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Wild food helps celebrate Earth Day

Vancouver Island University student Gurjiwan Sekhon prepares gourmet food from local ingredients during a past Wild Foods Festival at Bowen Park complex - News Bulletin photo
Vancouver Island University student Gurjiwan Sekhon prepares gourmet food from local ingredients during a past Wild Foods Festival at Bowen Park complex
— image credit: News Bulletin photo

Trying out some stinging nettle recipes and listening to live music in Bowen Park are two ways Nanaimo residents can celebrate Earth Day Sunday (April 21).

The Nanaimo Area Land Trust, in partnership with the City of Nanaimo, hosts its fourth annual Wild Foods Festival from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Bowen Park Complex.

People can sample dishes prepared by local chefs featuring an array of wild, local ingredients from halibut and wild greens to berries and stinging nettles.

Gail Adrienne, NALT executive director, said the idea behind the event is to introduce people to native foods – many people don’t realize how many edible native plants are in the area – and to encourage people to grow these plants in their backyards.

“It’s morphed into a celebration of Earth Day as well,” she said. “It’s part of the concept of food security and local food. One of our best sources of local food ... is native foods.”

Many of these foods are also high in vitamins and minerals and the recipes that local chefs come up with – this year 12 chefs will be cooking up a storm for the event – are always delicious, Adrienne added.

“I’ve had some absolutely gorgeous gourmet samplings,” she said. “There’s always lineups for the food samples.”

Admission is $2 with children 10 and under free and samples will cost $1-2.

On top of the food samplings, there will be a range of local vendors on hand selling crafts, breads, sea salt, produce, sausages and other items, and several community groups will have information tables set up.

Indoors, the event features three presentations – chef Francois DeJong from Nanaimo Foodshare will give a food preparation demonstration using stinging nettles and Oregon grape berries; Bill Jones of Deerholme Farm has a demonstration featuring wild local mushrooms; and Andy MacKinnon, co-author of Plants of Coastal B.C., will talk about local wild edible plants.

Outdoors, people can participate in guided walks or try out lawn bowling and disc golf.

There will also be a Wild Kidzone featuring crafts such as potting up a wild strawberry plant and taking it home.

Adrienne said last year, the event attracted about 1,000 people.

“The word’s gotten out how great it is,” she said.

The Sierra Club of Nanaimo is also hosting an Earth Day celebration in Bowen Park.

From 3:30-7 p.m., people can go for a picnic in the park at the lower picnic shelter off Wall Street.

The event features a bake sale, local musicians and dancers, games and there will even be a piñata to smash.

“It’s just a way for people to get together and make connections around being aware of and caring for the planet,” said organizer Carla Stein. “We’re inviting everyone in the community to come and bring a picnic lunch.”

People are asked to bring a picnic basket, reusable cup and a comfortable blanket or chair.

For more information, please go to www.nalt.bc.ca or www.sierraclub.bc.ca/nanaimo.

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