Many of us have heard about, and perhaps even live by, the Slow Food movement–the idea that we should strive to preserve traditional and regional cuisines and protect biodiversity in the plants and animals of local areas. The same people who created that movement have also instituted the Ark of Taste, a virtual Noah’s ark of flavour.
In the Ark of Taste, specific techniques, cultivars, and breeds of animals are preserved from extinction due to fast food and factory farming. Unlike an actual physical ark, foods are catalogued, and by encouraging the sustainable production of the items in the Ark, foods and cooking techniques that are tied closely to a geographical region or a people for the future are kept for posterity. There are many items on the Ark of Taste from countries all around the world and all of them are tied closely to a given geographic region.
There are nine items in the Canadian Ark of Taste and several of them are found locally. Both nodding onion and miner’s lettuce, for example, are found right in the Lower Mainland. They’re both in danger, largely due to loss of habitat resulting from urban development, but they are out there. Nodding onion, for example, has a flavour similar to chives and was used in indigenous culinary traditions. Miner’s lettuce, which goes by a number of other names, like winter purslane, was traditionally used in cooking, as well as medicinally to restore appetites and aid rheumatic pain. Both of these plants begin flowering in May and are in season throughout the summer.
To discover some of the items in the Ark of Taste right in your own back yard, take a Wild Edibles tour. You’ll stroll through the forest and learn to identify (and cook!) some of the local flora–maybe even miner’s lettuce.