Foraging tips and recipes

With the current trendiness of local, seasonal food and notably wild produce, naturally many foodies and chefs are eager to have a go at foraging themselves. After all, it is a part of our heritage living off the land, a rural practical tradition that was slowly largely lost (luckily except for in my partner François’ family).

Wild edibles being our passion and business, (Les Jardins Sauvages a pioneer, thirty years in now), naturally we are delighted that people are curious and open to eating our terroir treasures; however, there is a downside  to this trend.. Many among this new set however excited in theory are city dwellers and completely disconnected from nature; they are not afraid enough, or careless , wanting to go too fast without sufficient knowledge, or respect for nature and awareness of sustainability issues.

It is important to have some background information before attempting to forage on your own.

Equally, if you purchase wild food, you want to know that the seller is first of all certified with an official business, knowledgeable and respectful of nature, picking sustainably, mostly on private property if not owned then with permission. Especially restaurant Chefs who are dealing in larger quantities should take responsibility when they put foraged foods  on their menu, ensuring that it is from a reliable sustainable source (paid for with bill). The increasing number of hacks and black market is dangerous on all levels not only in terms of sketchy product commonplace, but in terms of sustainability of the resource with no traceability (picked how, where, by who). Not to mention that without the overhead of running a business, these occasional pickers crash the market making it difficult for an experienced business like ours doing it right, working with the government and schools, dealing with inspectors and paying taxes etc. (and who paved the way to boot).. Awaiting regulation, the best we can do is keep doing our thing while educating..

I recently hosted a crew of explorers who were here for a forest cooking competition (Woods Greatest Canadian Explorer)  in a survival type series of challenges (airing July 28th) . We gave them a crash course in foraging with many of the wild edibles on our property before they had their cook off using wild foods and regular camping gear and dry goods. When customers come to the restaurant for a workshop dinner too, these are the main points we share with them about foraging before they go out identifying and tasting with François.

Photos of Quebec wild edibles

Bonus below are also a couple of easy recipes that you can dress up or down, meant to be doable while camping.


Foraging Tips

Chef Nancy Hinton, Les Jardins Sauvages

Know what you’re doing!

Ensure proper identification. Don’t rely on only one book (especially with wild mushrooms).

Ensure proper picking, both for taste and Mother Nature. There is a specific way for each wild edible (how, when and where).

Some greens are hardy, growing like weeds in the right environment (like lambs quarters, garlic mustard..) while others have a slow reproduction cycle so can easily be endangered if over-harvested (like ramps/wild garlic, wild ginger, crinkleroot). Don’t touch unless you know the life cycle of the plant and that it is in a healthy population.

In general, don’t rip out roots. Prune tips or leaves from mature plants, leaving buds; leave young baby sprouts alone.

Leave more than you take.

Besides for sustainability, there is also a proper way to forage for deliciousness and digestibility. Some plants are best picked in the morning (say dandelion), others at noon (say some flowers and goats beard).. Some plants are tasty when growing in a moist humid shady wooded area, while bitter, even inedible in a dry sunny season or spot, as with live-forever, wild rocket and mustard, sea chickweed..

Keep in mind that many wild edibles need to be cooked, for example: fiddleheads, milkweed, most wild mushrooms. It is a good idea to wash your harvest. When cooking, follow your palette: If it is pungent, use sparingly like an herb; if it is mild, then use as a salad green or vegetable.

Don’t be in a rush. Be cautious, not stupid.

Books and google searches might be a fine help, but there is no shortcut for experience.. Time in the Woods is Key! The best way to learn about foraging is to get to know your property or a patch of land/woods nearby that you can visit often, observing patterns, trees and what plants/mushrooms grow where every year, including the impact of your harvest (if you have permission to pick.)  Start with a few plants and mushrooms, get to know them well and slowly widen your scope every year.

Some wild greens/vegetables to explore without fear: Live-forever, trout lily, violet leaf, day lily, fiddleheads, lamb’s quarters, amaranth, garlic mustard, wood sorrel, sheppard’s purse, wild mustard leaf, wild celery/lovage.. Always keeping an eye out for familiar wild berries, wild mint and chives..

Some wild mushrooms to start with: 

Boletes (A family of hundreds including Porcini with the sponge under the cap) – While not all are of interest, they are not dangerous.

Lobster Mushroom – characteristic red colour and shape

Chanterelles – there is only one ‘look alike’ and easy enough to differentiate

Oyster/Shelf mushrooms on maple trees. Most are good when young, avoid really old rotten trees.

Be afraid of very pretty picture perfect mushrooms – often the deadliest!


Fish baked with crinkleroot, tomato and wild herbs

Chef Nancy Hinton, Les Jardins Sauvages

4 portions


500g                                         fresh fish fllets (or 1x 2lb whole fish, gutted)

45ml                                         Butter and/or olive oil

1 c (250ml)                                shallots or onion, sliced thin

60ml (1/4c)                                sliced wild garlic (or 30ml minced garlic)

15ml (heaping Tbsp)                  steak spice

125ml (1/2c)                              white wine

30ml (1 Tbsp)                            crinkleroot (or horseradish)

375ml (1 1/2c)                           diced tomato (1 can)

250ml (1 c)                                heavy cream

1.5L (6 c)                                  wild greens such as lambs quarters, sheppard’s purse/wild rocket sprouts, mustard leaf, amaranth..) or spinach/greens of choice

60ml (1/4 c)                               wild herbs such as wood sorrel, garlic mustard leaf, lovage, ramp leaf, chives, angelica, yarrow.. (or dill, tarragon, basil/ herbs of choice)

To taste                                    salt, pepper

To taste                                    hot sauce or chili



The fish can be cooked whole and served off the bone too. It all depends on your camping set up and mood.

Sprinkle the fish with steak spice.

Heat large pan or pot on burner or fire, sweat onions in butter/oil a few minutes, add garlic and crinkleroot, then white wine, tomatoes and cream. Place fish in sauce and top with wild greens and herbs, season to taste. Cover and bake or cook gently for 15-20min or until just starting to pull apart. A whole fish will take twice as long.

For the simplest method: All the ingredients can be put in a covered pot on the fire or in an aluminum foil packet (en papillote)..


Wild Mushroom Rice bowl

Chef Nancy Hinton, Les Jardins Sauvages

4 portions


225g                                         wild mushrooms (such as chanterelles, hedgehogs, lobster mushroom, young king or yellow boletes, black trumpets..), cleaned and sliced

45ml                                         grapeseed or olive oil

15ml (1 Tbsp)                            butter

1/2c (125ml)                              chopped shallots or onion

30ml (2 Tbsp)                            wild garlic (or half as much garlic), sliced thin

10ml (2 tsp)                               wild ginger, minced

250ml (1c)                                 long grain rice like basmati

125ml (1/2c)                              white wine

30ml (1 Tbsp)                           dried mushroom powder

375ml (1 3/4c)                          water or broth

To taste                                   Spices (ex. clove, bay leaf, pinch thyme or curry powder..)

To taste                                    salt and pepper          


1L (4c)                                     Mix of wild greens and herbs such as lambs quarters, dandelion, wild rocket, ramp leaves, day lily shoots, daisy, sorrel, mint.. (or say spinach, watercress and basil, coriander, mint..)

30ml (2 Tbsp)                           Olive oil

Optional                                   splash sesame oil


100ml                                      pickled mushrooms, fiddleheads, kimchi or pickle of choice                                                    

To taste                                   Chilli/hot sauce



Sauté mushrooms in a hot pan with oil. Once they start to colour, add the butter and onions and turn down the heat to medium, cook a few minutes and add the rice, garlic and ginger, stir to coat the rice. Add the mushroom powder and wine, reduce slightly. Add the water/broth, season with salt, pepper and spices of choice. Cover and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes, until rice has absorbed liquid and looks almost done. Remove from heat and let sit 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss greens and herbs with a good oil, salt and pepper.

Serve rice topped with salad and pickle.

Add a fried egg, tofu, cooked sausage, leftover chicken/steak or protein of choice for a more substantial meal.



First Bite, a book about how we learn to taste

First Bite, by Bee Wilson

This is a book about how we learn to taste and eat, with a fresh look at the latest research - the balance of nature vs nurture, how psychology and culture play in and more.. 

Fascinating stuff!

Eating well shouldn’t be complicated in our land of plenty, but somehow in our western society, we have made it so.  I can't help but think, 'Problems of the rich!' but no, it turns out that there is nothing straightforward about it. Here the author attacks our eating habits and food issues by delving into how we learn to like what we do in childhood, showing that taste is a skill, a learned behavior, more than we think.

Besides a small genetic component providing us with variable appetite, physiology and sensitivity to certain flavours, our likes and dislikes are mainly acquired. Across the world, we all are born with an innate predisposition towards sweetness and a suspicion of bitterness. We all start with a diet of milk, but after that, it’s all about flavours and what is normal differs depending on culture.  And by the way, the whole idea of ‘kid food’ as separate from adult food is unique to ours.  ‘A kid that only eats cornflakes says more about the parents than his/her personality.’ Nonetheless, the author refrains from taking on a tone of telling us what to do, sharing her exploration of our taste buds, rituals and common hang-ups, causing us to think anew about the multiple facets of our funny relationship with food.  

Interestingly, there is a magic window between four and seven months when a baby is more open to new tastes, after which they typically enter a neophobic stage (fear of new foods), when the whole process of getting children to like what’s good for them becomes more difficult, and which we often bypass with the focus on breastfeeding followed by bland sweet mush.

Another interesting tidbit: A regimen of successive exposure to ‘Tiny Bites’ appears to be a sure tactic to introduce a new food to even the fussiest of children, the key being pea sized morsels outside the pressure of mealtime threats and bribes.  Most kids come to like a ‘despised food’ after 4-5 tries, requiring up to 14 times for a tough case such as an autistic child. It especially helps if the broccoli or whatever it is that is ‘good for you’ isn’t treated like it isn’t supposed to be yummy (worthy of a sweet treat). Pressuring a child to eat greens teaches him/her to dislike them. Force feeding is problematic in this day and age when lean times are not necessarily around the corner; abundance has made obsolete the notions of our grandparents with their 'waste not, want not' philosophy and penchant for generous portions and food treats when possible due to memories of hunger and harsh times. 

Now, an ‘ Authorative but Warm’ parental feeding approach seems to be the most beneficial  for long term health and weight  which means caring and controlling what is on the plate or in the pantry, but allowing children to learn to self-regulate as early as possible. There are many proponents for BLW (Baby Led Weaning)– babies feeding themselves with their hands as of 6months finger foods like steamed vegetables, risotto, soft fruit and bread, even lamb chops.  

Experiments show that children who are only introduced to lumpy solids after 10 monthes are more likely to show feeding difficulties as toddlers such as trouble swallowing or general anxiety about eating anything but familiar comfort foods. 

Another notorious experiment showed that toddlers to ten year olds who were left on their own ultimately chose a sufficient quantity of a variety of foods and healthy diet overall (yes fruit and vegetables and including bone marrow and cod liver oil)-the key was that that what was available was a variety of reasonably wholesome foods (not junk).

We are reminded that likewise; we can unlearn bad eating habits by slowly changing our tastes even as adults. Medical evidence has long established that the healthiest diet is composed of moderate helpings of a variety of real whole foods, mostly plant based and minimally processed, alongside regular exercise. Ritual and culture (rules) often help structure healthy eating behaviour. Unlike the occasionally contradictory nutritional information about fat and carbs, it has never been controversial that we should eat our veg. Yet, we are eating less than ever. So it’s not about information or knowledge but applying it, learning new habits.

There is an increasing consensus among neuroscientists, psychologists and biologists in the nature vs nurture debate about how taste works, however complex and influenced by many factors, it is fluid, changeable, certainly not fixed. Our ‘tastes’ are just reinforced patterns of neurons firing relying on the drug famous dopamine response.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter/hormone released in the brain when you do something rewarding that provides pleasure. The chemical signal (dopamine response) can fire up at even at the sight of (in anticipation of) a food linked to a prior positive taste experience or memory. So it’s not about physical taste more than it is the thought of it and what it means to us including the context (in relationship to the cook/parent or company, the identity or statement it provides, social acceptance etc, ie the story associated with said food.)

Peer pressure, siblings and societal gender roles also have an influence, whether positive or negative (they are part of the story, obviously!). 

It’s interesting to have science back it up, but we all inherently know how true all this is -from our favourite meals being tied to love or celebration or nostalgia, our phobias from traumatising situations, that food tastes better when you can see it and that it looks delicious or if you are led to believe that it will be for whatever reason..

So how can so many people get away with being so absolute in their claims to like/dislike foods, or allowing their kids to be such fussy eaters beyond a short phase?? As a cook, I’ve seen people go from hating fish or coriander or blue cheese or spice to adoring it so many times depending on how it is prepared, by having an open mind or with acclimatization, I find it infuriating to hear someone say they won’t try something.

I just see it as a missed opportunity for pleasure or life experience. Like I said, I believe eating should not be so complicated. Bee Wilson proves that it is and isn’t in the best of ways, which is only empowering, good news for those with food issues and parents of young children.  No need to stress out over nutritional labels if you learn to love your veggies..

But, in case you do want to know more, I can go on with miscellaneous compelling facts and thoughts from Wilson's book..

Hunger, the most basic of physical needs for survival, is not simple either. Way more complex than low blood sugar, running deep and muddled in how we feel it and respond to it. ‘If you’re hungry enough, you’ll eat it’ does not always work.. The sweet peanut based Plumpy Nut miracle food created to beat malnutrition in Africa did not have the same success in Bangladesh or India because it is foreign to what food should taste like to them;  a bean/lentil coconut thing is in the works.  In understanding hunger on a biochemical level, there has been progress. There is leptin concentration (an indicator of much fat is available and a cue to stop eating); while studying binge eaters, it appeared that over-eating can cause resistance to it. Another biomarker for hunger that stimulates us to eat is Ghrelin yet it has been shown that outside factors such as regular mealtimes can trump these biomarkers. There is CCK, a gut hormone that is released when the stomach is full (of fat and protein, or just extended) that suppresses hunger. Yet again, there is an important cognitive effect on hunger and satiety, for example heavily influenced by how much food we are offered (portion size!).  While our body is supposed to stop eating when it registers that we are full (as easily happens with children under the age of 4), it seems that many of us have learnt to ignore these cues. The conventional cereal and juice might be the worst start to the day. Fact: Soup and protein will keep us full longer. Fact: We tend to eat more when distracted. Mindfulness and education can teach children as well as adults to more accurately listen to hunger and self-regulate.

We have a lot to learn from other cultures (before they catch our eating disorder). Japan is a stellar example of diet (and change; what we associate with Japanese is relatively new). The French have also taught us a few things, it being natural to raise kids in a ‘civilized’ way with rules and sensory education, a reverence for food and dining; which surely help develop an overall attitude towards eating that is open to variety, less governed by the simple sugar-salt-fat equation that is the normal pull here.

Eating disorders are revelatory since often they are best understood as extreme versions of regular, common irrational feelings toward foods and feeding disorders such as emotional binging to selective eating.. However recent research suggests that in the case of anorexia, there is a more definite genetic factor, but it remains a predisposition, requiring other environmental stress in childhood and trauma triggers as well as other untreated conditions (depression). Anorexia is correlated to a dysfunction of the insula, a part of the brain that regulates anxiety which appears to be linked to flavour processing, as if an anorexic brain has a hard time recognizing pleasure, which makes recovery tougher than with others. 

Family Meal! is the one universally beneficial lifestyle choice for all.  When it comes to people  with feeding disorders (fussiness, phobias), or with eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia..) alongside medical help and psychotherapy, the most crucial part of any successful treatment is ultimately a structured meal with others where a range of foods are on offer but in a firm and loving way.

And when it comes to losing weight, which is the fight of many Westerners, the key tips from those who maintain a healthy weight is slow change (towards healthier choices, decreasing portion size and sugar etc) alongside exercise evidently, while avoiding any diet that is too restrictive.. You have to enjoy your diet for long-term success. But with a flexible brain, we can adjust our likes by making little modifications and introducing variety while working on the pleasure response, the ‘story’ around the food, in conjuction with attention to the other senses.  

This power has been exploited by the fast food industry to the max for instance with the optimal potato chip that feeds on our love of crispy, crunchy, fatty, salty and sweet with sensory overload. Consider all the stunts and smoke and mirrors that food purveyors and restauranteurs use to alter/enhance the taste experience with lighting, utensils, music, marketing etc.. The new field of Neurogastronomy is increasingly demystifying these non-taste related sensations that impact flavour,  for one to assist people with eating disorders and chemotherapy patients derive pleasure and nourishment for quality of life.

Cooking is another great FREE way to take control and feed ourselves better; implicating kids in the process makes them more inclined to eat it too.. And it's true that just about no one doesn't have time to cook, it's a choice. I'm a little bossier than Bee on this one.

Needless to say, I enjoyed this informative read! 

A review from the Guardian


Wild mustard greens, our November star

Wild mustard greens

Forager and farmer come together for a win-win project (in French)

You see, among a zillion other wild edibles, we pick wild mustard greens in fall. They taste like their name implies, of green and mustard, yet nutty, with a pleasant touch of bitterness. François refers to them as our ‘wild rapini’. In the wild they can be extremely pungent, or in humid, temperate to cold climate, in the right soil and shady conditions, wow - super delicious! Especially young, the sprouts, even full grown leaves can be so tender and soft, even buttery with but a delicate bite. They are tasty raw in a mixed salad, or gently cooked like spinach. Some years we had it on the menu and used it liberally, other years, not so much; we rarely bothered bringing it to market because among the other better known edibles, it could be a tough sell.

However, François has been wanting to exploit this further for a while. He couldn't help but think that it would be ideal and easy in a greenhouse, consistently customer friendly. He was a conventional farmer before he focused on the wild stuff, he knows that mustard is a good fertilizer. So..

He has been throwing around ideas with André Cormier for years, a nearby farmer who grows asparagus, tomatoes, cucumbers, greens, corn, squash.. Who has a lot of greenhouses. They have collaborated in the sense that he lets François pick wild greens in and around his fields (weed his garden) and has learnt a lot along the way, even eats some of it himself now. In fall, he grows a fertilizer crop like canola in his greenhouses only to enrich his soil. Finally they got it together this year and André listened to François and grew mustard.. For weeks, it went crazy, he was happy with the 'no sweat' rich green cover and high germination rate, François with the greens he could pick past frost. He was able to sell a bunch at the market if he was there talking about it and making people taste it. (Like most of our stuff, you need to educate, prepare and give a lot away in order to sell). Anyway, I'm happy that we still have local fresh ‘wild’ greens that aren’t blanched sous-vide on the menu at the restaurant.  All in all, it appeared to be an experiment that showed promise. Plus, bonus chickweed (another good weed that I love) that in conjunction, stuck around a little longer.

Finally, the greens froze sooner than we expected, so I guess this project won't go that much further for this year, but it was a small victory for both. André the farmer is happy with the productivity and result of his soil, and François got to harvest greens through November. We don't think it would be worth it to heat the greenhouse for this year, but who knows in the future, if there was more of a market that we would have to develop and secure first. Even if it's just a seasonal one-two month thing post harvest season, it's one more spoke in our wheel.

François is such a great ideas man, in the moment and all over the place, spread thin, not always the best with forethought and planning. We will be better organized next year.. He has collected so many seeds for a myriad of his projects. While in sync dancing with nature, there are still sustainable tangent opportunities to explore. But the reality is that these experiments can never take too much away from where we need to be in day to day business; in October we are so focused on our mushroom festival, the market and then getting ready for the Xmas market in L’Assomption..

No matter, I’m happy that we are constantly trying new things and evolving, me in the kitchen and him in the field. It’s essential.

Posted on Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 12:50AM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Lettre ouverte de Slow Food Lanaudière

Les pesticides, l’agriculture industrielle et notre alimentation

Slow Food Lanaudière enjoint Monsieur Pierre Paradis, ministre de l’Agriculture des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation, à revoir l’ensemble des lois et règlements régissant l’agriculture au Québec pour aider et favoriser les producteurs artisans.

Un reportage de Radio Canada en date du 21 octobre dernier nous apprenait ce que nous redoutions déjà; notre gouvernement provincial a perdu le contrôle de l’utilisation des pesticides sur son territoire tant en quantité qu’en qualité. Le ministre de l’agriculture, Pierre Paradis, avouait dans une entrevue avec Paul Arcand le 22 octobre : « Monsanto est plus puissant que le gouvernement du Québec ».

Il n’est pas très réjouissant de constater l’impuissance de notre gouvernement à veiller sur la santé des citoyens. Ces pesticides dont certains sont bannis, entre autre dans plusieurs pays européens, se retrouvent dans les aliments offerts par les supermarchés et donc dans nos assiettes et sont la cause de nombreux problèmes de santé.

Le ministre Paradis nous conseille d’être vigilant et de revendiquer le droit de savoir comment sont produits les aliments que nous achetons. Nous sommes tout à fait d’accord avec lui et nous l’encourageons fortement à revoir les règles de l’étiquetage des aliments afin que les consommateurs soient informés de la présence de pesticides ou d’OGM. Nous avons le droit de savoir.

Cependant il faut aller plus loin; en effet , il faut aussi qu’une plus grande quantité de produits bios, sans pesticides et sans OGM soit offerts sur les tablettes des épiciers. Ces produits ne proviendront pas de l’agriculture industrialisée. L’agricultrice qui témoigne dans le reportage de Radio Canada dit bien « L'industrie te pousse toujours à être plus performant, à sortir le plus de rendement, à avoir les champs les plus propres possible». La loi de la grande industrie est de produire toujours plus, de baisser les prix et vendre plus pour faire plus de profit. Ces industriels ne tiennent évidemment pas compte dans l’établissement de leur prix de revient de l’augmentation des coûts de la santé due à la croissance des cas de cancers et de maladies chroniques causés par l’usage incontrôlé des pesticides et des additifs alimentaires. Et maintenant, l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé décrète que les viandes rouges et les charcuteries sont nocives pour la santé…

Puisque nous ne pouvons pas compter sur la grande industrie alimentaire pour nous approvisionner en produits sans danger pour notre santé il nous faut nous retourner vers les producteurs artisans qui accordent plus d’importance à la qualité qu’à la quantité.

Le consommateur aura ainsi accès à des aliments sains: Bon au goût, Propre car l’artisan à tout avantage à protéger la pérennité de son moyen de subsistance et à garder sa clientèle avec qui il est directement en contact et Juste parce que l’artisan recevra une rémunération équitable tout en offrant un produit à prix avantageux, ceci grâce à la disparition de nombreux intermédiaires.

Et attention! Selon Boucar Diouf (la Presse, 31 octobre 2015, A25) «Si la tendance se maintient, l’industrie alimentaire (telle que nous la subissons actuellement) risque de vivre, dans le futur, des recours collectifs de l’ampleur de ceux qui frappent aujourd’hui l’industrie du tabac».

Geneviève Longère, coresponsable de Slow Food Lanaudière

Posted on Monday, November 23, 2015 at 01:50AM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Summer highlights 2015

Summer highlights and snapshots à la table des Jardins Sauvages

It’s been an amazing summer so far - fun, fun, fun.


The frequent rain has definitely been good for the greens, while giving us hope for a bountiful mushroom season!

The challenge was that everything went soo fast, it was a major race to pick and put up - from the spring fiddleheads, sprouts and roots to the wild summer vegetables and flowers that we are processing now, each season stressfully short.  For instance, we managed to pickle 20 cs of daisy buds, but missed out on the motherload due to logistics and sick pickers  (When it’s time, you have to be there and organised to seize the window, otherwise say goodbye for a year, boohoo).

The strawberries were awesome at Cormier here but apparently, the weather seems to be tougher on the berries at this point, however the wild ones will no doubt fare better than those cultivated.. There are raspberries along the riverside here and in our backyard, so delicious. François brought home succulent wild blueberries from Lac St-Jean, the Ontario peaches are my favourite truly seasonal import, local corn is really good now, the celery with huge branches, green onions as tall as me. All round, between the wild, our local producers and the Marché Jean Talon, the eating is damn fine these days. The wild mushrooms are starting in earnest, with decent chanterelle harvests, some Lobsters and boletes showing up. So far François has gone far and wide for a few black trumpets. With a warm dry spell, it will all pop.

One lowpoint of the summer for me was suffering through a good dose of poison ivy, a severe frontal burn (big pot blanching with a bad back) and wasp bites (who knew that there was a wasp nest in my smoker!?).. Many years in, I thought I was immune to such country blips, but no. Paranoid of the ever-lurking poison ivy, I am now hyper alert to the natural antidote ‘Impatiente du cap’ which is everywhere (it not being edible, I hitherto paid little attention..). And for the record, it really helps.. Of course, now you all know that as soon as you’re exposed you need to wash well, scrubbing the poisonous oil away with soap and water. But if you didn’t do that and you find yourself with a rash of crazy itchy bites, you make a paste of this plant and spread it all over, nature’s calamine lotion.. I also found that a mix of baking soda and aloes helped when I didn’t want to be covered in green.

Sumacade came to the rescue on hot days for refreshment; afterall, you can’t hang out in the walk-in fridge all day!  I have last year’s fruit on hand, this year’s crop is not ripe yet, very green and astringent but getting more drinkable by the day. Especially with some wild mint and other flowers and herbs thrown in. Melisse (lemonbalm) from my garden is a favourite addition.


The preserving checklist is an ongoing work in progress, and the bulk of my work alongside our dinners. There are more marine greens and a TON of mushrooms in my future, but much of the rest of our staples are checked off for the year.. We sure got a lot done with a small crew..  Check it out!                    

Fiddleheads: 800lb put up at la table – pickled or blanched, frozen sous-vide in 1kg packs for me and 150g for customers off season, plus the seasoned ones for tastings (and customers who don’t want to cook).

Crinkleroot: pickled, paste and dried

Wild ginger: pickled, paste and dried

Garlic Mustard, Lovage, Daisy, Crinkleroot leaf, herbs and etc: .. Many little harvests off and on – Dried, pesto.

Stinging nettle 50lb blanched, sous-vide and dried

Lamb’s quarters (Pigweed) 60lb, blanched sous-vide

Cattails and pollen: Cooked spears, Dried and pulverized flower - enough to be sneezing yellow for a week

Various Flowers dried for tisane and infused for Syrups: Linden, Milkweed, elderflower, sweet clover flower, pineappleweed..  I just love Matricaire (pineapple weed is a good name, we English have it sometimes). We went easy on the milkweed this year , although we have plenty around here,  we figured we best leave more for the butterflies, taking just enough for our aromates and my pink sorbet for July menu.

Pickled daisy buds  15 cs + a few mason jars for moi

Pickled day lily buds 40cs

Milkweed brocoli - 20lb cooked sousvide, a few pickles

Sea spinach 300lb – For Joe La Croute’s Popeye bread, lb packs of cooked, seasoned spinach sousvide, 150g packets for customers in winter, and then some for my freezer.. Plus for my menus.. Sea spinach was key in François’ winning my heart 15 years ago and remains my  favourite of all wild greens.. But every year is new, I am getting over the spiciness and appreciating sea rocket more and more, although it needs to be chopped up and mixed with other greens or used in a punchy salse verde.

Sea rocket pesto my new favourite condiment

Sea parsley pesto, plus dried for our herb salt. There will be more but it’s being left alone for now while it goes to seed.

Bee balm – picking petals every week.. For our butter and aromates. At the beginning and end of the season, we harvest the leaves which are a tasty herb, dried very Earl-Grey like.

Day lilies from our field – a rotation of projects with this delectable edible, from a few sprouts, to the buds (vegetable or pickled), and finally the petals & pistils and buds for our tisane, butter, coffee and aromates.. Weeks of picking and processing right there.

The list goes on..

And throughout, keeping up with our line of products that we make periodically all year: vinaigrettes, oils, mustards, spice mixes and salts, teas.. Our soups, sauces, vacuum packed ready to eat/pret à manger dishes..

New discoveries

Winecaps/Stophaires à Anneaux Rugueux - Not new really, but a little-known plentiful mushroom in early summer that I have gotten to know and adore. It's an easy to like mushroom not so different from a Portabella say, so just sautéed, in an omelette, risotto or pasta dish, yum.. It was our star until the chanterelles came around.

Day-old Day lilies were a revelation - I like the fresh petals of the day for salads, but I had read that the closed day lilies were used in Chinese cuisine and François finds them sweet if a bit mushy, so I made a point of playing around this year. Stewed with pork (as in the Chinese recipe) seems a stretch, but fried in tempura, they are tops!

Carotte sauvage, Queen Anne’s Lace: One of those wild edibles that has been on our todo list forever. The delicate umbrella white flowers are so aromatic, with a sweet carrot scent and notes of green, celery, cedar, menthol.. Nice as a subtle infusion (sauce) or ground up as a finishing spice, I’m exploring the possibilities still. On my menu now in a carrot kolrabi slaw with lamb’s quarters, wild mustard long pepper and duck.  

My wild coffee: A mix I’m working on, ever evolving..  Kind of like a cereal coffee, but not. Featuring roasted dehydrated apios (ground potato), dandelion root, chaga (that famous cure-all wild mushroom that grows on birch), wild carrot root, amaranthe, among other various ingredients.. for a wild & local coffee replacement (alongside our house tisane and mushroom tea!). A bonus for Food Day Canada, that I might keep on the menu for our more avid wild diners. I don’t see how I could market this; like so much of the stuff we do, so expensive/plant heavy/labour intensive. No caffeine, but I think it’s pretty interesting. It tastes like coffee, but local and medicinal, another kind of boost!

Wild Cocktail kit: I let my creativity go concocting various ingredients for cocktails, such as a sarsaparilla sugar, spruce/mint sugar, sumac salt, some syrups and shrubs (sweet/fruity vinegars) building on what we already have like our wild grape ‘balsamic’ or milkweed flower, elderberry/elderflower syrups.. Wild cherry with highbush cranberry, mixing in juniper and spices, Labrador tea, Wintergreen..  I already have many infused spirit, syrups, herbal vinegars and building blocks for bitters. But the thing is, we don’t drink cocktails (preferring wine), we don’t have a liquor licence, so what’s the point, I lost steam when more pressing jobs came onto the agenda. Most of it got transformed into dessert or are sitting there until the next time I want to pick up that thread.

Flower bouquets  This used to be a waitress chore that has slowly become mine over the years. I pick the flowers for starters, so why not follow through. I have found that I love making the bouquets, first of all since I didn't find there was enough love going into it, and the truth is, I simply enjoy it. It's a zen part of my day. I always remember Anne (L'Eau à la Bouche) fretting over the flowers and at the time, wondering why she wasn't delegating and doing something else more important in the kitchen, or talking to her stressed out chef de cuisine, ha!? I never stop learning from her.

Menu hits: At la table des Jardins Sauvages

Venison carpaccio with sea rocket and wild garlic mustard, crinkleroot aioli, Menestrel cheese, pickled buds and sprouts – the quality of the meat (ours!) helps, but here it was the spiciness of the sea-rocket rounded out with the aioli and the cheese, and a good olive oil (sorry, I’m so local but have not found an equal for this, besides Highwood Crossing Canola oil maybe). Coup de Coeur à François.

Crisp veg salad with wild greens, wild chimichurri, pickled egg, petals and duck cracklings – I made this in several versions this summer without the duck or egg which takes it to the next level, but just a bunch of veg sliced thin and marinated with a vinaigrette that I punched up with a pesto of wild herbs under a mound of different wild greens seasoned with a good oil and our herb salt.

Halibut with sea greens and smoked tomato  With fresh fish, can’t go wrong here.. I used my wild salted herbs for an easy sauce with a wine reduction, touch of cream. Instead of a latke or one of my usual potato crinkleroot bases, I made a Leffe, a Norwegian pancake thingie, neat. Like wet gnocchi dough kneaded, rolled out and cooked like crepes.

Wild flower sorbet: The dominant flavour was the milkweed flower, also giving it it’s pretty colour, but the elderflower, acacia provided good background. Paired with a sweetclover cheesecake or pavlova and sweetgrass , it stole the show.


Market issues

What the hell is going on at Marché jean Talon? Such a beautiful place to be in summer, so much top notch produce, it’s so busy, yet it’s dead. It’s become a tourist destination, which should be great, but it’s packed with people soaking up the scenery and eating sausage on a stick, no one with a bag in hand. The actual shoppers have been scared away. For sure, there are public markets sprouting up everywhere, so why leave your village or neighborhood, not to mention supermarkets are doing a somewhat better job with fresh and local.. But still, but nothing beats MJT at this time of year, people seem to have forgotten. You need to know where to go for the best of the best be it corn or tomatoes or herbs, but François is there for that! And there is parking underground.


Anecdote/Theme of the summer:  

Carpe diem with Family & Friends. Life is short. No matter how fabulous or insane life can be, the most important thing is staying true and taking care of ourselves, finding time to be with family and friends. Our business is our baby and forever a labour of love - the momentum is easy, we love what we do, but it is never really all that easy.  We have to do what we have to do, which does mean working our asses off in season, weekends devoted to work, but we’ve decided it’s ok to slack off here and there for family events too.. As well as making a point of jumping in the river as often as possible. Our river is a blessing, a wonderful refreshment, offering up a killer back massage or a bath, a moment to wind down solo and breathe in the country air, gaze in awe at the massive trees and herons circling above, also the perfect setting for a romantic apero or crazy bonfire party. Cheers big ears!

Posted on Saturday, August 1, 2015 at 01:57AM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Food Day Canada 2015

At les Jardins Sauvages, we are celebrating Food Day Canada/ Journée des Terroirs, August 1st!

This is a national ‘holiday’ celebrating local food and good eating.  On the same day, across the country, both chefs and home cooks (whole villages even) will be simultaneously feasting on menus composed of fresh and local products while raising a glass to our rich and diverse culinary landscape.  Organized by Anita Stewart, acclaimed food writer and long time proponent of Canadian food, she has lots of great people and restaurants on board, check it out..

Of course, my menu is always focused on local, artisanal and wild foods, but I love this initiative.  We should be eating like this year round both for our health and happiness, as well as for the land.  I like the idea of fostering national and regional culinary pride, and I am all for another reason to get together over good food and wine, one day at a time.  At the height of the growing season, every meal is so easily a celebration, so why not join in!  

Alongside the market (Jean Talon) and cooking at the restaurant, we are up to our nose in putting up the harvests - dehydrating and infusing, blanching to vaccuum pack/ freeze, pickling up a storm.. The wild vegetables, the flowers, the marine greens, the berries.. And now, the mushrooms! Time to indulge in the abundance! 

Our Food Day Canada menu can be viewed below or at

To reserve, please call 450-588-5125

To take the beverages to the next local level (replacing coffee or tea), we have a new ‘wild coffee’ in the works.. Last year, we did the wild mushroom tea (like a tastier version of Chaga) which many liked but some found weird to finish the meal. Something more like coffee is on order, look out!

 Canada Food Day Menu*

August 1st, 2015 

House smoked Arctic char and gravelax with sea parsley gribiche and pickled day lily and daisy buds, sea spinach and sea-rocket salad with glasswort and Canadian sandspurry, wild herb chimichurri and nasturtium

 Corn and Lobster mushroom chowder with cattail broth, garlic mustard leaf, cattail spear and pollen

 Wild ginger and miso duck with Quebeclong pepper, buckwheat noodles, kohlrabi slaw with lamb quarters and wild mustard, milkweed brocoli tempura

 Venison from the farm with our ‘wild steak spice’, cauliflower and wine-cap mushroom gratin with l’Amateur cheese, ratatouille

 Option : Quebec Cheese plate – a selection from the region, chutney and homemade bread (100g for two; 20$ supplement)

 Sweet clover flower and sumac upside down cake with wild berries and sweetgrass (wild blueberries, elderberries, saskatoon berries and squashberries), American black walnut and Maple-scented Lactarius semifreddo

 Tea, coffee

 Wild leaf & flower tisane, Fair-trade espresso

Sparkling water (5$ supplement)


95.00$ tax included, service extra

(82.63+ 4.13GST +8.24PST)

Bring your own wine


Your chef : Nancy Hinton

Your host and forager : François Brouillard

29 years the pioneer in Quebec wild edibles


Posted on Sunday, July 26, 2015 at 11:07PM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Officially Spring 2015

Spring 2015, a slow start but officially here and going fast now..

Wow, the fervor of spring, ie the beginning of the growing season, feels new and exciting each year but if I look back at written words over the years, it’s like groundhog day, and I’m an annual seasonal broken record..  Maybe that’s partly why I don’t blog as religiously anymore.

So I’m streamlining here with main highlights and an updated slideshow of spring edibles (below), most of which are peaking now.. And honestly, it is indeed different and ever as thrilling year after year, I just no longer feel like repeating everything ten years later.

Spring 2013 post with more detail and photos.. (back when I was able to upload photos here) 

No Doubt, Spring in St-Roch really is the jackpot season, when there is the most abundance of edibles in our backyard. Highlights are always the wild salad greens which are really good this year; with the cold start, the dandelion isn’t bitter at all for instance, the spring beauty, trout lily and daisy so sweet, the live-forever juicy.. 

Spring Edibles slideshow Les Jardins Sauvages

Beyond the little curiosities such as apios (wild potato), the day lily shoots and varied sprouts, roots, spruce tips and such, it always comes down to two main topics in spring..

About ramps: I have said it all before, but..

Bottom line: Know where your ramps are coming from, they are slow to reproduce and need to be harvested sustainably, which is why they are illegal in Quebec. Pick on your own property and you won’t be ripping out any roots, picking carefully and moderately. Harvest the leaves at the end of the plant cycle and use in salads or as an herb, make pesto for the freezer. Same story with crinkleroot and wild ginger which also have a slow cycle, and so are on the endangered list - you can’t be ripping out the roots. Pruning a healthy population on your own property is the only way to go, which is what we do. Chefs and diners should be aware, there are a lot of hacks out there wrecking it for the rest of us.

About fiddleheads I have said it all before, but..

Bottom line: Don’t worry, they aren’t toxic, you just need to wash and cook them. There is a molecule that is hard to digest, but it is water soluble and denatured by cooking. They grow in swampy areas, so another reason to wash and cook. But they are super nutritious and delicious if fresh and cooked properly. 5 minutes in lots of boiling water is all it takes, then sauté with garlic, butter/olive oil, a squirt of tamari and cider vinegar, salt&pepper. I like a splash of hot sauce too.  They are great with bacon, as well as in curry or stir-fries, or just plain with a meat dish.             

Get out there, breathe the spring air eat some greens!

Visit us at the restaurant Our spring menu 

And our workshop dinners are every second Sunday from May to July.

Visit us at the Jean Talon market! The walls are down and producers will start showing up as of this week..

Like our Facebook page Les Jardins Sauvages if you want to stay tuned to what is in season and available at the market..



Posted on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 12:03AM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton | CommentsPost a Comment

Connecting with my Newfie roots via Hard Tack

I grew up with hard tack. Not many people here in Quebec have ever heard of it.


It’s a dried bread biscuit from Newfoundland sold in chunks in paper bags. Once a staple for fishermen or folks in far-away regions when fresh bread wasn’t always available, food was scarce and you needed to stretch a meal..

My parents are from Newfoundland, my Mom from St-Johns and my Dad from Deer Lake, now well integrated Quebeckers, fluent in French with their cute accents, francophone grandchildren and all. They are the best, but when I was growing up, I hardly thought so. As a young one in Quebec city with innate survival skills, I hardly wanted to let on that I was Anglophone, let alone ‘a Newfie’.  Already aware that we stood out like sore thumbs, the last thing I figured I needed was Newfie jokes. My mom made her own brown bread and composted, sent us to school with peanut butter sandwiches in recycled milk bags, I wore hand-me-downs and said chesterfield when my friends said sofa; it was a struggle to not to feel embarrassed next to my ‘fancy’ friends.

Nonetheless, I always knew my Newfie grandfather was cool, he hunted and fished and told good stories flecked with colourful expressions we barely understood that sounded so neat. We loved hearing tales about our ancestors in Newfoundland, both families pioneers (be it exploring the arctic or in civil engineering).  As an adult, obviously  that heritage is something I embrace, so it’s high time I pay attention to the culinary side too.  I hear about exciting things happening on the dining scene, but for now, I’m more interested in the old school ..

Flipping through the spiral bound ‘The Treasury of NFLD dishes’, I felt a warmth, like with many old community cookbooks from Quebec/Canada.  Objectively, the recipes seem quite boring, rustic or quaint, yet many dishes struck a chord with me because they reminded me of my childhood, which was a good one. Although I was very critical of much of what my Mom made (being a fussy contrarious brat), her chicken soup, stuffing, stew dumplings and  molasses cookies evoke fond memories.

Sharing these food memories with François over the years, a mixed/pure-laine francophone Quebecker and curious gourmand, he couldn’t help but wonder about this hard tack stuff. I told him that I remember it tasting kind of like soda crackers which he adores (one of the few industrial foods in our pantry, he crumbles up handfuls into his soup?!) But no, these are Hard biscuits (as in hard like wood) that need to be soaked to add to a dish, not normally eaten as is.. Yet as kids, we used to crawl into the cupboard next to the Grand Prix milk (yuck) and pick out a piece each to gnaw on, when there was no more cereal or other accessible snacks, I guess.

So, it was on the agenda. I had to make some Brewis for François (and for me), which is what you call a hard tack dish, typically made with salt fish.  The traditional recipes tell you to soak the hard bread in cold water overnight. Then you soak your salt cod in cold water overnight. The next day, you change the fish water and cook in fresh water gently until done. Clean and flake. The hard tack is supposed to be brought to a near boil in its soaking water and turned off (so warmed through). Then you mix the two together and sauce with scrunchions (fried pork fat bits somewhere between lardons and oreilles de crisses).

I got the precious bag by the mail from my mom via Aunt Carolyn.  I don’t recall any French on the label when I was young, nor was there any mention of ‘low fat’ then, ha. Three ingredients: Flour, water, salt.

François went straight for a piece, didn’t seem to know what to make of it, but went on to nibble on it for an entire period of a Mtl Canadians hockey game. (Hard tack is good for stress, it seems).

I was eager to cook it for him! I thought I should go trad first, but c’mon that recipe is kind of dismal, calling out for a riff.  I had to dress it up, and impress François with this novel  Newfie thing. Being a chef, naturally, I used what was on hand and went from there for my brewis creation.

We get free fish heads from our fishmonger friends so often, we always have halibut cheek meat or some kind of fish stewing, so that was a good starting point.  I added shallots, lardons, ramps, tomatoes (from Lussier), corn and swiss chard from our freezer, crinkleroot(wild horseradish), a touch of white wine and cream.  I added the soaked, reheated hard tack in pieces and it turned into a beautiful hash. That stuff soaks up a surprising load of liquid, so I was happy that I kept it separate first (being inexperienced with this kind of dish but experienced as a cook). Afraid it would amount to a big mound of mush, I hadn’t used enough water at first, having to add some to properly rehydrate, controlling the two before mixing. Anyhow, now I know I can liberally soak and add it all to the fish. It turned out great, accompanied by a salad of wild spring greens..  And François really enjoyed it. He thought it tasted like Gaspésie.


Final verdict:  Yes! For me, maybe not for you.

The hard tack does not dissolve into mush, keeping texture while thickening and boosting a one pot dish, kind of like cooked potatoes or dry bread stuffing or salad and it has a kind of bland but comforting taste, perfect to accompany a punchy, saucy protein.  So, another starch option among the rice, polenta, pasta, potatoes and company.  I might prefer rice or a fresh slice of bread with my meal, but I will definitely finish my bag of dried biscuits, try other versions of brewis and have some fun.  Do I think others should order some up? No, not necessarily. I could easily do without in my kitchen, but perhaps it will become a pantry staple just so I can whip up the occasional brewis.  I love the idea of preserves and a stocked larder in general, feeling like I’m ready for anything, always able to make a hearty fine meal at home no matter what storm or disaster might hit.. I also love ingredients with a story.  

Especially in this case, it’s a with a nod to my Newfie heritage with respect and thanks,  and a desire to share stories and mix cultures that makes me want to carry on this bizarre dry bread tradition.  Next up, maybe some moose brewis for my Grampy.

Photos: Hard tack and my halibut head brewis, François eating with appetite

Posted on Monday, May 4, 2015 at 11:00PM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Eating well off-season

Ok, enough with my seasonal rant about eating local and fresh, enjoying the seasons in time, blablaba..

The reality is it is still winter, everyone is fed up, what to do? No choice but to suck it up, get out when the sun is shining, cook up a storm at home with imports or whatever will make you happy in the moment. Chez Nino helps.. The snow crab and nordic shrimp have begun; Another key address at Marché Jean Talon is Ferme René Lussier for great local tomatoes! 

But! Of course, I have to say something about eating well off season too, and that comes down to putting up. No one talks about it past Sept/October, but this is the time to convince any gourmand that it’s a good tool to have in your box, FTR utterly essential in my world for year round happiness. Now is the time to dream ahead and start planning for next year.

Eating seasonal food out of season is very cool too.  Local, fresh, put up at its peak. It’s our way at La Table des Jardins Sauvages, and we've been trying to convince people of this for years with our line of local & wild vegetables and mushrooms that are frozen sous-vide. It's beginning to catch on in winter, one customer at a time, from the market clientele to chefs.

At the restaurant, we have our roots stored for the winter, greens blanched and vaccum packed or dried, mushrooms, pickles, frozen berries, coulis, tomatoes, peas, corn, game, you name it ..  We have a fully stocked pantry and ten freezers. It’s a parallel approach - taking full advantage of the season, gorging on fresh while preserving the bounty for later.. It becomes normal to eat ramps, fiddleheads, corn and sea spinach in winter as if the seasons don't matter, but it means we have local and wild all year, our trademark. Like in the old days, it just makes sense, and its delicious..  So basically, we’re following the seasons, except for in winter when you eat the other seasons from the gardemanger.

Trust me, you will be less grouchy in winter when you have a freezer full of goodies and canned goods in the pantry.. The thing is, with a whack of preserves, no matter how brutal the weather, you don’t need much to be content, maybe a touch of green crunch and tomatoes from local greenhouses or a bunch of romaine from the store ..  Not to mention that if  there is a major catastrophe, you’re covered for a while (I’m waiting for the next ice storm, we will be wining and dining, weehah!).

So keep that in mind before the growing season starts! Think like a cook, MEP (prep) for the year.. Enjoy the moment first, but don’t forget that at the same time, you could also be preparing for next winter without too much effort. Clean or cook a bigger batch when making dinner, pop a few containers into the freezer. Take a few hours a week, or a day a month in summer/fall, make a party of it, and put up! A foodie stay-cation?! Canning is a good idea for tomato sauce and pickles, but most things are fine, even best just frozen, often blanched/cooked first as with vegetables. Of course, a sous-vide machine to vacuum pack is ideal but I find that most things for the home are fine in Tupperware style containers.  I do our soups and sauces that way and they keep well for months so you shouldn’t be afraid to freeze if you don’t have a sousvide machine.. A dehydrator is great for an array of things, from herbs to fruit to onions and mushrooms.  

These are my lifesavers, some ideas to get you psyched and ready..

Quebec Garlic/Ramps/Scapes:  With the bulb or root, mince and pasteurize by cooking slowly in oil (no colour). Freeze in small containers or sousvide. Pull one out every month for the fridge and every day cooking. Leaves can be transformed into raw pesto (frozen) as with scapes and used the same way. A knife tip/scant teaspoon goes into my salad daily. (Our ramps our picked sustainably on our own property for home use only).

Stinging nettle: Great dried (for tisane, soups, to grind as an herb/seasoning/food additive) or blanched and frozen for soup.. Or made into soup right away..

Most salad greens are best eaten fresh in season and that’s it. Sturdier ones like spinach/lamb’s quarters can be blanched and frozen. Which means you can’t make salad with them afterwards, but they make a nice veg accompaniement or added to soup, pasta, omelets, smoothies etc..

Herbs: Dried or Pesto. I dry some except the most delicate, and make pure pestos, say with sea parsley, sea rocket, crinkleroot leaf (minced with oil, salt) and freeze in small containers to use in cooking. For the market/home, I make a finished pesto (sea spinach, sea parsley, garlic, cheese..) which is ready for pasta, pizza or whatever.

Salted Herbs: I love this old-fashioned recipe which consists of mirepoix (onion, celery, carrot) minced with a ton of chopped herbs and summer greens (a dozen plus) and salt.  I use this magic potion to boost stews and soups, for quick sauces and marinades. I use less salt than a traditional recipe so I freeze it, but it could keep in the fridge for months)..

Tomatoes  - Sauce is the easiest. Whole tomatoes are nice to have too. I can both in mason jars, but it’s easier to freeze, less trouble and you don’t need to worry about ph (acidity). If you jar, make sure you know what you’re doing, add some lemon and boil the jars for 10min+.

Wild and cultivated vegetables, buds, corn, fava beans, peas.. Clean, blanch a few minutes and freeze sousvide or in ziplocs. Some vegetables are best roasted (say squash) before freezing. I pickle some buds and fiddleheads, but keep most natural for later use. For some, it’s a one time seasonal soup and that’s it (served fresh at the restaurant, or packaged and frozen). Forget about putting up asparagus, say.

Mushrooms: I put up 30+ varieties in a myriad of ways, it depends on the mushroom (Dried/Frozen/Pickled/Candied..). Some are best dried (those with a soft texture or with aromas that only develop upon dehydration as with boletes); some firm varieties can be frozen as is but not many as they often develop a bitterness, on top of a mushy texture; many I have found can be frozen well after a first cooking. We have a frozen, local ‘Melange Forestier’ (with first cooking) that we introduced last year, just starting to take off as customers/chefs realize that it’s a good deal, local quality variety that you just can’t get here in winter and if you buy fresh, imported and cook them up (losing half in water), it ends up costing you twice as much. Forget about wild mushrooms in winter otherwise beyond the dried for soup/sauce/stuffings.

Stew/Braised meat:  In hunting season, I make big batches of stew from moose, duck, partridge etc and freeze for the winter. When we slaughter whole deer, I keep all the tender muscles for roasting, make sausage and braise the rest, making stock with the bones – all gets frozen for future use.  I highly reccomend meat sharing (a carcass from a local farm, butchered in pieces, shared among 2-4 families) if you don't have a good butcher like Prince Noir nearby.

Fish/Seafood is best fresh, but still when you come across whole fish freshly caught, filet it up and freeze (this is best sousvide or if not cooked within a couple of months). Nordic shrimp and scallops IQF if fresh.

Berries, fruit: I make jams for the shelf and coulis (both canned, as well as some less sweet for the freezer); I like to freeze most berries whole (and rhubarb diced) IQF to cook with them year round.

Pickles:  Ok, pickles remain a condiment, not a main course to drown the winter blues, but how nice to have on hand to punch up a salad or accompany a charcuterie plate with sparkle, color and crunch. Besides the classic JS fiddleheads and mushrooms, I pickle a shitload of things, have a few traditions like hot sauce and ratatouille that aren’t wild at all, but necessary in my pantry, like my natural green bean pickle and peppers.

There are so many more possibilities on all fronts, from the cooked to the pickled, or natural fermentation (more tricky), to wines and alcohols, extracts.. I steep herbs in alcohol (thé des bois, foin d’odeur, juniper berries, elderberry) too.

Certain precious things should be kept seasonal, because they are best that way. But who’s to judge. Almost anything you love can be put up in some form or another. I like to eat ramps and sea spinach year round (a relatively new luxury habit of mine being with François des bois), which in fact only makes me more excited when the season starts, so I can stock up..

I hope I have you revved up for the growing season, and eating well off season too.. Don't despair, the greens are around the corner!

Happy Spring!

PS and BTW, many of these preserves, we sell at our kiosque Marché Jean Talon if you don't feel like doing it yourself..


Live in each season as it passes..

My spring rant on the seasons and the BS PSC

Although spring greens are still a far-off dream, I had my first taste of fresh snowcrab and head-on Nordic shrimp last night, what an early  Easter treat!   

‘Live in each season as it passes, breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.’ Henry David Thoreau

This is a favourite quote that is never far from my mind, my life being so intimately entwined with the seasons at Les Jardins Sauvages.  Nothing resonates with me more, gets me fired up like the changing seasons and their accompanying treasures.  So on the flipside, this quote recalls a recurring pet peeve of mine at the dawn of spring in recent years – that of the Premature Seasonal Celebration ..

I’m talking about the phenomenon of Maple menus all over town in February and March - not weeks, but months before the sap runs. For the record, it is now April and the season has barely started with a trickle, on the verge in most regions of Quebec - yet the theme seems unfairly tired.  Similarly, chefs who claim a local, seasonal cuisine have already  launched their spring menus featuring morels, fiddleheads, ramps, asparagus and lobster when hello! there is still a foot+ of snow on the ground, and another snowstorm or two on the way.  In this food obsessed age and supposed reverence for what is precious and local, why the hell is it cool to follow some other country’s seasons? Why is everyone in such a rush?

Understandably, the endless winter has gotten people antsy, so anxious for spring that restaurants, purveyors, journalists and eaters can’t help but jump ahead. It’s also normal that restaurants want to fill the dead season following Valentine’s day and the Montreal Highlights Festival with some kind of event, so why not maple.. The media naturally aims to be a step ahead.  But c’mon, it’s out of control; perhaps we could use a little collective imagination instead of propagating the PSC and BS, or BullShit Seasons .

The thing is, when the real time comes for the real thing that is fresh, at its peak  and local!, when there is something to earnestly get excited about and celebrate, people are blasé, already moved onto the next thing that isn’t in season yet.  Like crowds flock together to gorge on last year’s maple syrup, the first taste of asparagus for many at the hotspot comes from Peru or wherever..  Fiddleheads and dandelion no longer seem exciting in May when they are at their best. By the way, Strawberries and Rhubarb won’t be any good until June; Forget about Fava beans, Peas, Chanterelles and sea asparagus until July.  

Is it because everyone wants to be the ‘first’, ahead of the game or what?  It feels so phoney-baloney, like everyone is disconnected from the land and who cares.  Beyond spoiling the beautiful notion of the seasons, what really gets on my nerves is not cooks purchasing imports, it’s the pretense of a seasonal approach and lack of respect for what is really top notch quality, that no one seems to care about authenticity, agreeing to play this ridiculous game of BS seasons..  I can see how this can easily happen to an urbanite who innocently has no clue what is growing on the farm or in the woods, relying on magazines, bloggers (who are equally disconnected) and stores and suppliers (who import most of what they sell) instead of nature for seasonal cues . A good reason to get to the countryside and to the farmer’s market more often for a dose of fresh air and grounding reality.  

Hence a cry from an annoyed country girl who loves her seasons and food, enough of this nonsense.. Seriously. Why can’t we all just chill out and enjoy the seasons as they pass, live a true connection with nature instead of a fake one.  Everything in its time.  So, it’s still cold out, bundle up and go soak up the  last of the winter with some spring skiing and a French onion soup or Cheese fondue, get out to a cabane à sucre when the sap is actually running next weekend  for some cuvée 2015.  Fine if you’re dying for some green crunch, add some imported asparagus or greens to your dinner plate, but for goodness sake,  wait for our local harvest before making them the star of the menu..  

The real thing tastes and feels better, and should be valued as such.   


Montreal Highlights Festival

Montréal Highlights Festival

For the last two weeks of February, Montreal lights up with culinary activity with an array of events, visiting chefs and etc. The themes this year are: visiting country Switzerland; city Washington DC, Que region -Lanaudiere, hurrah..  

A few dates featuring Les Jardins Sauvages

February 21, 22 :  A taste and meet with the producers of our region at Jean Talon Market on the second floor as of 9 :30am

February 22,  2pm : A workshop/recipe with chef Nancy Hinton at Jean Talon Market, 2nd floor

February 24 : Special event dinner at Restaurant Le 400 coups where Nancy&François will be collaborating with Chef Guillaume Cantin’s team for a 4 course wild menu featuring our products

Festival Programming


Mushroom aroma Magic

The magical world of mushroom aromas - A lot of je ne sais quoi

Tis the season. I am processing hundreds of pounds of mushrooms every week – cleaning, slicing, dehydrating, blanching or cooking, pickling etc. A ton down now, with another ton to go, I am living in a mushroom cloud. Boletes, Chanterelles, Hen of the Woods, Puffball, Hedgehog, Yellowfoots, Matsutake are all perfuming my kitchen, headspace, car, curtains  and clothes..

Some of my Mushrooms in pics..

After all these years at Les Jardins Sauvages, I know the 30+ varieties that we harvest intimately, and I am enchanted by their heady scents year after year.. I have a good nose but always have a hard time nailing the damn shrooms with words, reminding me of my first winetasting class. They are not only mysterious and elusive in the woods, but on the palette – each one characteristic and complex, so hard to pin down.

Unmistakable, unique, nothing smells like Matsutake mushrooms  for instance. Fresh, in the oven or dehydrator, they are seriously intoxicating on different levels. Cinnamon and Flowers definitely; one year I noted violets/lilacs, this year I say rose ?? plus a lot of je ne sais quoi..

My car still harbours the lingering odor of freshly picked baskets of porcini from a week ago - another mushroom that leaves its mark. Fragrantly earthy, nutty and sweet smelling, even better in the pan or yet the dehydrator, where an entirely different set of aromas develop: vanilla, soy, coffee and spice. Hen of the woods roast up like chicken and corn, wild oysters like almonds and chicken. Others smell like walnuts or citrus (Delicious Lactarius!), it’s crazy. Puffball can be pungent and black trumpets musky but like with cheese or truffle, there is such a thing as 'good stink' that translates into great taste.

When cooking, the aroma notes like 'chicken' are often associated with the Maillard reaction (caramelising sugars & protein) mixed in with what I call the forest (piney/woodsy/nutty etc). However, with many shrooms, especially in the bolete family, once dried, you get a whole other family of increasingly complex, often exotic aromas that you don’t get fresh or cooked – fruity flavours, vanilla, chocolate, caramel, butter, coconut on top of the nuts and earthy notes. This last group I call ‘sweet’ because I associate them with dessert. The red mouthed bolete, larch bolete, slippery jack and Maple scented Lactarious are incredible naturals in the sweet kitchen.

There is something hauntingly addictive about wild mushrooms. Many nature lovers get hooked in the hunt, whereas with cooks and gourmands, it is at the stove and table. Beyond their deliciousness, nutritional content and newfound medicinal properties, they win you over with their mystical aromas. Then with their flavours of course and omnipresent umami kicking in with protein and minerals, texture and mouthfeel, plus whatever bonus the accompanying recipe delivers. Mushrooms are fine dance partners, pairing well with a delicate fish or slab of red meat; they can jazz up a sidedish or take the leading role in a pasta, tagine or risotto, ice cream or cookie. There is a mushroom for everything.

I obviously love my shrooms and I have picked them apart, figuring out which ones are best cooked or dried, braised or roasted, pickled or candied, steeped or pulverized. I spend a lot of time cooking them and teaching people how to prepare them. Everyone wants to know how to pick and cook, but it’s the aromas that fascinate me most. I know them almost better than my family, but I have just about given up trying to describe their nuances. A few years ago, I had employees participating in my little shroom sniffing exercise like a wine tasting, but it got me nowhere beyond laughs. Ok it smells like my grandma’s apple pie (so you mean apple and cinnamon?, I guess).  I look at my notes from the early years and I see ‘maple’ for chanterelles or ‘pine nut’ for matsutake.. And this is true, but now I’m no longer objective, I know them too well, it’s that they just smell like themselves, like a ‘Chanterelle’ or a ‘Matsutake’, as a pear smells like a pear and an orange an orange.

And I guess, that’s enough for me. I’m at an age that I have no problem accepting some magic and ‘je ne sais quoi’ in seeking out and understanding the truth about things. There was a time too when I was bent on figuring out what molecule (a protein I thought) in certain boletes that creates a solid emulsion, to hear from a scientist that it was probably a complex saccharide of some kind;  anyhow now I've moved on, comfortable with what I understand, able to exploit or avoid its emulsifying properties without delving into the chemistry. 

Plainly viscerally, I have simply discovered a marvelous world of aromas with mushrooms that few people are aware of. I might be done with over analysing, but I do encourage you to sniff your mushrooms.. And I can’t help but think François Chartier would have fun attacking this one day. Let’s just say that a mushroom is not a mushroom and any one way more complex than a stick of celery or stalk of rosemary.  


My Stupid Mushroom aroma notes


Agarics Champêtre                  very mushroomy, toast, fruity chocolate (cherry blossom), truffle

Armillaire Ventru                      mild but with a bite, toothsome texture, nutty, ostie/church wafer; chemical off notes with high heat; dried: fruitcake, spice, citrus

Bolet baie                                buttery, fruity, excellent, rare (boohoo)

Bolet insigne                            moka, molasses, hickory

Bolet jaune                              toffee, vanilla, coconut, butter

Bolet orangé                            roasted nuts, major floral component 

Bolet à Pied Glabrescent          fragrant, subtley floral, honey, caramel, green nutty as in stone fruit pit, caramilk

Bolet à Pied rouge                   very fruity, vanilla, chocolate, playdo

Cepes                                     aromatic and meaty (roast beef), soy, vanilla, coffee, cinnamon, nutmeg

Cèpe des Mélèize                    very sweet, moka, chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch, strawberry ice cream

Chanterelles                             maple syrup, almonds

Chanterelles Clavaires  earthy, meaty, maple syrup, almonds and coconut

Chanterelles en Tubes  hot milk, cappucino, caramel

Coprins                                   meaty, woodsy, walnuts, long cooking best

Hygophores                             apricots, chicoutai

Lactaire Délicieux                    brittle, delicate, floral, walnuts, citrus

Lactaire couleur de sui citrus, flowers

Lepiote lisse                            mushroomy, much umami, soy, nuts

Lobster mushroom                   firm texture, not much flavour, but yes lobster, earth, fresh esp dried: fresh, coconut

Matsutake                               particularly aromatic, unique: floral, fruity and earthy all at once, chewy texture, citrus, pine nut

Mousserons                             supremely delicate, coffee, honey, citrus, bitter almond,                                                           kirch

Morilles                                   deep and earthy, musty, intense but subtle, truffle, coffee, spice, chocolate, oreo cookie

Pied bleu                                 Strong, meaty, nutty, sapin, peppery, vegetal

Pied de mouton                        Mushroomy but fresh, acid, buttery even cheesy, cook low heat, dried: butterscotch, almond paste

Pleurotes(automne)                  delicate, almonds, bbq chicken

Polypore Souffré                     Watermelon, lilacs, corn, lemon

Polypore Poule des bois          Delicate, chewy, melon, corn, roasted chicken, almonds

Trompette de la Mort               Sweet and deeply earthy but fresh, complex, truffle, licorice, beurre noisette


How to change the world through food?

I was asked by Eater Mtl for my thoughts on ‘How to change the world through food?’ as a local annexe to a global feature on ideas for change on Eater.

Here is the unabridged version of my reply..

Yikes, a loaded question that I attack more wearily than say 15yrs ago when I was a young chef caught up in Quebec’s burgeoning cuisine de terroir. Inspired by Alice Waters (and our Quebec version, Anne Desjardins), I was embracing Slowfood, Fair-Trade  and sustainable  fish, I was dating a forager, hanging out with farmers, devouring documentaries and books that denounced the problems with our food system and offered solutions.. It all made me hopeful that life was rosy for the future of food in the world.


Despite the promising wave of interest in everything food, artisans are struggling more than ever and there is even more hunger in the world, a widening gap between rich and poor. All those books I read & documentaries seem to have vanished in a void. Thanks surely to the parallel growth/stronghold of the industrial system and big business, which I am convinced is not the answer.

So, THE ONE BORING THING I have to say to everyone in the western world is SPEND MORE on your food. Yes, as in $$ /% of income  (less on other stuff like shoes and Iphones etc).  But at least investment in terms of TIME and EFFORT. As in Sourcing & Shopping (farmer’s markets over superstores), or growing, connecting with people who do.  Not everyone needs to be out gardening or foraging for greens, but peeling your carrots is a minimum. Opting out of big ag and supporting local. Choosing Fair trade for imported, Café Rico over Nestle. Voting with your dietary dollar. Cooking real food and putting up.

This is the time of year to be revelling in the beauty of local harvests and investing for the winter. Celebrate abundance in season with J.Remillard at Jean Talon Market.. For example, a bunch of his green onions is the equivalent of 10 from the supermarket, same price and fresh, 25lb of root veg for your winter or a bushel of tomatoes for peanuts, check out my basil plant below. Learning to shop is the best thing you can do. Think less but better. Share a cow with neighbours or buy natural meat at Price Noir. Treat yourself to Quebec cheese.

Plus Spend More time at the table so that it’s worth it. You do not have to be rich to eat well, it’s often about priorities, planning..

Why do I think Spending More is the best way to positively change the world through food?

Win/win. It tastes and feels better. It spurs local economies. Everyone worldwide benefits from being  more self-sufficient, closer to the land  and community. For stronger communities, healthier soil, bees and biodiversity, a sustainable, traceable fresh food supply, we want Mother Nature on our side..

Especially that at the end of the day, it makes for food that is simply more delicious and healthy; it pays off! Quality of life/Joie de vivre is a major bonus of investing in your daily meals. Beyond wholesome, when food is pleasure, meaningful and soulful, it really does impact  lives. And once on the bandwagon of real good food that is ethical too, you do not go off, no matter how hard you have to work for it – holes in your socks, leaky roof, crappy car.

I have been preaching and blogging this for ever, now I just do my own thing. And that’s what everyone has to do. For their own good, and it just might slowly make the world a better place.


Posted on Friday, September 26, 2014 at 03:56AM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Spring and early summer greens

Well, that's what my article is about, fiddlheads and spring/early summer wild greens.

I wish they hadn't edited out that you need to cook the fiddleheads (boil/blanch/steam) before sautéeing and seasoning, but otherwise, all good.  One of my favourite pics of fiddleheads and François.

I also love my recipe for green soup that I use all the time so many variations..

And there is a host of other interesting articles there for bonus foodie reading..

Slowly changing seasons; winter to spring

The air is still nippy but the sun is shining; icebergs and tree trunks whiz by, the swollen river noisily confirming that this crazy winter is finally over; the sap is running and spring/summer is around the corner, weehoo.

A quick peekaboo to the spring edibles ahead.. In case you want to jump foreward and skip my rehashing the winter..

The winter wasn't all bad in retrospect; here are a few highlights (besides my glorious time snowshoeing in the woods which might be less of interest) winter snapshots

  • ·I discovered dehydrated onions - delicious as a snack (and healthy!) - straight up naturally salty and sweet with kick, very addictive.. Also nifty jarred for convenient home cooking (to flavour a soup or sauce, say..). All you need is a basic dehydrator (as in Country Harvest from Cdn tire) and a bag of spanish(type) onions to be won over.
  •  We cooked up our lama and loved it. Very much like young pastured beef/grainfed veal. Wish someone else would raise some.
  •   We ate a lot of oysters (and hence a lot of Rockefeller mix too). We like our oysters raw, but it was cold so we did half half. I was reminded of what a versatile recipe this is, adding mushrooms and other vegetables, using it not just for oysters but on pizza and in casseroles. A template for inspiration to riff on with the seasons, I will keep it in mind long after oyster season is done.. See below.
  •  I made a whack of soup, true to my monicker. Maybe it was the bone-chilling weather that made my soup a hot commodity. Our soups, prepared dishes and frozen sous-vide vegetables & mushrooms sold better this winter at the market too – you can see that a certain clientele is eager to shop local in winter.  Customers also seem to like the ‘ready to eat/just reheat’ aspect as much as the ‘local & wild even in winter’ thing. And they are surprised to see the quality unaffected by our putting up process. Especially with the fiddleheads, some said they would buy them like this even in season to avoid having to precook them themselves!
  • Whole braised rabbit - I rediscovered rabbit (since last year). But this time, I have a new local producer and thanks to my sister Maggie whom I watched cook it whole with success, I was inspired to ditch my former cheffy treatment of deboning, stuffing the saddles for sous-vide/roast and braising/confiting the legs separately, adopting her braise whole approach. A sear on all sides for browning, then deglaze, add mirepoix etc. and bake slow for hours. Much simpler, and better since those tough flank bits just dissolve. You pull it all off the bone and mix in with the super tasty sauce, and it will please even the pickiest eater (just tell them it's chicken if you have to, although I hate that - because anyone should just be pleased to eat better quality meat).
  •  Favourite tisane/medicinal plants: Burdock and Nettle (any time tonic), Green oat (by day) and Lemon Verbena or Labrador tea (by night). I got into Sapin Baumier for a spell, not for its purifier/tonic/disinfectant/pulmonary attributes but mostly because it was wintery and delicous. But then I suspected I might be reacting to it, so I gave it a pause..
  • Humble pie lesson wrt medicinal plants& natural remedies – I learnt that it is prudent to not be overzealous and fearless about dosage and random combinations. However studied, and only using myself as a guinea pig, the resulting cocktail can end up with consequences more severe than any experimentation in the kitchen.. Mental note: I have twenty years full time experience in the kitchen and only a couple part time with medicinal plants and essential oils. However, I have mastered several ointments and remedies, tried and true with my face & body cream, cold medicine, mouthwash, toothpaste, soap, house cleaner and a line of perfumes. Fun stuff.
  •  Best restaurant meal: At Le Serpent in Old Montreal, definitely.
  •  Best reading (magazine): The Intelligent Plant by Michael Pollen in the New Yorker (see my B&B Feb)
  •  Best book purchases: Une histoire du Québec, racontée par Jacques Lacoursières; Power Plants, by Frankie Flowers and Bryce Wylde (also best author names!)
  •  Biggest waste of time: Following the provincial election campaign in March

Now even this winter lover is officially ready to move on.

Although we do quite well in winter between our preserves and Daignault's fabulous hot-house greens being diehard daily veghead-salad eaters, there is nothing like the crispy crunch and aroma of fresh wild greens and vegetables. So yes, we are eager for the growing season. A good three weeks later than in previous years, it would be good to get the business rolling again.. With the river so high, we will have to fix our poor bridge which took a beating this spring, in order to get to many of our goodies. François has his boot suit out but the river needs to subside still.

Here's looking ahead to May when our race with nature will start in earnest: The first greens to show up are usually day lily sprouts in our yard and trout lily in the woods. Then the nettle and ramps; also spring beauty and ulvulaire, then dandelion, linden and violet, all for the makings of a great zesty salad.. The kind of food our body craves at this time of year. Hopefully, it will go down something like this:

Or this: A slideshow of wild spring edibles à Les Jardins Sauvages..

Soon enough, of course, the fiddleheads will follow - our star of spring!

And no, you don't need to be afraid of fiddleheads - so nutritious and versatile. Just eat fresh, wash and cook in lots of boiling water before seasoning or adding to any dish.  For quality sourcing, we will have two stalls at Jean Talon market this year for the season! Here is an easy recipe:

Fiddleheads with garlic, cider vinegar and tamari: Wash and blanch for 5min in lots of boiling water, refresh and drain. Sauté with garlic, olive oil and a touch of butter, add a filet of tamari and cider vinegar, s&p. Serve as an accompaniement or to top a composed salad. Add to an omelette, pasta dish, or chop up and make my Rockefeller mix.

If you want more on fiddleheads:

Or if you’re wondering why I am not going on about ramps:

Been there done that too often in the past. Yes, yummy but not the end of the world. Not to mention that we have the government agency on our ass every spring in case we might have a whiff of a ramp on a menu despite our sustainable source and knowledge, while urban chefs have ramps all over the place without either. In New York and Ontario, you still see uprooted ramps at public markets! Meanwhile, they are illegal in Quebec for that reason, because they were overharvested, a few idiots wrecking it for everybody. Although not exploited for our business, we will certainly harvest a few bulbs from the abundance on our property for home cooking, but mostly we are happy with the leaves.. We take advantage at the end of the cycle to garnish salads and just about any dish, making pesto for the winter.. 


Nancy’s Mushroom Rockefeller mix

This is a classic prep for me, kind of a like Rockefeller mix for oysters but with mushrooms. In May, I will swap the mushrooms for fiddleheads and in July with sea spinach. In winter, we eat a lot of oysters so I always have a batch on hand. I also use it to top crostini or pizza, to stuff crepes or as a layer in a gratin or lasagne.. Simply add more eggs and a touch of milk and it’s a frittata or omelette. Add more liquid and macaroni, top with cheese and its mac’n cheese or the binder for a gratin.  It's really a template for inspiration, a starting point.

With fiddlheads, blanch and chop, proceed to step 2.

1c or 12p

200g fresh mushrooms (of choice: eg. chanterelles, oyster, matsutake, lobster, button..), chopped

100g sea spinach, blanched and chopped (or spinach)

2 strips par cooked bacon, minced (optional)

2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil

2 shallot, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

pinch chilli, pinch thyme

1 tablespoon (15 mL) unsalted butter

4 tablespoons (60 mL) white wine

1/2c (125ml) whipping cream (35 per cent) for cooking

100g (1/2c) grated cheese (Menestrel or other mild aged cow’s milk cheese like even cheddar)

1 large egg (or two)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Drops soy sauce and worchestershire, tabasco

Juice of ½ lemon or drops cider vinegar

2 tablespoons (30 mL) finely chopped herbs (chives, parsley, dill or basil)

Baguette, thinly sliced and toasted

Or 2 dz oysters


1. Wipe mushrooms clean. If mushrooms look dirty, immerse them briefly in a large container of cold water. The dirt will sink to the bottom of the container. Then scoop them out of the water in a sieve or colander, transfer to a towel and spread out to dry or pat dry before cooking.

In a wide, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil until hot. Add mushrooms and sauté until they start to colour. If they are wet or release juices, keep the heat at medium-high, otherwise lower heat to medium, stirring often.

2. Add shallot and butter and continue cooking a couple of minutes until the mushrooms are uniformly coloured and cooked through, about five minutes. Add garlic for a minute.

3. Add wine and boil gently, uncovered until it has almost evaporated. Add cream and stir frequently until sauce thickens. Turn off heat. Add sea spinach, bacon and cheese. Add egg while stirring. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice/cider vinegar, a touch of soy and worchestershire, Tabasco..

4. Spread mushroom mix on baguette slices, dry or toasted bread and broil for 3-5 minutes until golden. Garnish with fresh tomato in season.

Or stuff oysters and broil for 5min.

NB. This mixture can also be used to stuff vegetables (say button mushrooms or zucchini rounds). Add a bit of stock and/or more cream and it can be the base for a potato/vegetable gratin or mac&cheese; in which case, top with more grated cheese. For a frittata, simply add more eggs and bake in a buttered dish for 20+min at 350F.



Bye bye salicorne, Hello shrooms

After a good month of feeling spoiled with a myriad of marine greens garnishing my plates, the season is sadly coming to an end. I have enough spicy sea rocket to make a salse verde for my current menu, a little Canadian sandspurry (that tastes like beet), the sea asparagus is done - gone woody. My favourite, the sea spinach is the only one I put up for the year, blanching and sous-viding it for the freezer so that I can cook with it, but best get my salad fix now..  

François was the first to put these greens on chefs menus twenty years ago, but now a new generation of chefs are waking up to them too..  They grow along the lower north shore, and from the Lower St-Lawrence to Gaspesie, and François has found the perfect spots managed now by Claudie (Les Jardins de la Mer). Taught by Francois and a part of our team, Claudie is ‘the queen’ who has made these greens her life in the Lower St-Lawrence. Picked by her or François, you know they are properly sourced, tasty and clean. This article featuring François’s August pickings (in French):

Now, it’s more than time to focus on the shrooms, and yes, they are sprouting.. The chanterelles are just beautiful, and the lobster mushroom too (not my favourite, but this year, I feel a soft spot), a good year for gypsy mushroom.. Now, the hen of the woods is taking over as star (a definite favourite!), autumn cepes are happening and there is a trickle of hedgehogs and yellow-foots, which will be the next boom. We have over a thousand pounds down (as in processed and put up), another couple to go, weehoo!


And as the mushroom season progresses, I will be posting shots from our 2013 harvest here:


Restaurant review

A restaurant review of Les Jardins Sauvages in the Gazette fine dining section, by Lesley Chesterman.

I have to say I am pleased. Thanks Lesley! Very encouraging..

After so many years of operating off the radar, I had almost forgotten about restaurant critics. Sure, we've had a good amount of media attention over the years, but the last actual 'critique' must have been in the Voir several years back. I wasn't complaining.

Since teaming up with Francois at Les Jardins Sauvages, I couldn't help but be wary of critics, like I found myself kind of shy with fancy pants world travelers because I feared our rustic décor, our plates and stemware might be an issue.. Then how about the spiders, mosquitoes, crappy sound system and leaky terasse roof.. But whatever, money doesn't grow from trees and we always believed in putting it all on the plate, food quality more than chichi details, in being ourselves hence a lack of pretense absolutely.  We do our best, hoping that the food, authenticity and ambiance will carry the day no matter.  Looks like it did here, and I am grateful for it, especially knowing she wasn’t there on the best of nights. 

When I found out at the end of the night, I was taken aback, slightly devastated, worried. It was dead, bad weather so no magical outdoor terrasse or dynamic atmosphere, no François telling stories (he took the night off after a big week of foraging/ weekend at the market), not to mention a new menu with final touches yet to be ironed out, no dishwasher, and me with a bad back. But it’s the kind of night that happens and any typical customer could experience it like she did, so I understand that a review is best anonymous and should be representative of what any diner could fall on.  For the record, I often stress out like this about `regular customers` too.. Anyway, I was relieved that it turned out fine.

A review is just a review, and you are only as good as your last meal, every day a new challenge in this crazy business.. but every pat on the back does help. It was particularly heartening after a slow summer.. I also appreciated her shout out to what's going on in the countryside and in our own backyard - it's so easy to be forgotten about outside of Montreal and off the beaten track.

Now I just have to find staff, and a bilingual waitress at that -pas évident out here!

Chop chop

Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 05:57PM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , | CommentsPost a Comment

August, Good eats

For a minute in August, I always get sad as many wild plants go to seed (the cycle over), which means fewer tender leaves for picking, but also that the array of beautiful flowers (some tasty too!) dwindles to a measly palette of golden rod, wild parsnip and aster for the tables, some yarrow for medicinal purposes.. You see, beyond cooking the wild edibles, picking wild summer flowers makes me happy – being surounded by the scents and colours, arranging bouquets for the house and restaurant. 

Thankfully it’s always around the same time that mushroom season starts kicking so I don’t have much time to wallow. Not that ‘normal’ means anything anymore in terms of nature’s timeline apart from that. You’d think with all the rain and intermittent nice weather, it would be a good mushroom season, but apparently it's not a given yet. Like with many summer plants, marine greens and berries, everything is late.  Looks like a good berry season though thanks to the water.  The blueberries are amazing; we’re picking the first wild blackberries and sarsaparilla.

As for the shrooms, around here, the early summer boletes (like yellow granulee, pied rouge and glabrescent) are on their way out while the lobsters, lactaires delicieux are showing up. Chanterelles and porcini have been present for a couple of weeks, the Flocons and Black trumpets appearing now.  Puffballs and Hedgehogs won’t be far off.  Some Chicken mushroom, so Hen of the Woods soon too. Looks like it might be a better fall season, fingers crossed.

Some photos:

Other things that make me happy in August, not just wild:

Ontario peaches and they are good this year. Especially when you have a forager guy that can choose fruit like François. Peaches are best eaten as is, but during the season, inspiring to cook with too. I put some in my berrry chaussons and some compound salads at home (with something salty, think melon proscuito).

Fresh peas and favas, however a bad season for them, but the few sacs we were lucky to get were good, always labour intensive but worth it.

Corn – you need to buy (Denault’s) yellow at Jean Talon Market, so good. Look for Le Roi du Mais..  Corn on the cob, a rite of summer; great in salsas and compound salads, in soup.. A favourite sidedish this summer has been a new potato salad with corn, yellow beans, sweet pepper, sea spinach and our wild herb chimichurri..  Corn is a sure crowd pleaser in soup too: I nowhave a corn and wild mushroom chowder on the menu at the restaurant, a good way to use up all the broth I make from the empty cobs.

Back to the wild: sea spinach of course!  My absolute favourite wild green, raw or cooked, especially just wilted with garlic, EVOO and butter  or chopped up and added to a salad or pasta/rice dish/omelet... If you've never tasted it, it's just like 'super duper' spinach - more flavour and a touch of salt and pepper built in.. Like with spinach, I prefer the bigger leaves of late season available now and for another week.. Hopefully I won't be sick of it by week's end, the last stretch in my race of putting up for the year, hundreds of pounds, a good chunk for Joe La Croute's popular Popeye bread.

The sea rocket and salicorne are good this year too, if hard to find; the stormy weather and tides having completely transformed the landscape, forcing Francois, Claudie and team to hunt far and wide.

The downside to the foraging trend


La Faune et La Flore

Another hurdle for Les Jardins Sauvages

Good thing we’re made strong and love what we do!

Profile: Les Jardins Sauvages, Pioneer and leader in Quebec Wild Edibles. 28 years in business, constantly evolving.. Now with a permanent stall at Jean Talon Market in Montreal & acclaimed Country Restaurant in St-Roch de l’Achigan; 100+ products fresh, 100+ products preserved; A Forager and Chef team with experience, long committed to quality, local and wild, artisanal and sustainable food..

I'm told I don't toot my own horn enough, see I'm practicing..  

In case you don’t know, Jardins Sauvages is the original wild foods business in Quebec.  Long before anyone heard of Noma, François was foraging, the first to introduce chefs to wild greens and many local wild mushrooms.  He spent years of walking the through the weeds & woods of Quebec to find healthiest spots to harvest each species; he intimately knows nature and how to pick for quality and sustainability – where, when, what time of day, what stage in the cycle. Working with Quebec’s top chefs, he refined his skills, learning what was best picked young, cooked in numerous ways. And now, I’ve been cooking his wild stuff for 13 years since I met him at L’Eau, on a full time basis since 2005. I’ve figured out what’s best how, say raw or cooked or dried, savoury or sweet, what mushrooms benefit from a sauté or a slow braise, how to put them up. We were the first to make mushroom ice cream and chocolate, to smoke mushrooms, to cook with cattail pollen, promote local teas & spices or pick and cook marine greens in so many ways - paving the way, showing people what could be eaten and how.  Unlike some of the newcomers jumping on the foraging bandwagon, we know what we’re doing.

Nonetheless..  a few weeks ago, we got a visit from a couple of officials from La Faune et La Flore, a governmental arm that regulates the environment, forests and fishing. We should have nothing to fear, buy nay and yay, another battle is before us.  They are banning crinkleroot and wild ginger, among other things, but these two affect us most, a dozen of our products, our menus.

The funny thing is that they were especially eager to pay us a visit because I had put wild garlic (ramps/ail des bois) on my menu this spring. In ten years, I never dared, but then I saw all Montreal chefs with ramps on their menu, and I figured if anyone should have them on the menu it should be us, given that the wild thing is our deal, we have tons on our property, and know how to harvest sustainably and all. Not to mention that it was just a few leaves from our field, ciselé as a garnish for a soup for 10 clients. Meanwhile, restaurants serving 100+ clients a night with anonymously sourced and less sustainable garlic don’t have an inspector in sight.  BTW apparently, whether it’s from Ontario or New York, the law stands, not allowed. Anyway, it’s not like I’m tattling on other chefs, I just want to be able to do what we do.  I have never even ever heard of a Montreal chef bothered by the F&F. It’s such a joke that they’re at our door. 

Like with wild garlic, they have decided that crinkleroot and wild ginger are endangered species and need to be protected.  We agree that they need to be protected, in that they need to be harvested with care and knowledge first and foremost, not completely ripping out the plants. Especially that the foraging trend means that there are new players in the game (many uninformed, unconscious or overly ambitious), evidently, some kind of general regulation is in order, maybe permits? In any case, there needs to be an official protocol for wild edibles, all above board, a traceability, an approved list of what can be harvested and how, where, by who, sold how and for what price, all registered.  A common code of ethics was enough before, but given the current climate, we are all for this. However, it is complicated to regulate; for the govt, much easier to ban.

In the meantime, it certainly isn’t fair for us, for François who has been doing it properly for 28 years professionally and plus.  He was the first to put most wild edibles on Quebec menus - before they were being imported from France (like salicorne, mushrooms) or simply weren’t known to chefs (like wild ginger, orpin, day lily buds, milkweed, arroche de mer, caquiller, the list is long..). He is in the same patches year after year, observing and taking care of nature while he harvests; he gardens the forest. We have more crinkleroot every year, more than enough wild ginger for our needs.  He has seen the progress of the crinkleroot for 50 yrs+ because they are family spots. His family has always eaten crinkleroot; we continue the tradition of making his great-great grandfather’s Henri Rochbrune crinkleroot mustard, but 100+ years later, now we’re not allowed.

All to say, these plants obviously aren’t endangered in François’ hands. There is a way to pick that stimulates the plant if it is in a healthy environment; he knows when to leave it alone. He invited the govt officials to visit his terrain, encouraged them to follow him and bring their scientists/advisors to study his reality, to open their minds.  He does not understand where they get their data.  They’re worrying about fiddleheads and spring beauty? C’mon, just come here and see. How much we harvest from the same land every year. Their sources are from controlled studies, another micro-climate, labs, foreign or outdated books, I don’t know. One thing for sure is that the pencil pushers and botanists aren’t in the Que woods on a daily basis like François.  

On top of it, we are a small diversified business, dealing in small volumes according to nature - a little bit of this and that, all sustainable, with our spots on private territory, maintained year after year, no big threat.  We led the way, and now because wild foods are becoming popular, we are penalized. Because there are others including some hacks who are just in it short term for a bang or because they think they might like doing this but don’t know squat or care to do things right, or want to exploit a lot of one thing. 

Not all foraged food is equal!  There is properly sourced, properly harvested and there is ravaged.  There is sweet, and threre is bitter. There is tender and tough; delicious and disgusting, nutritious and toxic.. Few in the marketplace seem to know or care about the difference. As long as it’s wild or Nordic, sounds good on a menu. Sadly, marketing seems to count more than quality or integrity.  Obviously we have some marketing to do.

We hate to see so many bad foragers around spoiling it for the rest of us, but, it is also important to note that most of the destruction of vulnerable plants and biodiversity is due to development/urbanisation. François has seen so much simply disappear because of autoroutes, Walmarts, condos and parking lots.., way more havoc wrought this way than any bunch of pickers could do.  More than once, François had proposed a solution to mayors/municipalities, say when they were bulldozing to make the 50, destroying so much rich land where there was tons of wild garlic, ginger, crinkleroot and much more; he wanted permission to go and save some of the plants. His project got bogged down in beurocracy and never worked out, but he said that in a day, he could have saved enough wild ginger to supply us and every chef for a lifetime. You’re not allowed to pick the wild garlic or ginger, but they’re allowed to bulldoze it. Doesn’t make sense.

It’s not just chefs and back-to-earth types getting into foraging. As the far away regions try to develop their resources and put people to work, the exploitation of the forest and land has become key.  Backed by Govt money, they have been training unemployed volunteers to forage, small businesses opening and they’re all trying to find markets. All dandy in theory, but it’s a mess.  Too many students expecting to make $$ picking mushrooms they can barely identify.  Detached investors wanting to harvest too much. We have no choice but be implicated.  François is working in Lanaudière and also with other regions as various agencies and business groups try to sort it out. They need his expertise, and he wants to make sure they aren’t making decisions that don’t stand up.  For instance, the tentative list of mushrooms allowed for sale excluded 30 varieties that we use (because the powers that be don’t know them well enough). Like when François started selling wild mushrooms 20 years ago, many didn’t believe him that there were wild mushrooms in Quebec. He’s come along way, but now everyone is catching up to him. All this is so much time and energy  in meetings and paperwork, just to be able to continue doing what we’ve been doing forever - now that the govt., big business, foodies, tree huggers and everyone else is waking up. It’s crazy and no one knows what’s going on behind the scenes.

I thought it would be smooth sailing for a while when we were finally fine with the MAPAQ (the food inspection part), but no now, it’s something else; I swear we have the most complicated business in the world!  You see, they just don’t know what to do with us because we do something so different they don’t understand and it worries them.  Whether it’s about picking nettle, cooking fiddleheads or milkweed, marinating mushrooms or smoking duck, they’re on our ass. All our products have passed all tests, but it was still a fight to prove that our mushrooms were properly dried, that our pickles and oils and etc are properly made, etc.  Meanwhile, cheap imports don’t get any scrutiny, Montreal chefs have toxic plants garnishing their menus. I understand that there have to be rules and inspectors, but why just us? I know what I’m doing and it kills me to talk circles around the inspectors who don’t have a clue about what they’re inspecting. We’ve seen it in the field, the guys thinking we’re picking garlic and its trout lily, they don’t know the difference. In the kitchen, it’s the same. They just want to check off lists: They check your fridge/freezer temperatures, soap and towels next to the sink, all the norms etc; do you have a ph-meter, a register for your products, sanitizer.. Yes, yes, yes. Do you douse everything in Javel regularly and boil everything for 20min. They want you to be a stainless steel aseptic factory that makes one sterile product en masse, easy to verify.  We do everything right but we’re not that.  You need to be a fighter to be an artisan in Quebec.

It seems to me that we’re the kind of Quebec terroir business that they should be favouring, but no it’s too complicated. They really don’t make anything easy for a small, artisanal business ‘thinking outside the box’ in Quebec.  Unless you’re in a far away region where there are subsidies (like most of the newbies). The rules, the taxes, the cost of having employees etc.- its all conducive to big business.  We manage to win them over, proving ourselves one person, one product at a time, one costly fight after another.  I wish I could just cut out the inspectors who are just doing their job and deal with their bosses, even better, exchange with their scientists.

I figure when I retire, I should get a job as a Govt inspector, I know more than most of them, and I bet the benefits must be nice.. But what a boring job, no thanks.  I’ll continue to fight to make a living while focusing on quality, delicious local food; maybe teach them a thing or two along the way.  And perhaps things will change one day;  Hopefully we will go on to survive and thrive. Others will surely profit down the line. We’re constantly breaking down barriers, teaching, making people taste new things, opening markets, developing.. all while taking the heat and struggling to stay afloat.  By nature, it is a difficult business venture; I could do without the extra headaches.

Our passion and vocation has become a cause, a crusade.  A fight for anti-industrial small community based business, and for quality, local food and traditions - especially wild things harvested and cooked properly, with a love and respect of nature. That is and will be our legacy if anything, whether recognized or not.  If only legacies paid the bills. Seeing L’Eau à la Bouche close after 35 years and a lifetime of Anne Desjardins’ visionary, pioneer work in promoting local artisanal food and top-notch authentic cooking, I know very well that life is not fair..  Oh well. I’m still not willing to trade my quality of life for another. Rant over.

Food day Canada

At les Jardins Sauvages, we are celebrating Food Day Canada Saturday, August 3rd!.

This is a national ‘holiday’ celebrating local food and good eating.  On the same day, across the country, both chefs and home cooks (whole villages even) will be simultaneously feasting on menus composed of fresh and local products while raising a glass to our rich and diverse culinary landscape.  Organized by Anita Stewart, acclaimed food writer and long time proponent of Canadian food, she has lots of great people and restaurants on board, check it out..

Of course, my menu is always focused on local, artisanal and wild foods, but I love this initiative.  We should be eating like this year round both for our health and happiness, as well as for the land.  I like the idea of fostering national and regional culinary pride, and I am all for another reason to get together over good food and wine, one day at a time.  At the height of the growing season, every meal is so easily a celebration, so why not join in!  

Our food day menu can be viewed below or at

To reserve, please call 450-588-5125

Other news:

We were honoured to be selected among Canada’s top 20 artisans to participate in the ACE Bakery Artisan Incubator, then as winner of the top award, a year mentorship to help our business grow..

Summer’s bounty is upon us with a wide variety of wild edibles available: the marine greens are peaking, the mushroom season starting.. Come visit us at Jean Talon Market, open seven days year round.

We also have several new products, like our wild steak spice, perfect for summer grilling.. And have you tasted our wild chimichurri, wild mushroom vinaigrette, wild mushroom oil and line of wild spices? All useful in summer cooking like marinades, salads, iced tea.. To see the whole list (retail/wholesale/vrac for chefs): Available at Marché Jean Talon, A la Table or on order, shipping extra.

Our annual mushroom event (11th edition) is coming up soon enough too! The official announcement and menu will be out in August, but the dates are set and reservation book open. Oct.18 to Nov. 3rd.

Hope to see you soon, and have a great summer!

Nancy and François, Les Jardins Sauvages


Nous célébrons ‘La Journée des Terroirs (Food Day Canada) A la table des Jardins Sauvages Samedi le 3 Août, 2013.

Ce jour, à travers le Canada, comme à toutes les années depuis 2003, c’est la fête de la cuisine canadienne, régionale et locale - les produits du terroir. L'idée c'est de créer un menu mettant en valeur de beaux produits de chez nous, bien manger et célébrer notre propre richesse culinaire - ensemble les chefs dans les restaurants avec leurs clients, et les gens au BBQ à la maison.  Cet événement est organisé par Anita Stewart, une grande doyenne de cuisine Canadienne.

C'est certain que mon menu est toujours basé sur les produits locaux, artisanales et sauvages, mais je trouve cela une belle initiative.  A la hauteur de la saison, c’est si facile de manger frais, d’embarquer les gens et les sensibiliser à la façon la plus saine et joyeuse de se nourrir..  En plus, une fête de plus au tour des plaisirs de la table - pourquoi pas?

Vous pouvez visionner mon menu ici en bas ou ici :

Pour réserver, SVP appelez 450-588-5125

Autres nouvelles Les Jardins Sauvages :

Nous avons été honoré d’être choisis parmi les meilleurs 20 artisans à travers le Canada invité au programme ‘Artisans en Croissance’ de la Boulangerie ACE, et gagnant d’un an de mentorat pour nous aider coté ‘affaires’.

C’est le temps d’abondance de plantes sauvages – le mesclun, les pousses marines et la saison de champignons sauvages du Québec commence tranquillement – venez nous voir au Marché Jean Talon ouvert sept jours à l’année maintenant.

Nous avons aussi quelques nouveautés comme nos épices à steak sauvages. Avez-vous goûté à notre huile de champignons, notre ligne d’aromates sauvages et Vinaigrettes Chimichurri sauvage, Champignons Sauvages? Tous utiles pour les marinades pour le grill et salades d’été, thé glacés..  Voir la liste complète ici (détail/en gros pour commerçants/en vrac pour chefs) : Disponible au Marché Jean Talon, A la Table ou sur commande; frais de livraison supplémentaire.

A la table des Jardins Sauvages, notre événement champignons approche.. L’annonce officielle et menu sera pour le mois d’Août, mais les dates sont fixes et le livre de réservations ouvert : 18 Octobre au 3 Novembre!

Passez un bel été. Au plaisir,

François et Nancy


Les Jardins Sauvages Menu

*Canada Food day*

August 3rd, 2013


Escabeche of turbot with sea asparagus and Canadian sandspurry,

smoked tomato and Nordic shrimp, wild salt herbs with lovage,

crinkleroot leaf and bee balm, Ontario Kernal peanuts


Corn and wild mushroom chowder

with cattail broth and sea spinach, sea lettuce 


Roast organic Muscovy duck from Morgan farm

and choucroute salad with kohlrabi, juniper and sea rocket,

daisy and wild berry mustard


Venison from the farm, wild steak spice,

eggplant and Moulin Bleu buckwheat crepe gratin

with wild lamb’s quarters and garlic,

caponata with pickled day lily buds


Option : Quebec Cheese plate – a selection

from the region, chutney and homemade bread

(100g for two; 20$ supplement,10$ per person)


Wild blackberry, blueberry and elderberry chausson

with sweet clover flower, sweetgrass milk jam,

elderflower jelly,

wintergreen chocolate pudding


Tea, coffee

Wild leaf & flower tisane, Fair-trade espresso

 (4$ supplement)


85.00$ tax included, service extra

(73.92 + 3.70 GST + 7.38 PST)


Bring your own wine


Your chef : Nancy Hinton


Your host and forager : François Brouillard

28 years the pioneer of Quebec wild edibles




Menu du 3 Août

 *Canada Food day; Journée des Terroirs*

3 au 25 Août, 2013


Escabèche de turbot avec salicorne et spergulaire,

tomate fumé et crevettes nordiques, herbes salées sauvages avec livèche,

feuille de carcajou et monarde, arachides Kernal (Ont)


Chaudrée de maïs et champignons sauvages au bouillon de quenouille,

arroche de mer et laitue de mer


Salade de canard Barbarie bio de la ferme Morgan,

choucroute et chourave avec genièvre et caquiller,

moutarde de petits fruits sauvages


Cerf du domaine aux ‘épices à steak’ sauvage,

gratin d’aubergine et crêpe de sarrasin (Moulin Bleu),

chou gras et ail, caponata aux boutons d’hémérocalle


Option : Assiette de fromages de la région,

chutney et pain maison (100g pour deux;

supplément de 20$; 10$ par personne)


Chausson de mures, bleuets et sureau sauvages aux fleurs de mélilot,

confiture de lait au foin d’odeur, gelée de fleurs de sureau,

pot de crème au chocolat et thé des bois


Thé, café  

Tisane maison, Espresso équitable

 (supplément de 4$)


Apportez votre vin


 85.00$ taxes incluses, service en sus

(73.92 + 3.70TPS + 7.38TVQ)


Votre chef : Nancy Hinton


Votre hôte et spécialiste de plantes sauvages: François Brouillard,

Les Jardins Sauvages, un pionnier depuis 28 ans

Posted on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 08:46PM by Registered CommenterNancy Hinton in , | CommentsPost a Comment
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