Find tips and recipes on how to add more traditional foods to your child’s lunch.
What are traditional foods?
Traditional foods are the plants and animals that Indigenous Peoples use for food and medicine and are harvested in a sustainable way. This means that they are harvested in a way that does not harm the environment and provides the opportunity for future generations to use these foods. Traditional foods and medicine are important not only for Indigenous Peoples’ nutrition and health, but also to express culture and spirituality, and they are a way to connect with the land.
Do I need to fish, forage, hunt, or trap?
Foraging is a great way to find traditional plants that can be eaten. However, learning which plants are edible is very important. Your local library has many books that teach you how to forage. If you have a hunter in the family, that is an excellent way to access traditional meats such as deer or fish. However, you can often find game meat at your local butcher shop, too.
When foraging, it is important to remember that we are all stewards of the land. It is illegal to forage from parks.
A guiding principle for foraging is to take one and leave two. In other words, we take less than we leave, so that the plant can continue to grow and thrive. For example, if you find a berry bush with only three berries, you would take one to eat and leave two to grow.
It is not recommended to forage from ditches or alongside the road, as car exhaust can stick to the plants. Remember to wash the plants that you forage before eating them.
School lunch ideas
Already making salads? Why not try adding some traditional foods to the mix! Dandelion greens are a great addition to any spring mix salad and add a different flavour than more common lettuces.
Salmonberries can be red, yellow and orange. Traditionally, this berry was used as a calendar so that the Stó:lō Peoples in the area would know when salmon fishing season had begun. Salmonberries are tasty when eaten fresh or dried. Why not add them as the dried berry in a homemade trail mix?
Thimbleberries, blackcaps (also known as black raspberry), red huckleberries or native blackberries are also tasty additions to any school lunch. These berries are best when eaten fresh, rather than dried. You can also use them in place of any berry in a smoothie for snack or breakfast!
When sending warm meals to school with your child, food safety is important. Use a wide mouth thermos to keep hot food hot. Preheat the thermos with hot water before filling it with food. Here are some suggested meals you can send with your child in a thermos:
1. Stinging nettle pesto. Handling stinging nettle when raw is an itchy mistake. Make sure you forage stinging nettle with gloves, then blanch the nettles to get rid of the ‘sting’. Substitute blanched stinging nettle for basil in your favourite pesto recipe, and toss with pasta.
2. Rabbit stew. Rabbits are a traditional meat that adds a different flavour than most conventional red meats. You don’t have to hunt them yourself either. Many butchers offer rabbit for sale.
- 2-3 tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 med carrot diced
- 1 med onion diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 rabbit, boneless, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- Bone stock (any stock made from bones of chicken, rabbit), 2.5 quarts
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- Juice from 1 lemon
- Ground coriander (for garnish, optional)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place whole tomatoes on a baking sheet and roast until skin breaks and chars, and insides are soft. Remove from oven and let cool.
In a stew pot, heat oil. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic, and cook until translucent. Add rabbit meat and cook for a few minutes, then add stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about two hours or until rabbit meat is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Coarsely chop tomatoes and add to stew, then add lemon juice and stir to combine. Portion stew and top with ground coriander for garnish, if desired.
3. Teriyaki-ginger rabbit. Why not try a fusion recipe? Make your favourite teriyaki sauce, pour over rabbit meat, and cook until the meat reaches a safe internal temperature of 74°F.
- First Nations Health Authority traditional foods fact sheets
Detailed information on many traditional foods found throughout B.C.
- Dietitians of Canada - Indigenous Nutritional Knowledge Information
Series of 16 traditional Indigenous recipes by the Aboriginal Nutrition Network of Dietitians of Canada.
Fraser Health would like to thank Spéshelwét (Chris Kelly) of Mámele’awt Aboriginal Community Centre for sharing her knowledge for this project.