For­age to find flavour­some free food

Savvy shop­pers are hark­ing back to hunter/ gath­erer days of old, writes

Central Otago Mirror - - OUT & ABOUT -

When I was preg­nant, I had se­ri­ous crav­ings for pas­sion­fruit… un­til I dis­cov­ered the price – $49.99 a kilo.

That is not a typo. Just two of the suck­ers set me back a whop­ping $9. Not sur­pris­ingly, my crav­ing was short-lived.

As fresh pro­duce sky­rock­ets in price and di­min­ishes in avail­abil­ity (and in many cases, nu­tri­tional value), savvy shop­pers are hark­ing back to hunter/gath­erer days of old. For­ag­ing not only en­cour­ages sea­sonal eat­ing, penny sav­ing and re­con­nect­ing with the true source of your food, it also im­pacts how mem­bers of a com­mu­nity in­ter­act with each other.

‘‘For­ag­ing ap­peals to me in the same way that grow­ing your own food does,’’ says bud­ding for­ager Bai­ley Palmer. ‘‘It’s a way to re­late with what ends up on your plate di­rectly – plus it’s a great ex­cuse to get into the bush.

‘‘I also for­age from peo­ple’s gar­dens – with per­mis­sion, of course!’’ Bai­ley laughs. ‘‘When I go run­ning around my neigh­bour­hood I’ll of­ten see rose bushes full of gor­geous rose hips that are go­ing to waste, so I’ll knock on the door and ask if it’s OK to take them. Dan­de­lions are an­other big favourite of mine. It’s sad how peo­ple pull them and spray them; they are such an ef­fec­tive su­per­food.’’

For­ag­ing doesn’t sim­ply re­fer to pluck­ing black­ber­ries from over­grown patches or col­lect­ing fallen ap­ples from for­got­ten trees. Herbs are high on the for­ag­ing list, and their uses are var­ied.

‘‘The main things I make from the herbs I for­age are tea blends and in­fused oils for anti-bac­te­rial balms and salves,’’ says Bai­ley. ‘‘I use dan­de­lion leaves in sal­ads, rose­hips in soups and red clover in wa­ter in­fu­sions. Mint, dill and fen­nel are other wild species that are plen­ti­ful to for­age for. My favourites from the bush are Kawakawa for win­ter ills and chills, sting­ing net­tle and wild rasp­berry. I can usu­ally pick enough berries for a few months of smooth­ies!’’

A few words of warn­ing come with for­ag­ing though.

‘‘Spray­ing is the big­gest thing you have to watch out for,’’ says Bai­ley. ‘‘Even if there are no signs around say­ing the area is sprayed, I will call the lo­cal coun­cil and check with them. I am very care­ful about what I pick, and if I’m not sure, I won’t eat it or use it un­til I can get it iden­ti­fied by some­one who knows bet­ter. I will also take a leaf or a flower to the gar­den shop around the cor­ner – the staff there are great and know their stuff.’’

If you’re in­ter­ested in for­ag­ing but not sure where to start,

Google ‘‘New Zealand fruit and food share map’’ to find a public guide to all things for­ag­in­gre­lated all over the coun­try.

As new for­ag­ing spots are found, dis­cov­er­ers are en­cour­aged to add them to the map. And if your lemon trees are filled to over­flow­ing or you’ve got so much mint you could make a mil­lion mo­ji­tos, think about let­ting your neigh­bour­hood know on Neigh­bourly too.

123RF

Dan­de­lion leaves are ex­cel­lent in sal­ads.

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