top of page

FORAGING FORAYS: Bill Jones' definitive foraging book has a new look

Just in time for spring foraging on the wild west coast — and morel mushroom season — Chef Bill Jones’ definitive book on the topic has a fresh new look, a decade after its original release.


In these parts, chef Bill Jones is the Obi-Wan of foraging for food in the great outdoors — we all have long deferred to his wisdom, experience and skill when it comes to the many wild foods available here on the warm west coast.

From his Deerholme Farm in the Cowichan Valley, Jones leads foraging walks and offers cooking classes and dinners, teaching us what to look for in the woods and how to create something amazing in the kitchen with our foraged finds.

This book, an update of the original 2014 volume, is both foraging handbook and culinary inspiration, and only one of the books this prolific chef has produced on the topic of local mushrooms and other wild foods, leaning on his own experience and a deep respect for local First Nations ethnobotany and culture.

The Deerholme Foraging Cookbook: Wild Ingredients and Recipes from the Pacific Northwest (Touchwood Editions) includes the chef’s recipes, tips and detailed advice about wild foods, whether you’re searching for chanterelles or digging for clams.

Want to know how to identify edible pineapple weed or oxeye daisy? It's here.

Need instructions to clean and cook a giant Pacific geoduck clam for stir fries or sashimi? Jones has your back.

Jones has been foraging on Vancouver Island and offering hands-on classes from his Deerholme Farm in the Cowichan Valley for decades. And this second edition offers fans, new and old, even more of his wilderness wisdom. With lots of his photographs and foraging stories, this handbook will help you safely find, identify and sustainably harvest wild ingredients, then learn to dry, store and prepare them with Jones’ array of excellent recipes, many inspired by his travels in Asia .

Spring is time for nettles, spruce tips and morels, with wild salmon berries and blackberries in summer, and salal berries and a multitude of mushrooms in fall. Learn about chickweed and dandelions, cattail spikes, miner’s lettuce and wild mint, all edible vegetation from forests and fields.

Keep this book in the car or in your pack, and you may find something delicious on your next walk in the woods, then dip into it for recipes, everything from Seaweed Pesto, Wild Mushroom Rub and Grand Fir Jelly to Seared Tuna and Pickled Sea Bean Salad, or Smoked Sablefish Braised with Morels and Tomatoes.

Try his Rice Noodles with Clams and Black Bean Sauce or Oyster and Seaweed Lasagna, Chinese onion pancakes (made with wild onions, and learn to make buckwheat flour soba noodles from scratch.

Jones offers his take on a First Nations tradition of smoking wild salmon, using honey and fresh Grand Fir needles in the cure, or Cedar Planked salmon topped with a rose hip butter. From local mussels and oysters to wild miner's lettuce salsa verde or seaweed bechamel, there are many tempting recipes that will send you straight out to the garden, the beach, or the local seafood shop.

As Jones notes, foraging “is a journey into the past that will allow you to commune with the dawn of humanity” but instead of just “surviving, you might actually find yourself living a little better.”



Jones says this recipe is a great way to reduce food waste — use day old white French bread, baguette or batard (stash stale bread in the freezer and you'll always have the raw materials for this dish). In terms of salmon, Jones says he uses "smoked salmon chunks, sometimes sold as ends" to save money or gets candied salmon from the fish store.

Forage for young stinging nettles in spring or substitute spinach.

8 cups stinging nettles (or spinach)

1 tbsp butter or olive oil

2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 tbsp minced garlic

4 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced

2 tbsp mixed herbs (thyme, sage, parsley)

salt and pepper to taste

6 large eggs

4 cups milk or cream

6 cups thinly sliced French bread or baguette

1 cup diced smoked salmon

2 cups grated mozzarella or Swiss cheese

Soak the nettles in plenty of cold water. Rinse and drain. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the nettles; blanch for 30 seconds or until nettles are limp and dark green. Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs and transfer to a bowl of cold water (to shock and stop the cooking process). Drain and squeeze out all of the moisture. You will end up with a softball size lump of nettles.

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Heat a saute pan over medium high heat and add the butter, onions and celery. Saute until onions soften and begin to give off moisture. Add the garlic, green onions and herbs, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk, salt and pepper.

Place a layer of bread in a large casserole dish. Sprinkle with a little of the smoked salmon and some of the onion mixture. Chop the cooked nettles into a coarse dice and sprinkle a little of the nettles over the bread. Repeat the layers .

Pour the egg mixture over the bread, pushing down with a spoon to ensure all of the layers are soaked with the mixture. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top.

Place in the oven for 45 minutes, or until set and browned on top.

Remove from the oven and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes. Cut into squares (or scoop with a large spoon) and serve warm. Serves 8

©Cinda Chavich 2024


bottom of page