Foraged Fruit Treats: Local Yocal Squares

Rhubarb (harvested in Ottawa) awaiting to be turned into delicious baked goods. #local #Ottawa #urbanforaging

Very much in the Culinary Cyclist spirit, Tricia Enns of Branch Out Bakery makes gluten-free and vegan baked goods and delivers them by bicycle. In today’s guest post she shares her love of foraging and a tasty recipe for Local Yocal Squares, made with foraged fruit. So get on your bike, go on a foraging adventure, and bake up a batch!

Have you ever wondered why we go to the grocery store to get our food when there is so much of it (especially fruit) growing around us for free? I know this thought rarely crossed my mind until about two years ago. I never thought about it because I simply did not know that I could eat these plants that grew all around me in Ottawa.

I was raised, as many people in my generation (I am 27) are, to be scared of the forest, to not eat anything that grows unless someone (aka mom or dad or a farmer) grew it. There are poisonous plants out there, but there are also amazingly nutritious ones. Because I was scared of the death sentence plants brought me I never learnt that those purple berries growing all over Ottawa are Saskatoon or Service Berries (well know for their appearances in pies and other baked treats), or that walnuts (specially black walnuts) grow on almost every other street here, or that if I went down to the rivers edge I could find stinging nettle which is both extremely nutritious as well as delicious when cooked into scrambled tofu.

I love foraging because i’s an adventure; you never know what you are going to discover. It forces you to connect with your city in a new and intimate way, it is thrifty, local wild species are extremely healthy for you and pack way more nutrients then store bought veggies, and it’s an environmentally friendly way to source your food! With that being said, it is good to know if the plants you have found are endangered by what is around the plant, such as a major road may cause high concentrations of lead and other harmful chemicals to build up in the plant.

During the months that are not covered with snow (as we are right now) I forage many berries, apples, grapes and cherries that make their way into the treats that my bakery produces. Branch Out Bakery has been operating for just over a year, it’s a small-scale (no store front) bakery. My inspiration to start the bakery was a drive to merge my passion for food, the environment, community and biking into one business adventure. When I am stuck in an elevator with someone, this is how I describe the bakery to her:

Branch Out Bakery cares as much about satisfying your taste buds as it does about your health and protecting the environment. We want to make it easy for people to engage with food that: celebrates local, fair, and sustainable ingredients, is transparent about the pros and cons that exist in the system, and makes food something that once again builds community.

We bake all of this into our treats, and then, the icing on the cake (figuratively and literally) is that we bike all of our treats to our customers’ homes and/or offices. We don’t want anything to stand between you and our cookies.

Sampling at the hull farmers market #vegan #ottawa #cookies #glutenfree

Today I am going to share the recipe for a popular treat we make that uses local (and often foraged) ingredients: Local Yocal Squares.

Everything Branch Out Bakery produces is vegan (dairy and egg free), nut free, and gluten free, including these squares. Enjoy!

Local Yocal Squares

Local Yocal Squares

Makes: 16 squares

Crust/Crumble Ingredients:

2 cups Gluten Free Flour (I use a mix of chickpea, sorghum, tapioca and potato starch which is similar to Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose GF Mix)

1 cup fair-trade muscovado sugar (I use La Siembra Camino brand, they are fair-trade, there office is in Ottawa, and co-operative)

2 teaspoons xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch or two of salt

2 cups of gluten-free oats (I use ones produced by a local farm, Castor River Farm)

1 cup oil (I use sunflower oil because that is the oil I currently feel most morally ok with)


Mix everything except the oats and oil in a large mixing bowl with a whisk. Once incorporated add the oats and mix again with the whisk. Then add the oil and mix with a spoon until it becomes a somewhat crumbly dough.

Filling Ingredients:

2 cups date paste (soak dates over night in water and then blend into a paste which should be the consistency of jam)

About 2 cups of foraged fruit (this can be diced apples, Saskatoon berries, pitted sour cherries, or a combination of other fruits all together)


Mix both ingredients in a medium size mixing bowl. You may have to add more of one of either of the ingredients, or get creative and add some apple butter, raisins, or something else you have found!

Combining and Baking

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a baking pan (preferably glass) and press half of the crust mixture into the bottom. Spread the filling onto of the base evenly. Crumble the rest of the crust/crumble dough on top. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Check on it at that point and continue baking if not dark enough for you, it’s hard to over bake.

Enjoy your locally foraged goodies!

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