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Forage expedition helps reveal nature’s beauty

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Last September, I had the pleasure of partaking in a forage expedition with A.P. (Ben) Benton of Savour Winnipeg, in conjunction with outdoor educator Barret Miller of FortWhyte Alive.

In honour of their new season, here are some reminiscences. While most of the forage experiences take place in the Assiniboine Forest, the season’s grand finale is at FortWhyte Alive.

We started off from the main building, wandering into the forest and stopping along the way to admire various edible plants - wild licorice, wild sunflower, and a saskatoon bush that was, unfortunately, already finished.

We did, however, find a few wild hazelnuts that were still good. The chokecherry tree is given that name for a reason, but the fruit actually is edible. I was excited to be able to pick some oak leaves — I put them in with my pickles and the tannin in the leaves keeps them nice and crisp. Grape leaves will do this, too.

The willow is a natural analgesic. Cattails are edible for a good part of the year, but alas, in September they had gone to seed and Barret advised against tasting them. If you are lost in the wild, you can always go for duckweed on the pond — ducks eat it and we can, too. Of course there is always the humble dandelion.

This time of year I am buying dandelion greens from the grocery store, but I am looking forward to being able to forage them in my own yard - or anywhere else I can be sure they have not been sprayed with nasty stuff.

I was surprised to learn that wild plantains grow in Manitoba, although of course they don’t look like bananas. The wild sage smelled wonderful. We ended up by collecting wild mint and rosehips for our tea. Ben had lit a fire while the rest of us were foraging, boiled water and now we triumphantly dumped our treasures into the pot.

A refreshing glass of rosehip tea was a wonderful end to an educational and deeply satisfying experience.

The first forage of the season is May 25, so be sure to visit Savour Winnipeg’s website at http://savourwinnipeg.com/experiences.

Hadass Eviatar is a community correspondent for West Kildonan. Check out her blog at: http://hadasseviatar.com/blog.

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