As this year progresses I am becoming more and more aware how wonderful the Comox Valley is. Of course we have all the recreation that one could ask for. World class mountain biking, snow sports, salmon fishing, beaches, sailing, golfing, hiking and camping are, with out question, what this area is already famous for. People come from all around the world to experience these adventures, and the Valley has quite the powerful tourism industry. Having lived in the Comox Valley my whole life the recreation prospects have kept me in the area and involvement in them has grown and evolved over the years. I had never thought too much about food and agriculture being a draw for folks from outside the area. With my relatively new passion for food security and "getting outside the system" this type of tourism has gotten on my radar, as it has with so many others. My involvement with the Edible Valley podcast is a result of this awareness and passion.
This spring I became aware of the Paleo/Primal lifestyle. (I am not going to talk to much about this subject in detail as I have blogged about it before.) Sourcing happy, local protein became a priority for me. Low and behold the Comox Valley is home to dozens of producers growing grass fed beef, pastured pork and chicken, as well as free ranging turkeys, and other fowl like pheasant and partridge. Along with those critters we also have bison, and fallow deer. Wow a modern caveman paradise! I found world suddenly opened up to the ideas of only eating locally and consuming meat raised how it would naturally feed. No C.A.F.O.'s in this area. We even have a local abattoir that processes most everything that is grown here, so the animals have limited travel time in a trailer, cutting down on stresses and damage. I often wonder how many roadside egg stands there are in the Comox Valley. I know of about half a dozen. Free range eggs are often just a quick drive or bike ride away. Oh my gosh, it just gets better and better.
If you want something a little different, say some seafood, Baynes Sound is the number one shellfish growing region in British Columbia, if not Canada. Our oyster beds are world famous, being shipped to Asia, Europe, America and Australia. Clams, mussels and scallops are also farmed in the clean waters of the Sound. One can, with the appropriate fishing license, harvest wild bivalves on the public beaches. You can participate in a true hunter/gatherer pastime, and have a delectable protein source. Dungeness crabs are commercially fished close by and can be purchased from on of the area fishmongers, plus they can also be wild caught with a trap. During appropriate seasons all five species of salmon, along with halibut, black cod, lingcod and red snapper can be purchased direct from the fisherman down at the dock in Comox. You can not get much fresher fish than this, and you will probably get a good fishing story to go along with it.
With all the amazing farmed and commercially caught proteins, the Comox Valley also boasts a legion of devoted vegetable farms and fruit orchards. In fact one can usually pick as many apples, pears, and plums for free as one household could need. Old orchards abound in a variety of locations as well as trees on private land that often grant permission to harvest fruit by ambitious parties. We have a dedicated non profit that organizes groups to pick trees, with partial harvest going to the food bank, the pickers and the land owner. Some of the bigger vegetable farms in the area include Seifferts in Comox, and organic farms like Freedom Farm and Pattison Farms, both located north of Courtenay, in Merville and Black Creek respectively. If you can imagine it, the vegetable probably is available. Some plants just don't do very well here because our growing season is not quite long enough. I have not yet found a source for yams, and citrus is not going to happen, but basic requirements are easily met, and a vast variety of other vegetables make life interesting. Kale, cabbage, broccoli and chards all grow really well in our climate over the winter. With a very rare long spell of freezing weather, winter gardening is very achievable, allowing for fresh vegetables all year long.
For those who are inclined for forage for themselves, as I am, wild berries, plants and mushrooms grow in the forests around the Valley. Blackberries, blueberries, huckleberries, raspberries, Oregon grape, and cherries all grow wild in different elevations and terrain. I have picked stinging nettles, burdock root, dandelion, chickweed, and some other not correctly called "weeds". I am no expert on the subject and I endeavour to learn more about wild harvesting. Mushroom picking is one of my favorite hobbies, so fulfilling to "hunt" for a basket full of golden chantrelles, delicious food, good exercise and feeling like one with the world. Foraging is a great past time and a rewarding way to introduce children to the outdoors.
I love where my home is. The food community is growing in numbers and awareness for what is right and healthy. And paleo/primal is really gaining momentum as the way to eat, no matter what the food pyramid says. Where is your "Paleo Paradise". If you wish to have more information on the Comox Valley as a food destination, please leave a comment or send me a message.