Seasonal Foods to Try in British Columbia This Fall

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Autumn in Vancouver smells earthy, of crisp amber leaves and of soil warmed after summer’s heat. After a season of salads, berries, and stone fruits, menu offerings turn to deeper, more complex flavours.

For many, autumn is the favourite season, partly because of the incredible local crops that become available. This is a good time to be here. Eat your way through Vancouver and beyond by enjoying some of BC’s finest seasonal foods.

Apples

The decadent apple strudel from Thomas Haas.

The decadent apple strudel from Thomas Haas. Photo: Thomas Haas

The scent of fresh apples is intoxicating, and after you’ve had a just-picked apple, store-bought is never quite the same. Autumn is prime apple season across the province, with farmers markets brimming with bushels of varieties familiar and new: Ambrosia, Fuji, Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, and good ol’ Granny Smith. The UBC Botanical Garden hosts an annual Apple Festival celebrating this juicy fruit, and on October 14 and 15 you can learn about the diversity of apples, how new varieties are developed, and even taste some. If you’re in the Okanagan, you must try the deep-dish apple pie from Davison Orchards in Vernon, where the apples are hand-picked and the pies hand-made. You’ll also find a bounty of U-pick options including the West Side Farm Loop collective in West KelownaDickinson Family Farm in Summerland, and Covert Farms in Oliver. If you’re in Vancouver, pastry chef Thomas Haas uses Ambrosia and Braeburn apples to make his traditional apple strudel.

Cranberries

Have you ever had fresh cranberries? They are one of BC’s largest berry crops and the best way to celebrate this festive fruit is at the annual Cranberry Festival in historic Fort Langley. These crops were traditionally harvested by local First Nations, and the festival is your chance to take home this crisp, tart antioxidant-right fruit. Of course, they’re available fresh but also dried, juiced, preserved, and pickled. If you can’t make it to the festival itself, the cranberry fields will be actively harvested throughout October if you want to catch a glimpse of the action and local stores will still carry plenty of cranberry products to inspire your Thanksgiving table.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Brussels sprouts, a la The Flying Pig.

Brussels sprouts, a la The Flying Pig. Photo: The Flying Pig

If broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts aren’t some of your favourite vegetables (yet), you haven’t seen what Vancouver chefs can do with them. For many, the cauliflower dish (Najib’s special) at Nuba is Vancouver. Their deceptively simple yet wholly addictive crispy cauliflower—served on its own or as part of a sharing platter—is tossed with lemon and sea salt and served with a side of tahini. At The Flying Pig, their crispy Brussels sprouts have been on the menu since they opened, never to be retired. Halved and flash-fried, these vegetables retain their hearty nuttiness and green crispness. They are tossed with lemon juice for acidity, chili flakes, capers, and aged Parmesan cheese for creaminess.

Mushrooms

The complex Mushroom Candy Cocktail from Botanist.

The complex Mushroom Candy Cocktail from Botanist. Photo: Luis Valdizon

The damp, coastal climate of BC provides the perfect growing conditions for mushrooms, and delicious and rare foraged mushrooms have become highly anticipated culinary guest stars every fall. Mushroom risotto is a chef favourite, as mushrooms lend themselves well to risotto’s creaminess, but for something different that showcases the nuances of multiple varieties, Torafuku‘s Magic Mushrooms dish features shiitake, portobello, king, and oyster mushrooms, prepared with yuzu tamari and brown butter, served over rice cakes. For something even more complex yet subtle, the Cocktail Lab at Botanist in the Fairmont Pacific Rim has created the Candy Cap Magic cocktail made with aromatic candy cap mushrooms.

To learn more about classifying wild mushrooms before foraging on your own, take the two-hour Wild Edible Identification class with Swallow Tail Tours and discover how to identify what’s in your local forest. For a more hands-on experience, try a foraging workshop in Duncan on Vancouver Island (in the Cowichan Valley, halfway between Victoria and Nanaimo). Deerholme Farm offers Wild Food Foraging Workshops every fall, led by mycologist-chef-author Bill Jones, who will not only help you forage for mushrooms such as porcini, pine, and chanterelle but offer an opportunity to sample them in a chef-prepared meal afterwards.

Oysters

Fresh-shucked oysters from Joe Fortes.

Fresh-shucked oysters from Joe Fortes. Photo: Joe Fortes

A local favourite, oysters have become a staple on BC menus, any time of day. At Fanny Bay Oyster Bar and Shellfish Market, you can get fresh local oysters from the raw bar alongside Kentucky Fried Oysters and Waffles (with maple syrup, of course) for brunch or a classic oyster po’ boy for lunch. Of course, purists claim the only way to truly appreciate oysters is raw, freshly shucked. Joe Fortes is a long-standing Vancouver tradition for raw oysters, where you can enjoy buck-a-shuck during happy hour or as part of the regular menu, including their impressive seafood tower.

Roast Chicken

Savio Volpe's roast chicken.

Savio Volpe’s roast chicken. Photo: Savio Volpe

Leading into the holidays, restaurants begin re-introducing roast chicken to their menus. Perennial favourites every autumn, a roast dinner is the epicurean equivalent to the cosy fall sweater—pure comfort. At H2 Rotisserie & Bar in the Westin Bayshore, their whole roasted chicken is served family style, quartered, and on a platter with sides that receive just as much attention to preparation as the mains. At award-winning Savio Volpe, their roasted half-chicken is lightly smoked over a wood-fired grill and rotisserie, seasoned with rosemary and lemon. Both restaurants source their chickens from Maple Hill Farms where the chickens are grain- and vegetable-fed, raised without antibiotics or medications, and certified to the five-step Animal Welfare rating standards.

Salmon

The Salmon Oshi Sushi at Miku.

The Salmon Oshi Sushi at Miku. Photo: Miku

Varieties such as coho, pink, and sockeye are readily available come fall. At Boulevard, the salmon is always wild and Ocean Wise-certified and chef Alex Chen celebrates it in many forms. The salmon pâte there is prepared with in-house smoked salmon, and for something truly special, the large-format Salmon Coulibiac is a showstopper, featuring wild salmon stuffed with rice, spinach, mushrooms, and eggs all baked in brioche pastry. For sushi fans, Miku‘s salmon oshi sushi is presented in small, tidy cakes topped with Ocean Wise salmon, jalapeño, and a little sauce, then flame-seared (aburi style).

Sea Urchin (Uni)

When the weather turns cold, that’s when sea urchin become plump and flavourful. Often referred to as the foie gras of the sea, BC’s sea urchins are prized around the world. At their freshest, they’re buttery, firm, and briny. Full of rich nutrients and Ocean Wise-approved, they’re a seasonal treat to be enjoyed in the autumn. You can get it raw, as uni, from any of Vancouver’s incredible sushi restaurants, but it’s actually a very versatile ingredient and Vancouver chefs in the past have incorporated it into pasta sauces and even into ice cream. One example? Chef Andrea Carlson from Burdock and Co. likes to enhance their delicate creaminess by preparing a steamed sea urchin custard feature dish in the fall.

Opening image: Apples from Davison Orchard. Photo: Andrew Strain