Trout Lilies & The Joy of Foraging

Foraging trout lilies; forest to table food

by Ben Samann, General Manager

One of the joys of foraging is finding a community – countless happy little plants around us are known to many people as edible. So, when we hear of a new plant, we go online to find recipes, suggestions, and, importantly, conservation information.

A few years ago, we discovered trout lilies.

You’ve seen them, you just don’t know about them. They’re some of the first greens to pop up, and once they start, they’re everywhere.

It’s important to know a few things. They’re sweetest when they first come up, and once they flower, they turn a bit bitter. They’re slow to spread to new areas, but come back year after year in the same patch. The leaves are easy to harvest, and while the roots are a nice starchy snack, pulling that kills the whole plant.

We’ve been using them for years, mostly in salads (and as a source of vitamins on my hike home). There’s something magical about finding food just sprouting up in nature.

But we’re adventurous! No more “just put it in a salad!”

What are people doing with them? Off to the internet, Chef Kyle! Find some interesting uses! Foraging blogs are easy to find, and many write about how awesome trout lilies are. Recipes abound, but it was the same story: use them in salads, add them to salads, or cut them up and eat them in a salad.

…okay then. Thanks, internet. Off to the lab we go!

Dog with science experiment, captioned

Chef Kyle and I set to work. We pickled, in 3 styles. We jellied. We boiled, mashed, and served in a stew. We made sugar cookies. We candied. Dehydrated.

Interestingly, while this was going on, we were interviewing for a new sous chef. Mandy was coming for an interview to cook a 5-course tasting menu for us. She made a trout lily granita.

In each case, the trout lily flavour was incredibly mild, but always added something. Sometimes it was sweetness, other times we tasted the astringency (bitterness), and sometimes it just added a nice hint of green. But, it was interesting.

At this point, we have a bunch of ideas. We’ll see how many pan out, but there’s fun to be had. It’s an exciting year ahead!

Read more about our food philosophy and how we use foraged, farmed, and locally grown ingredients in our restaurants at The Whole Hog.