Image from visaltco
For many, one of the joys of travel is eating: the restaurants, the markets, trying out new foods and finding new tastes. With all the interest in local and regional foods, dedicated foodies are having fun finding esoteric and unique things to eat wherever they go.
One of the new trends is introducing people to wild ingredients that have been "tamed." The Globe & Mail, Canada's national newspaper has nosed out some weird spices and sea weeds and toppings from the Canadian wilds that used to be foraged and now are widely (sort of) available.
Image from eat magazine
Sea salt is an obvious one. They make it in England from the Cornish coast of the Atlantic Ocean and now they are doing it in the Cowichan Valley, British Columbia, from the coast of the Pacific. The Vancouver Island Salt Co. was started up just this year and is the first in the area. The former chef gets up in the middle of the night to follow the high tides because that's when the waters are the purest and least disturbed with sediment. He pours the locally collected sea water into three cookers to make natural sea salt at his home.
Getting more esoteric, there is the seaweed business. Also from B.C., Northwater Seaweed harvests native varieties of seaweed from the rocks and waters north of Campbell River, B.C.. The founder says interest in his business has flourished in recent years, as home cooks and restaurant chefs experiment with new ingredients. Many are happy to have a locally harvested product, rather than having to buy Japanese brands.
Seaweeds are plants that grow in or near salt or fresh water. Of the approximately 25,000 known species, only about 40 taste nice, and of these, only a handful are harvested for retail sale. For your information, cooks use it in stocks, fish chowders, steam it in rice or sprinkle on salads.
Image from dorigina
From Quebec come exotic wild herbs and spices such as burdock root and sweet gale seeds, hand-picked from the boreal forest. The forest products co-operative, Coopérative forestière Girardville, in Quebec is selling these items to gourmet shops. Many of the forest plants have been part of aboriginal diets forever. But now the mainstream is catching on.
The co-operative sells 21 varieties of native plants, under the name d'Origina. They include spikenard, tansy, sweet gale seeds, dwarf raspberry. Some of them taste similar to Indian spices. Apparently, pine forest spikenard tastes of eucalyptus and cardamom, tansy has a curry flavour with hints of saffron, and meadow parsnip root gives a cucumber-like aroma with a grapefruit aftertaste. If you are getting intrigued, they also include recipes on their website.