Foraging the Wild – The Lesosky Family Passion

February 25, 2009

Wild mushroom and seaweed harvesting season is on the way….

With excitement and anticipation, the British Columbia based Lesosky family, braces itself for the rigors of harvesting the wild, where harsh weather conditions, difficult terrains, ravenous insects, snakes and the occasional avoidance of bears are the norm.

Louis Lesosky, patriarch of the family business, and Wild Products Network takes pride in the fact that the wild mushrooms he and his sons, Sequoia and Jay, gather are of the highest quality. Taught by his father, and picking since the age of 5 in Northern Manitoba, Louis has learned a thing or two about the craft, and has definite ideas about what sets his products and pickers apart.

“Clean mushrooms, free of dirt, molds, and parasites. That’s how you know you’re dealing with good pickers and have premium mushrooms. Mushrooms are seasonal and precious, and one season is different from the next. They have to be treated with respect. The Chef’s we deal with are just thrilled that their cooks don’t have to spend all that time cleaning our product,” says Louis.

“There’s also the fact that we train our pickers, and pay them proper market value for their work. So, they’re not only motivated by gathering quantity. We teach them to recognize quality, read the crops, pick only the best and leave the lower quality ones behind. They must be in the habit of cleaning the mushrooms properly before putting them in buckets. There is also the question of respect for the environment.”

“We run dry, clean camps. This is a tough job, a serious one. We can spend upwards of 5 to 6 weeks in the wild. This takes a special kind of person. There is so much to know. I continue to learn to this day. But, the key is ‘to be there’ for the mushrooms. Not, the other way around.”

Conversely, Sequoia Lesosky’s passion, along with mushrooms, is seaweed. His Northwater Seaweed drying plant is located in Campbell River but Sequoia and his licensed crew harvest the wild tides of Thurlow Islands in Northern B.C.

“So far, we have provided high quality, dry seaweed to our customers. What has been amazing is to experience the differences in flavor, color and nutritional value of various seaweeds. We are able to harvest enough to last only through to December. But this year, we are looking to forge relationships with members of local First Nations, and get to train more professional pickers. With luck, our yield will surpass those of other seasons.”

“This year, I’m looking to experiment with bringing in wet seaweed, stored in sea water. Pacific Dulse and Nori seem to tolerate the experience best. You can use wet seaweed to flavor the cooking liquid for mussels, clams and more. “

The season will run roughly like this:

Fresh Wild Mushrooms- Available wholesale in baskets (yield 5 to 6 lbs each)

Mid may- Morels
Late July- Wild Red Caps (Birch Bolete)
Mid August- White Chanterelles and Lobster Mushrooms
Early September- Pine
Later September- Yellow Chanterelles
Throughout Season- Over 50 other varietals including Blewits and Hedgehogs

Seaweed- Dry ½ to 1 lbs bags.

May, June- Nori, Sea Lettuce, Fucus Berries and Pacific Dulse
July- Kelp

The Lesosky family also provides high quality dryer grade dry mushroom products, available in limited quantities throughout the year.

“I have chefs order fresh dryer grade chanterelles and morels during the season to freeze. The trick is to blanch or cook them before freezing. These two types of mushrooms don’t lose much in the way of texture during this process. And will hold well for up to two months. It’s another option for them,” says Louis.

The best way to secure these quality products, wholesale, is to call and place an order, one week in advance of a Thursday delivery to their table at Granville Island Farmers Market.

Wild Products Network: Louis Lesosky 604.928.3663
Northwater Seaweed: Sequoia Lesosky

A good read: The Savoury Mushroom, Cooking with Wild and Cultivated Mushrooms- by Bill Jones


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