About Les Jardins Sauvages
Les Jardins Sauvages is a wild foods business, founded by my partner François Brouillard, who is from a long family foraging tradition. Taught by his grandmother, François has been picking weeds as long as he has been walking and talking; a love of nature is in his blood. He has been in the business of selling wild edibles for 26 years, when he started it as a sideline as a conventional (organic) farmer. Normand Laprise of Toqué discovered him at the market in the early 90’s and encouraged him to focus on the wild stuff and collaborate with chefs. With the help of Normand, Anne Desjardins of L’Eau à la Bouche and Daniel Vézina of Laurie Raphael, the pioneers of Quebec Regional cuisine as we know it, he was the first to put wild edibles on the market and menus of Montreal’s top restaurants.
Today Les Jardins Sauvages has evolved into a three pronged enterprise, including a country restaurant in his restored family summer cottage on the river in St-Roch de l’Achigan, a farmer’s market stall at Marché Jean Talon in Montreal, and a line of products derived from wild plants and mushrooms sold in fine food stores.
Below is a list of wild plants and mushrooms harvested across Quebec by François and his team of foragers that we use at the ‘table champêtre’ (restaurant), where I am the chef. With 18 years experience now, I most recently worked as chef de cuisine at L’Eau à la Bouche where I met François, our wild greens supplier at the time. He slowly but surely wooed me into his world with his fine ingredients and old fashioned country living.
I first set foot into his ‘table champêtre’ in ’93 as a guest chef, when it was a casual meeting place for friends, foodies and chefs, a laboratory of sorts. For the following years, I would take my autumn vacation time to stage our wild mushroom event, which has since become a wild success. At the end of 2005, I took the reins of his kitchen, readily realizing that there was no better place to cook. Low key, but real, with quality at my fingertips. This was slowfood, terroir, locavore and ecolo - before and beyond all the buzz words. I was embracing the philosophy, while for François, it was just the way you did things.
As a team, we now showcase these local and unique ingredients in tasting menus on the weekends. The menu changes regularly following the season and often a theme; a set prix fixe, five to seven courses, bring your own wine.
The rest of the week, our kitchen swings into production mode. With the seasons, we process and put up the wild plants in various forms, for the restaurant pantry and for sale. Starting with fiddleheads in the spring, every week some new green, berry or mushroom comes into season to pick and tend to. Until the snow falls and for sometime after, we are busy sorting and cleaning, dehydrating, pickling, preserving, making pastes, pestos and powders, syrups, infused oils, blanching and freezing sous-vide, and more inorder to have local wild edibles year round.
A selection of fresh edibles are sold at our stall at Marché Jean Talon, along with our line of products (butters, mustards, oils, salts, preserves, dried mushrooms and herbs). We also make soups, charcuterie and meal components (frozen sous-vide) flavoured with wild ingredients.
To taste the full on experience with the widest array of wild edibles, dining at the table champêtre is a must, country setting and all. Afterwards, cooking with the wild stuff oneself seems less daunting, and not at all wierd. We keep a few secrets too; the most precious or perishable items often don’t make it out our door.