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The Ontario Forest and Freshwater Foods Association has been set up in an effort to reach out to harvesters of Forest and Freshwater Foods in Ontario. Whether you are commercially active in the wild food trade, a novice or experienced harvester, the association provides information and support. Ultimately, we wish to build a solid network of individuals, organizations and businesses focused on the needs of Ontario’s communities as we expand the sustainable harvest of forest and freshwater foods in our province together.

The harvest of so-called “wild food” has great potential to contribute to sustainable regional food economies in Northern Ontario. An increased consumption of forest foods will lead to healthier diets. The local harvest of wild-crafted foods will fortify relationships to traditional territories for aboriginal groups and may conserve or revive a community’s knowledge of nature’s edible bounty.

Hundred millions of dollars’ worth of foods is wild harvested from Canada’s forests and lakes each year. The commercialization of wild-crafted foods is growing in popularity but Ontario – with its vast landmass – remains under-represented. Most income-generating opportunities in the sector are casual, seasonal and often time-consuming harvesting activities, though profitable enterprises may grow from this.

The association plays a role in synthesizing and facilitating the knowledge of foods growing across the different ecologies in Ontario while educating the general public on restrictions.

The website has a number of pages that are only accessible to members. The member-only information is more specifically of interest to people who wish to commercialize their wild-crafting. Once you register with the site, you will have access to a list of over 60 potential funding sources available to entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations in the forest food sector. We also create information sheets describing how, whatwhen and where to harvest specific foods in Ontario. To become a member is easy and at no cost to you – simply fill out the registration form here. Your membership helps us establish a network of individuals, organizations, communities and businesses in Ontario who are interested in growing the forest food sector responsibly, ethically and sustainably.

OFFFA’s board members, Jonathan Forbes, Michael Nelson and Denise Bolduc have each been promoting the harvest of wild edibles in our province for numerous years. With the generous support of Carrot Cache we have been able to formalize their efforts and incorporate the Ontario Forest and Freshwater Foods Association. We would like to thank Carrot Cache for their support and partnership as we continue our efforts to promote the sustainable harvest of forest foods as a way to strengthen regional food economies in Ontario.

The contents of this website are a work in progress – to receive updates, register with OFFFA and we will notify you when new content is made available.

We look forward to connecting with you!

The OFFFA team

email us: info@onforestfoods.net

Hazelnuts (a reminiscence)

Come August, as kids in Wawa we would head up the hill back of Wawa creek to a flat spot below an outcrop, and there we would check on our special patch of hazelnut shrubs. We would follow the development of the nut clusters beneath the leaves, watchful as summer waned for the telltale blotches of rust on the leaves, and same on the green nut sheaths. We would sometimes watch the birds, as we were told by our elders that they too would be watching for when the nuts might be ready to fall. But we wanted to get ahead of the birds, so would pick the spiney green husks before they dropped and would be either hard to find midst the ground cover, or lost to the birds or chipmunk and chitamo.

For equipment we used old galvanized pails and hockey sticks; pails to put the clusters or singles we’d twisted off the shrub, and sticks to hook and pull down the higher branches beyond our reach. We didn’t mind the fuzzy hands that resulted from picking gloveless, and the prickly fingers somehow became a point of pride. We needed at least one pail that didn’t leak, which we filled with water from Anderson Lake, and therein we’d drop our nuts to test for floaters – empty shells – which we discarded.  When finished collecting we headed to the shore of the lake where we had a fire pit. There we brought to boil an old pot we had stashed in the bush and dumped our nuts into the roil. We thought by doing so the husks would come easier away from the nut. Whatever the case, this worked, and we soon had sheathless nuts that just needed our patience to set them to dry on salvaged window screen for about three to four weeks. Frequently, though, our patience failed before we got them home, as we couldn’t help but try and crack a few nuts open and toss them into the frying pan (from our secret bush scullery) for toasting. While one might be working at busting open the nutshells, another of our party would be fishing for perch, and in no time we were sitting around our fire and pans and nuts and fish – shore lunch!

Michael Nelson - April, 2014