Aside from maple syrup and wild blueberries, many forest foods are hard to source in Ontario, unless you pick them yourself. Unlike just a few years ago, Ontario foods are now much in demand. With the fast growing market for these indigenous foods, it is becoming more possible for harvesters to gain income from more than just one food, and to be able to sell larger amounts of what is out there.
Local food turn
There are always some things that one can’t get enough of, and sometimes it changes from year to year. And there are now buyers at restaurants, farmers markets and others that will now, only buy Ontario fresh foods.
Wild fruits and vegetables
In 2013, it was hard get enough Ontario fiddleheads as there are few Ontario harvesters and then, the year, because of the heat, the fiddleheads in Southern and Central Ontario bolted, making for a very short season.
Saskatoon berries, also called sugarplums, have been in short supply, despite reports of large crops in parts of Northern Ontario.
Wild blueberries continue to be trucked into Toronto from Nova Scotia and Quebec. And most of these are ‘from wild stock’ that are grown on ‘wild blueberry farms’. Some years it is hard to get enough Ontario hand-picked real wild blueberries.
Cloudberries, that are abundant in some areas in the north, are coming in from Newfoundland and Quebec because there is no organized harvest in Ontario. Surprising, considering that harvesters can usually get between $8 and $9 lb.
There are also more specialty wild fruits, such as wild currants, dwarf raspberry, creeping snowberry, wild strawberries and pin cherries that consumers cannot source in Ontario.
Across Canada in 2012 and 2013 there were not enough morel mushrooms, either fresh or dried, despite high prices for both. Ontario morels would be able to fetch even higher prices.
Chanterelle mushrooms continue to fly into Toronto from B.C. in big quantities, because there are hardly any harvesters/suppliers with Ontario wild mushrooms.
Pine mushrooms (Matsutake) are big business in B.C. but there are few, if any, that are harvested in Ontario, even though they flourish in the Northern Jack Pine forests.
Other wild mushrooms that are currently being supplied from other provinces include Black Trumpet, Porcini (and other Boletes such as Admirable, Red Caps, Spruce), Hedgehog, Cauliflower, Bear’s Tooth, Fairy Ring. There are fast growing markets in many cities for both fresh and dried species.
Juniper berries and birch syrup
With the amount of Juniper that grows in Ontario, you would think that a few berries would make it to market. Chefs and farmer’s market customers looking to buy these but there are very few, if any, harvesters in Ontario. Harvesters can get over $20 lb. for juniper berries.
Despite the boreal forests having enough birch trees to supply a huge birch syrup business, we only have two small commercial producers in Ontario. A very little of what they produce ever gets as far south as Toronto, Almost all the birch syrup consumed is coming from other provinces.
Jonathan Forbes, May 2014
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