Forage to find flavoursome free food
Savvy shoppers are harking back to hunter/ gatherer days of old, writes Erin Reilly.
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.
Dandelion leaves are excellent in salads.