Story Bank: Our Relationship to Wild Foods
Tyler Gray grew up in a small, remote, coastal town in British Columbia Canada. While other kids were out playing street hockey and throwing eggs at cars, he was trekking through the forests and fields with his mom, learning about wild foods and how to forage as part of a self sustaining way of life. Tyler and his two partners launched Mikuni Wild Harvest, a purveyor for North American restaurants, chefs, and specialty food stores.
DG – Interviewer Douglas Gayeton
TG – Interviewee Tyler Gray
DG: Why is it important that people eat with the seasons?
TG: If we don’t start to take a look at eating with the seasons, whether it's wild foraged ingredients or eating locally, we’re going to see major continued issues in human health and the environment. Those are just the raw facts of reality.
Our lives become much richer when we’re more connected with nature. The only way to be connected with nature is to be in-the- moment, in a co-existing relationship with nature in an integrated fashion. If tomatoes are growing, then you’re making tomatoes sauces, preserving them, and using them for months and years to come. If wild chanterelles are growing, then you’re doing the same — preserving them, pickling them, and using them to come.
This adds a rich, layered, and nuanced depth to our interaction with nature. The way we go about walking through life with literally no visceral or physical connection to the environment that we live in is terrible. It’s not beneficial from an environmental, physical, emotional, or spiritual perspective.
DG: Your business is in foraged goods. How do you handle people who expect you sell products 12 months out of the year?
TG: To be honest, the answer is education. We haven’t overpromised and under delivered. We’ve been very prolific in educating all of our chefs that if they’re working with a specific product in that is perhaps not doing well because of adverse weather conditions, then they mostly understand it. It didn’t begin that way, but people and chefs understand it’s something that you have to roll with now.
DG: What surprises you most about the experience taking someone foraging with you?
TG: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked through the bush with someone and picked a berry, vegetable or green leaf and that person said, “Wow. I’ve walked by that like a hundred times. I’ve lived in this area and gone for walks in this park or I’ve got this patch of miner’s lettuce or Siberian oxalis growing in my backyard and I had no idea.”
We have a common misunderstanding that wild foods are dangerous. It’s archaic, but unfortunately we’re still so new to the foods. Our relationship with the wild and wild foods is still in its infancy stage compared to Asia or Europe.
Nonetheless, it’s getting better. Of course, it’s true that you must have some knowledge. It’s also so fun. People love that they have this immediate connection with it because wild foods provide a connection with nature that is immediate and is fun. Once I teach someone what a mountain huckleberry is, they have that knowledge forever and it’s something they can carry with them.