If you step out into the woods today, you might just find the ingredients for a gourmet feast, with the help of a few experts in their field.
That’s the premise behind Wild Harvest, the latest offering from documentary filmmaker Les Stroud, whose work over a 30-year career includes the popular Survivorman series.
For Wild Harvest, Stroud collaborated with Chef Paul Rogaliski and Fiona Hamersley Chambers, ethnobotanist and owner of Metchosin Farm.
“The skills required to recognize and collect local forage products have always been one of my favorite topics,” Stroud said in a telephone interview with The Gazette.
The series, in its second season, travels across North America in search of local ingredients, including Alberta, Washington, Oregon, Florida and California, and locally in Metchosin and East Sooke. .
“Working with Paul the series didn’t just become about coming together,” Stroud said. “People are learning how to turn the ingredients into a delicious gourmet meal in a way they can follow.”
Rogaliski, co-owner of Rouge Restaurant in Calgary, is an internationally renowned culinary leader who finds his inspiration in local ingredients and the natural environment, through collaborations with those who share his passion.
Kevin Kossowan, an accomplished cameraman, outdoor enthusiast and survivalist well known for his work on Into the Wild, takes care of the shoot.
Stroud said filming during the pandemic presented no significant challenges as everyone was fully vaccinated, “in the wild and very careful about how we traveled.”
The veteran documentary maker has worked with Hamersley Chambers, plant consultant for the series, on various projects since 2013.
“It got us to say, ‘Let’s come to your area and film over there,'” said Stroud, who has also worked on Shark Week productions for Discovery Channel and grizzly bear documentaries with National Geographic.
“Fiona makes sure all the information about the factory is correct,” he said. “She’s one of the best in the world at what she does, no one gets it better than her. I’m trying to educate the viewer and I need to be sure that’s exactly right, and it wouldn’t be possible without working with someone as qualified as Fiona.
Hamersley Chambers, who teaches ethnobotany at the University of Victoria, said Stroud’s original love and passion was for wild plants.
“After Survivorman takes off like a race car, it’s been looking for a long time to get back to its roots, pun intended,” she said. “I helped identify poisonous plants and look-alikes. Some plants are poisonous, but only at certain stages of growth. A good example is fiddleheads. All are slightly toxic when raw, but when you cook them, the heat denatures the toxin.
In her role, Hamersely Chambers focused not only on safely identifying plants, but also teaching Stroud and viewers of the show how to manage and care for these species, including how to prune a plant. during harvest to ensure it grows better and healthier next year.
“In addition to the basics of plant propagation like transplanting, hardwood cuttings and seeding, it helps people understand that wildlife can often be healthier for being harvested than left unattended and wild. “she said. “I truly appreciate the opportunity Wild Harvest and Les have given me to teach these skills that promote stewardship and reciprocity to a large audience, no matter where they live. “
Although the majority of his work is done via FaceTime, email and phone, Hamersley Chambers was directly involved in two episodes filmed in June and relished the opportunity to work with the team at Metchosin and East Sooke.
“Working with this team is amazing,” she said. “Having them at Metchosin Farm to highlight the richness and diversity of what we grow here has been a privilege. Both episodes were a unique opportunity to show the importance of food security, which begins with seeds and also ethically harvested foods from the wild. “
A cookbook and foraging guide are being written for the Wild Harvest website.
Wild Harvest is slated to end filming this season in October. It airs on Cottage Life in Canada and PBS in the US, with episodes also available on YouTube.
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