From insects to plants, Montreal workshop explores how to find edible food in the wild

From insects to plants, Montreal workshop explores how to find edible food in the wild

Michael Bom Frøst is visiting Montreal, hoping to convince chefs and foodies alike that insects can be eaten, plants in your natural surroundings can be foraged and they can all taste delicious.

Bom Frøst is the director of the Nordic Food Lab, a non-profit organization from the University of Copenhagen, is in Montreal and offering a free workshop as part of Montreal's winter festival Montréal en Lumière.

"We try to expand the boundaries for what the world thinks is edible," he says. "We do that by deliciousness, not by necessity or by sustainability alone. We believe in food deliciousness first."

The Nordic Food Lab combines scientific approaches and culinary techniques from around the world.

Food scientist and chefs have been working together for the last 10 years to find ways to cook things such as grasshoppers, ants, bee larva, as well as berries and wild meat, all while trying to enhance their natural flavours.

"We are looking specifically at raw materials that are not used so much. So it could be insects, which we started using four or five years ago," says Bom Frøst. "Food from the wild. Recently we've taken up squid, cod fish, octopus."

Bom Frøst thinks taste is key, and if something is packed with a punch of flavour, people will eat it.

"We can use that as a lever to change people's behaviour around food into a more sustainable way, and I think that is the main challenge of the 21st century: to make our food ways more sustainable" and prevent them from undermining future generations' livelihood, he says.

He also hopes the practice of foraging for plants will connect people with nature and their surroundings — but education first is key.

"You have to know what you're doing. First, there are some things that could be poisonous. On the other hand, you have some wild plants that are red-listed — that you shouldn't be foraging because you would extinguish them. So it's a lot about building the knowledge among chefs and among people to use these resources."

Nordic Food Lab will be presenting its conference as part of Montréal en Lumière on Monday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. at L'Astral. The event is free but a reservation is required.