Saskatchewan’s Glorious Woodland Bounty… the Original Organic!
by Carol Marriott
In all things of nature there is something of
the marvellous. —Aristotle
Imagine crawling around on the ground in the boreal forest of Saskatchewan picking up nickels! This is how Lois and Lorne Terry of White Fox Gold Harvesting describe their work! Lorne says it is just like a “walk in the woods.”
Mushrooms, dandelions, berries, roots, leaves, and herbs—a wild
food-lovers’ buffet at your feet!
Lorne’s grandfather homesteaded in the area north of White Fox, Saskatchewan, and his father was a conservation officer. After spending many years working in Northern Saskatchewan, Lorne and his wife Lois decided to retire in White Fox. I asked Lorne how he got interested in harvesting from nature. He said it started with chanterelles—fragrant edible mushrooms—and it was mostly just good economic sense.
Lorne says he has always been interested in the delicacies of the forest. In 2009, from May to September, the Terry’s contributed over $60,000 to the local economy in woodland bounty from the Torch River Provincial Forest.
The season, which lasts approximately two weeks, begins sometime in May with the harvesting of the delicate and delicious fiddleheads. For the past three years, a friend and I have stayed at the beautiful Torch Valley Country Retreats during May, trusting that if our timing is right, we’ll also get a chance to wander through the forest in search of these tender green delicacies. Steamed and sautéed in butter and garlic, they are a most scrumptious feast. This year we were exactly on time and enjoyed many meals with fresh fiddleheads and some left over to freeze.
Fiddleheads are just the beginning of a back-breaking, sweaty, grimy, bug-biting, labourious, manual woodland harvest. Lois and Lorne spend many hours together in the peaceful forest gathering gourmet delicacies such as the golden chanterelles, wild strawberries and blueberries, morel mushrooms, high bush cranberries, and Labrador tea.
Their wild harvest is in big demand. Brokers from Saskatchewan and BC pay top dollar for their forest bounty, which is shipped far and wide to locations in Vancouver, New York, and even Europe. White Fox Gold Harvesting hires 35 to 50 pickers during the season. Their gourmet wild harvest is in high demand by some of the best restaurants in the province such as Calories in Saskatoon, and Willows on Wascana in Regina, as well as Saskatoon’s Sheraton Hotel and Solero Foods, and many private buyers throughout Western Canada.
This nature-loving couple feel comfortable and at home being in the woodlands, and the wild bounty gives them good reason to be out there. Together they pick thousands of pounds and thousands of dollars of wilderness treasures. Most of the bounty collected is cleaned, packed, and shipped by bus, or delivered to brokers and restaurants by Lorne.
Foraging for wild foods is a growing activity worldwide. The Cowichan Green Community in BC offers a variety of interesting Wild Food Walks. Check out their website at www.cowichangreencommunity.org. There is an extensive number of other wild food tours and events where you can learn to identify, gather, prepare, and cook wild foods, and learn how to avoid the toxic varieties. As most of them warn… never eat anything from the wild that you can’t absolutely identify as edible!
A great resource for those of you wanting to know more about foraging for wild foods is The Forager’s Virtual Wild Food Field Guide at theforagerpress.com/fieldguide/guide.htm.
As for the Terry’s, they have become somewhat local celebrities. They were recently interviewed for an article in the Globe and Mail by writer Ian Brown, whose article is titled “Mushroom-gathering Isn’t Just a Walk in the Woods.”
Living off the land is not only prosperous, but very healthy too, and it is a way of life. For those “wild ones” willing to wander, Saskatchewan’s woodlands and prairies have much to offer. Mushrooms, dandelions, berries, roots, leaves, and herbs—a wild food-lovers’ buffet at your feet!
Carol Marriott is a Certified Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL) Specialist and the “Lead Mare” at Ravenheart Farms near Humboldt, SK. For more information, workshop dates, and/or private or group sessions call (306) 682-4641,
email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit: www.ravenheartfarms.com. Also see the colour display ad on page 43 of the 16.3 September/October
issue of the WHOLifE Journal.