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Alberta wild food guide teaches others to forage for everyday ingredients

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Kevin Kossowan isn't going to the grocery store to find ingredients for dinner.

Instead, he's searching for them in the wild in places such as forested land he owns in the Tawatinaw River valley north of Rochester, a hamlet about 100 kilometres north of Edmonton.

"I really do believe the way to connect people with nature is through their mouth," says the wild food guide and filmmaker.

Kossowan says wild ingredients he forages are "heavily incorporated" at his Edmonton home.

"Every mushroom we would eat at home would be something that I've forged — we have way too many wild mushrooms in our pantry — and the fruits that we would eat are either fruits that grow in our yard or from here (land at Rochester)," he told CTV News Edmonton.

"Our food system at home is heavily influenced by this."

Kossowan offers wild-inspired cooking classes for people wanting to embrace nature's ingredients.

"Usually every ingredient can go either into a drink, a savoury dish or a dessert, so we're usually brainstorming about how could you use birch and put it into all of those places," he said.

Kossowan is part of the docuseries 'From The Wild,' which follows people learning about nature while discovering adventurous new flavours.

"I think people are generally surprised that there's as much to eat here as there is," he said.

Just in this part of Alberta, there are fiddleheads, nodding onion, hazelnuts and roses to forage.

People from across Canada come to the area to learn from Kossowan and to taste the variety of flavourts from different parts of Alberta.

He says he feels 'From The Wild' has " moved the needle nationally on how people are looking at wild ingredients."

"As opposed to like a novelty thing, I think people understand that it is kind of like a default thing and is something that can express the place that you're in," Kossowan said.

"For example, when you're in the Rockies, there are different species and juniper should be in your gin, for example, whereas here, Juniper is not present, so the flavours of that drink might be spruce-forward or Tamarack-forward ...

"Each little region of the province has its own kind of flavour profile. I think we've been able to really highlight that, and that's kind of, in my opinion, where culinary needs to go."

Through each class and every discovered ingredient, he hopes foraging connects people to their food.

"As someone who's gardened a lot, it's similar to that the connection you get to your food and the attachment when you pick it yourself and make something and share it with the people in your life that you care about," Kossowan said.

"In nature, you actually can just walk around and pick the stuff that nature has got going on, and you start to understand that you don't need to be versed in planting the seeds, you can just go down the draw and pick the fiddleheads today and take them home ...

"That's a pretty powerful thing to wrap your head around: the fact that the Earth is constantly producing food. Our understanding of how to engage with that is pretty limited, but once you get your head around it, there's just kind of food everywhere." 

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