By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America
When I grow up I want to be Gerald Le Gal, owner of GourmetSauvage. His Montreal company supplies 48 foraged products to retailers and more than 100 to the Canadian food industry. Think herbal tisanes, jellied wild bergamot, pickled milkweed pods, marinated spruce tips and more.
Crafting with foraged products at home makes me feel so self-reliant and resourceful. Educating others to their potential, like Le Gal does, is a career dream. Le Gal works with more than 100 foragers across Quebec to supply his three-plus person company.
I stumbled across the Gourmet Sauvage foraged products on a recent visit to the Jean-Talon Market in Montreal. While tempted by many items, my budget limited me to two.
- Milkweed pods tasted pure and clean like their pickling liquid of cider vinegar and
sugar, a bit like a caper, only shaped differently. Their recommended use includes serving like pickles or with smoked salmon. I’d certainly do that to impress friends with my creativity.
- Cattail hearts – canned in water with a hint of lemon juice and sea salt – were more of a novelty than a culinary experience. They look like the white end of a green onion or thin hearts of palm. They’re tender and taste like, well, not much.
Le Gal says his foraging started in youth. “Mom used to forage, mostly for wild fruit and I would accompany her. However, my first real discovery occurred while I was up in a tree observing a rookery of great blue herons. A wild grape vine had made its way up there and to the eyes of a nine year-old, they looked like small grapes so I tasted them. Wow!”
“Then, I worked with indigenous people as a young adult and that really opened my eyes to the huge variety of edible and medicinal plants. Early into my 40’s, I decided to make it my life’s work.
“I launched my company with four wild products, juneberry jam, cloudberry jam, pickled milkweed pods and marinated cattail hearts. The fruit recipes were easy as I had made a lots of jams and jellies before. The two veggies were more difficult so I experimented and conducted taste tests with friends to arrive at the final result.
Residents of and visitors to Montreal can attend one- to six-day workshops to learn more about foraged edibles. By request the French-speaking guide will lead them in English.
Products are available by mail but Le Gal says, “We accept no responsibility for problems at customs. That being said, we have never had any problems.”
It’s important to note Le Gal’s philosophy: “One word guides our work: respect … respect for the environment, respect for protected and private lands and respect for other harvesters.