Anyone with a taste for living off the land will go wild in Sandspit this September.
On Sept. 9 and 10, the second Sandspit Wild Harvest Festival will see the community hall packed with demos by everyone from lichen lovers to sea salters and wild soap makers.
Others will lead guided forest and shoreline walks, or stay and sample wild foods prepared by visiting chef Elizabeth Flegg.
To cap it all off, on Saturday night the Sandspit Inn will host a sold-out, wild cuisine dinner by the islands’ own Chef Edi Szasz, plus feature talks by Roberta Olson and Susan Musgrave.
Olson’s Keenawai’s Kitchen started serving traditional Haida foods in Skidegate long before anyone said “100 mile diet.” Musgrave’s A Taste of Haida Gwaii recently won a BC Books prize and a place on Canadian food lovers’ shelves for its blend of wild recipes and islands stories.
Festival organizer Flavien Mabit says the event was a surprise hit last year, and for good reason — islanders know lots of wild things worth sharing.
“The funny thing is people have a lot of knowledge, but they don’t even know they have it,” said Mabit, who runs the Sandspit Visitor Centre and the Bayview Garden B&B.
For example, Mabit said when he and some friends once quizzed each other on how many edible mushrooms they knew, he was surprised to find he could list 21 without trouble.
That is partly thanks to the ‘fungi-lievable’ mushrooms that grow near Skidegate Lake (this season is unsually dry), but also to Mabit’s parents, who live near Bordeaux on the coast of France.
“There are lots of forests where they live, and my dad really likes mushroom-picking,” said Mabit. “It’s been a family thing.”
In fact, not only are Mabit’s parents flying to Sandspit for the festival, visitors can ask them all about French boletes, chanterelles, and other favourites because they too will have a table at the community hall.
Before it launched for the first time last September, Mabit said people suggested a mushroom-only festival, or maybe one on beach-combing.
But with the big variety of wild foods and crafts on island and all the local knowledge here, he thought it better to broaden out.
“Not everything is about edible plants — it’s about what we can use around us,” said Mabit, noting that one potter suggested a talk on natural clays and glazes, and a wood-turner may give a small workshop on making spoons.
In future years, he also hopes to see the festival host speakers with tips on the kind of skills many islanders take for granted, but not everyone gets a chance to do, including preparing venison, or smoking fish.
“There’s an infinity of things we can do.”
Walks, talks and food samples at the Sandspit Community Hall are scheduled so day-trippers can visit and head home to Graham Island on the last ferry, and bicycles can be borrowed free so walk-ons can ride the 10 km to town.