalates, so it’s recommended to avoid large quantities). They are only faintly sweet and have a somewhat grassy taste like the shells of snap peas. Not the best, but it’s interesting.
Coral Tooth Fungus (Hericium coralloides)
Best time: Mid- to late summer
Where to find: Mature forests on well-decayed deadfall
Suggested preparation: Mushrooms from the family Hericium also include Lion's mane and taste great — a little like lobster even. They, too, fry up with butter and garlic.
Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius)
Best time: Mid- to late summer, the first few weeks of August
Where to find: Jack pine-dominated forests with caribou lichen, poorly developed soils
Suggested preparation: It feels somewhat disingenuous to include chanterelles because I have yet to find any myself, but there is a competitive market for them in northern Saskatchewan. One of my favourite restaurants serves them with bread and a béchamel sauce, which would be the first thing I try when I finally find them.
Blueberries (Vaccinium myrtilloides)
Best time: Mid- to late summer, typically around the second week of August
Where to find: Mixed and coniferous woods. The largest patches I’ve found were in jack pine-dominant forests in the transition zone between boreal plains and Canadian Shield.
Suggested preparation: In a bowl with cream and a bit of sugar (grandmother approved).
High and Low Bush-cranberry (Viburnum trilobum and Viburnum edule)
Best time: Early to mid-fall
Where to find: Common in moist, mixed woods throughout Saskatchewan
Suggested preparation: This is another one that might make some people turn their nose up. They can have a peculiar smell (especially the low bush), but they are plentiful and can be masked in a sweetened and spiced jam along with lingonberries. I’ve grown to appreciate the funk and it goes well with fatty meats like duck or pork.
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