Have you ever cooked with fir tree tips? Made salads from tiny wild daisies, pungent dandelion greens, or sheep sorrel? Mixed your own cocktails with apple-based spirits? From wild food adventures and farm tours to cooking workshops and mixology sessions, tons of new experiences in and around Victoria, BC, are encouraging visitors to explore the land—with their hands, feet, and appetites. We’ve rounded up several of these adventures for a delicious island itinerary.
Fir for Food
When she moved to her farm on the Saanich Peninsula north of Victoria, Laura Waters expected to sell Christmas trees; her property was planted with more than 1,600 Douglas firs. When she began researching more sustainable uses for her evergreens, however, she discovered that they could be made into foods and drinks.
Her farm and gourmet shop, Snowdon House, now produces a line of fir-infused vinegars (try the blueberry-fir variety), along with a Douglas fir essence that you can mix with sparkling water for a refreshing summer drink. Sample these goodies and more in the shop, and if you want to learn more about imaginative ways to cook with fir products, sign up for one of Waters’ cooking demonstrations.
Organic Farm Tours
Although Sharyn and Mike Romaine bought the 18-acre Saanich Peninsula property that they now call The Healing Farm as a retirement project, the energetic couple is far from retired. They’re raising free-range chickens, producing maple syrup, fruit leathers, and honey from their own bees, and growing more than 1,000 apple, pear, walnut, hazelnut, and other trees, all using certified organic methods.
Part of the Romaines’ goal is to reconnect people with the natural environment. They offer a number of different farm tours, where you can learn about sustainable farming, bees and beekeeping, how to raise happy chickens, and more. You can book a tour specifically for families, where you can interact with the farm’s animals and learn more about what’s growing.
From Scones to Siegerrebe
At The Roost Farm Centre, a 10-acre Saanich family farm, plenty of visitors start their day in the bakeshop, known for their freshly made scones and cinnamon buns. You can have a heartier meal in their farm-to-table bistro or take a tour of the vineyards and fields. You’ll definitely want to taste their wines, too: both their signature white wine, made from Siegerrebe grapes, and the distinctive “Ginger Sweetheart,” Siegerrebe wine steeped with fresh ginger.
Danielle Prohom Olson began learning about foraging as a child, when she tagged along as her grandmother searched for wild edibles. Along with her business partner (and sister-in-law) Jennifer Aikman, she recently established Gather Victoria to share her wild food knowledge, leading private “wildcrafting” tours, where you’ll learn about what local wild products are edible and how to find and use them.
You might learn to pick dandelion greens to make a pesto, what wild berries you can use in different desserts, and how to identify edible plants like sheep sorrel or peppercress that grow in and around Victoria. Check their website for recipes and lots more wild food ideas.
Craft Cider and Cocktail Crafting
You don’t have to venture far from the city to find local drinkables on Vancouver Island either. On the Saanich Peninsula and throughout the Cowichan Valley—a fertile agricultural region northwest of Victoria—numerous winemakers, cideries, and, increasingly, craft distilleries have set up shop.
At the Cowichan Valley’s first cider maker, Merridale Cider & Distillery, you can sample their traditional English-style ciders or their newer craft spirits. If you’d rather try your hand at bartending, book a “mixology experience,” where you can create your own cocktails using their vodka or gin, with various local garnishes and regionally-produced tonics.
High on a hill above the Haro Straight, Saanich-based Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse offers tasting flights of their all-organic ciders. They’re especially delicious paired with an “Artisan Lunch Plate,” a generous spread of locally-made cheeses, sausage, smoked salmon dip, and pickles, served with bread and crackers.
On the waterfront in the town of Sidney, Victoria Distillers runs a tasting room and lounge, where the must-try drink is a gin and tonic made from their Empress 1908 gin. Infused with butterfly pea flowers and a special tea blend from Victoria’s iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel, the spirits themselves are a striking deep blue color. When you mix them with tonic or citrus, the drink turns a soft pinkish lavender. It’s an entertaining way to taste—and toast—Vancouver Island’s food and drink bounty.
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