WINNIPEG — The Assiniboine Forest in Winnipeg is one of the largest protected urban green spaces in Canada. What most people don’t know is that it serves as the perfect place to forage for plant-based food.
Thanks to Savour Winnipeg and their program Fantastic Forest Forage, it could have you dazzling your friends and family when you host your next dinner party.
“Like so many great ideas, it started around a campfire,” says program guide Barret Miller. “My friend Ben and I were camping, and we picked a few things out of the forest and started talking about how it was a fun thing to do, and hey, thought other people might want to get in on this.”
And so it began.
Ben Benton, the creator of the website Savour Winnipeg, and Miller started the program last summer and more than 130 participants took part. From chefs to plant enthusiasts, a large cross section of the community signs up.
“There’s families with small kids — it’s a good chance to get out and enjoy a family time. It’s not too arduous a hike. There’s people who are very much interested in local food, some of the more hip-type people who want to know where their food came from, and folks who are more the outdoorsy type,” says Miller.
It’s not just the usual dandelions you’ll find on these excursions. People are surprised to quickly learn that the forest is packed with other exotic edible plants, such as sunchokes, sweet cicely and stinging nettle. Miller is quick to point out what you can eat and what you can’t. Many people come armed with pens and paper and make notes along the way, which especially comes in handy when samples are offered up.
While education is key to finding new ways to challenge your palette, this type of food gathering is not about to replace the grocery store anytime soon.
“I want people to have an answer if they were ever asked what does Winnipeg taste like — they could say this is something I’ve eaten in the Assiniboine Forest, this is something I recognize now,” says Miller.
Tours began in June and continue until the end of September. You can find a full schedule on the Savour Winnipeg website.
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Here are a few sample recipes you’ll find in the handbook that is a part of the two-hour excursion: