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Balsam Fir, Chaga, and Chocolate

The Ottawa Valley is covered in a thick blanket of perfect white snow. Snow-covered trees, ice and snow-covered lakes, and ground so covered in snow that you need snow shoes to trespass where no one has shoveled or plowed. We may not always think of winter as a time to forage, but some very delicious treats can be made with winter-harvested botanicals. Two of my favourite things to wild harvest and cook with in the winter are balsam fir (abies balsamea) and chaga mushroom (inonotus obliquus). You may not believe it until after you taste my recipes (six in total), but these two Eastern Ontario botanicals can go very well with chocolate! You can keep the balsam fir and chaga...

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The Forager's Buying Guide

Calendars & Identification Charts (1) Pacific Northwest Conifer Identification Poster by The Far Woods  (2) North American Plants 2017 Calendar by Erin Vaughan  (3) North American Trees 2017 Calendar by Erin Vaughan  (4) Wild Edible Mushrooms of Quebec Poster by Mathilde Cinq-Mars  (5) Northeast Local Foods Wheel by Local Foods Wheel Calendars, charts, and posters make great gifts for new foragers and plant nerds as they can help one learn to identify native edible or medicinal plants, trees, and fungi. Beautiful identification charts and calendars created by illustrators and painters double as a resource and artwork. We are also impressed with the unique Local Foods Wheel -- a project created by three women to help teach about the locavore movement and also show which regional foods (including wild ones) are in season throughout...

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The Dryad's Saddle Mushroom

There is one mushroom I am often asked about every spring and fall.  It is a gorgeous mushroom at its prime, undergoing a transformation from an alien looking stub to a huge fan-like mushroom.  This mushroom is of course the “Dryad’s Saddle” or “Pheasant Back” mushroom, known by the latin name Polyporus squamosus (which is fun to say).  As the binomial name suggests Polyporus squamosus is not a gilled mushroom, but possess a porous surface of many, many little tubes.  It is from these tubes that the mushroom shoots its tiny white spores, often down onto the dead tree from which they are growing.  Because of this you are often able to find this mushroom year after year, sometimes twice a...

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Berry Picking in the Valley

  If I could sum up this summer so far in one word it would be “drought”, the water levels in the river are down, and the bush is a tinder box.  After a nice and moist spring this was the last thing I expected (thank you climate change).  We had a damp warm spring, but the heat and dry conditions that followed, coupled with our local sandy soil, turned out to be berry heaven. above: saskatoon berries, wild blueberries, and pin cherries below: thimbleberry (rubus parviflorus) Last year after a record breaking hot and early spring and all of the berry and fruit trees had buds.  To emphasize, they had buds.  A late frost came sweeping in one night like...

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Catching Crayfish in Southeastern Ontario

We spent the Canada Day long weekend catching crayfish in Brennan's Creek in front of the house. It's a good, wide, shallow creek full of mud, rocks, minnows, and crayfish.  Locals talk about how crazy full of crayfish the creek is, and you can easily see them from the water's edge, fighting each other with their claws and moving like lightning by whipping their tails... but no one eats them and a few old timers laughed at me for saying I was going to. I picked up a minnow trap from the hardware store and cut the openings a little bigger with small wire cutters and then Alex tied a long nylon cord to the trap's clip. We looked up...

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