By Nikki Bayley
BC is known as a chef’s paradise for the sheer abundance, variety and quality of its produce from the land and sea. From super-sustainable spot prawns and juicy Okanagan peaches to fresh-foraged salmonberries and briny sea asparagus, there is something exciting to taste year-round you just need to know what to look for, and who better to explain the gems of BC seasonal dining than Scott Jaeger, one of Canada’s most respected chefs. Scott represented Canada in the prestigious Bocuse D’Or Culinary Competition in Lyon, France in 2007 and has won a brace of awards for his culinary skills including Chef of the Year and Best Restaurant for his Burnaby-based Peartree.
“Here in BC we have a short but intense growing season when things ripen all at once; around May or June things start to pop out of the ground for four months. That’s our main season and if you want to honour local produce on your menu you have to get into a preserving and canning mentality so you can enjoy those ingredients year-round. As my restaurant is called the Peartree, I want local pears on the menu all year– whether that’s canned, dried or frozen– so when fall comes it’s go time and we preserve as much as we possibly can. In my opinion a BC-grown Bartlett pear can be as good, if not better, than anything else in the world.
We get a lot of gastronomic tourists coming to experience that taste of Vancouver and participating in food trends and they want to try West Coast cuisine and eat those things that we do so well. In spring, look out for spot prawns, live and fresh, they are a sustainable local catch that’s unique to our coastline. Try Dungeness Crab too; I like to eat it just as it is, maybe dipped in butter or with a squeeze of lemon, Mother Nature did a good job with our crabs!
When summer comes around, I’m in love with the tomatoes here; they’ve hung on the vine to ripen and when we get them delivered to our kitchen that’s when summer really starts. Try them with a local goat cheese, people love that. Our local fruits are amazing; we have an incredible berry season and our currents are delicious too. Something that shouldn’t be missed is the salmonberry, it’s like a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry. No one grows them commercially, but restaurants do forage for them and if you try them, they’re a showstopper!
Fall brings the BC mushroom season, which is fantastic, sure like wine there are good years and bad, but in a good year BC morels and chanterelles are unbeatable. And look out for our wonderful BC apple varieties, my favourites are Ambrosia or Pink Lady, we grow spectacular apples and should be known for them.
December for me, tends to be about duck which dominates my menu throughout the month, we source ours from a great Fraser Valley farm which give us fresh ducks, not frozen and I like to make duck in lots of different ways: liver, confit, roasted, my customers call it ‘Duck Around the World’! Winter is the time that those fruit preserves come out too, our poached pears taste even better made with preserved fruit than fresh, and our pickled green strawberries come out too; we leave them for a full year so they develop their flavours and mature in their jars until they taste beautiful with, for instance, crab.
Of course, we’re known year-round for our amazing seafood, our salmon run is incredible and our halibut is such a crowd pleaser too. If you can find it, try Hawkshaw salmon, which has a wonderful taste. But for me, if you want to taste BC on a plate, try a dish like sockeye salmon gravlax with salmonberries, our sockeye is such an amazing BC treasure.”