If you’ve ever watched ‘River Cottage’ on the Food Channel you’re most likely familiar with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his wonderful exploits foraging for wild food. If you are an ‘ABC Gardening Australia’ fan, you’ll be acquainted with Costa Georgiadis and his passion for community gardens on verges and in public spaces. Either way, if you are in Brisbane, you can jump on the bandwagon, pretend to be Hugh or Costas and forage it up yourself by joining an Edible Tour right here in your own back yard.
In Brisbane, Ben Glaneur from Permablitz will lead you around the streets, community gardens and verges of West End whilst teaching about edible foods including fungi, weeds and other functional plants and all the while you can sample, nibble and crunch.
Coconuts, mangos, tamarind, olives… berries, leaves, roots and vines – overhanging branches pavement cracks offer diverse pickings that reflect our subtropical climate and the multicultural heritage that West end has on offer. As Ben says “anyone would think we were walking around an orchard”.
As we wander together, the hot topic is the ethical consideration of harvesting from shared gardens, verges or uninhabited blocks of land. There is concern over eating a weed or plant plucked from between flagstones. And really – how does the average Joe – like me – know what is edible and what will put me in bed for a week with a funny tummy?
Thankfully, Ben only allows us to consume safely and yes – there are even books on the subject, which are highly recommended (another excellent book is The Weed Forager’s Handbook, available on line and totally Australian based). And if you are worried about eating weeds, as Costa says: “Foraging is just another form of gardening. Weeds are simply a perception. When we change our perception we open up a whole new world of opportunity.”
Respectful ‘foraging ethics’ is a whole new etiquette, and there are logical, moral guidelines of which to be mindful. Watch how much you take. Consider first – is it yours for the taking, or are you venturing onto private property without permission. At some point, are you giving back by planting cuttings or seedlings for future foragers.
Bring your shopping bag, hat and water bottle. Wear comfy shoes. And prepare to be impressed.