From Mushrooms to Meals

“An introduction to foraging and a glimpse at the life of those who wish to push forward this sustainable and creative movement.”

left top: A meal of braised short ribs, seared porcinis, and mushroom infused mash. right top: Morgan K. Sterns foraging for mushrooms near Sombrio. bottom middle: Janusz Urban leading the mushroom picking tours. Photos by Cole Hofstra

—By Morgan K. Sterns


The sign for French Beach was only a dot in the rear view mirror and the narrowing logging road near Sombrio was proving difficult to navigate, but they told us that very soon we would be there. Stopping in a foot of water, on a barely noticeable path, we finally arrived at a spot where chanterelles, angel wings, and perhaps porcinis, took cover beneath damp moss like golden nuggets. Chef Castro Boateng, Janusz Urban, Brendan Harris and Arran Jackson reserved their rainy Sunday to take twenty of us into the ethereal rainforests of Vancouver Island to forage for mushrooms. The day was not limited to picking, but also included an opportunity to enjoy what we found, as well as a tasty selection of gourmet foods. We were treated to an exquisite outdoor feast of cauliflower, celeriac, and sautéed mushroom cream soup; chanterelle tapenade crostini; wild mushroom infused mashed potatoes with seared porcinis and braised beef short ribs. Having only enjoyed the flavourful, meaty fungi from the comfort of a dinner table, hunting for mushrooms proved to be rewarding and addictive. Involving oneself with the gathering component of food encourages an appreciation for the journey that ingredients endure before arriving upon plates.


Having worked together at The Aerie, head Chef Boateng and Urban recognized that they shared an appreciation for inspired ingredients that grew plentiful on the island. As a result of the friendship, they developed their own concept of extending cooking from the kitchen to the outdoors. This led to the idea of the mushroom picking tours. Highly knowledgeable, having studied wild foods through courses at Royal Roads, working in the food industry and individually creating an impressive resume of life experience, Chef Boateng, Urban, Harris, and Jackson provided reference mushrooms and detailed descriptions of what we were to look for. Initially upon venturing into the forest, the visibility was restricted to the moss draping over fallen logs, and mist hanging heavy between intimidating tall trees. However, as  your eyes adjusted and the tiny caps of the golden and winter chanterelles slowly began to appear, it seemed as if the mushrooms that were once hidden began to litter the earths floor. We were informed to often look around so as to not lose direction – wise words indeed, as mushroom picking quietly interferes with your perception and orientation of space.


To Urban and Harris, longtime friends, the ideas of foraging and connecting with the foods we use and enjoy are not limited to Vancouver Island. Last year with the help of Harris’ extensive sailing experience and his boat named Tiki, they and Jackson embarked on a month-long sailing trip up to Cortes Island. The goal was to explore the abundance of natural foods and to enjoy meals with locals they met along the way. With three creative and driven outdoor enthusiasts, Foragers Galley, was born. The founding principle of Foragers Galley is rooted in the idea that the utmost gratification comes from sharing food and the corresponding experience. Over the course of sailing and discovering wild culinary treasures, Foragers Galley evolved into a passion project that documented recipes used, routes explored, and places visited. Determined to continue with their vision, Urban and Harris, with friends Jon Wright and Greg Horne, are planning a year long sailing trip from Florida through the Panama Canal and onto Australia. They are embarking on this trip with the intent to learn about food and the specific food culture of the different areas they travel to. Conscious of the reality that many countries and islands they will visit are limited by environmental, social, and governmental restrictions, they believe that discovering how the local people from various places manage their food resources, is a critical component of furthering food security. Aware that this experience is not only for themselves, but for friends and family, they also hope to share their knowledge and experiences with as many people through video, webisodes, and by word of mouth.


To learn more about Foragers Galley visit here.


Castro Boateng Private Chef and Fine Catering




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