cooking foraged new zealand spinach

Learning how to forage: My start with New Zealand spinach

I have been reading and talking about foraging for an awful long time. Whenever I have yanked a blanket of chickweed of the ground I would always say “You can eat this stuff” yet I would never eat it! I’ve long been interested in the long process of soaking acorns, to process into flour for bread, in finding the edible ferns, the roots from certain plants and all the forest and hedges have to offer. The idea of just having the knowledge to go out in the wild and come back with raw vegetation for a meal fascinates me. However I never did anything about it, until last week.

Of course, my claim to have never foraged may be a little overblown. As a child we would pick blackberries and chestnuts  I still grab the odd blackberry today! However actually going out and getting food from the wild as part of my normal diet hasn’t been something I have done as an adult. I’ve also eaten foraged items, such as chickweed and dandelion and wild flowers but never gathered them myself in the past.

We are encouraged to buy all our food from the store in this day and age. Our perfect but tasteless fruit, bright and large veggies, expensive salad leafs and foods containing all sorts of numbered ingredients. Food from the wild (assuming it’s not contaminated with spray) is free and often easily accessible. Sensibly harvesting some for your own use could be more than a money saver, it could be a healthier choice and open the gates to a who new taste experience.

I’m currently in New Zealand. Seeing as the plant life here is extremely unique my interest in it has been spiked and as time progresses I am learning more and more about the natives, the invasive species and other greenery growing on these islands. I have been staying with many families over the last few months and at each place my knowledge has been growing about what can and can’t be eaten.

Foraging is simple when you know how and with a few basic plants identified you can go out and come back with enough for a salad at very least!

Last week I decided to act on my will to forage.

I was helping out on a regeneration project. Removing weeds and non-native plants and planting native bush back into a mud bank. The bank was smelling of a sweet onion taste. I pulled out some bulbs that looked and smelled like little onions and asked our host what they were. She said they were onion weed. She said they were harmless but no one really ate them. I ate a few bulbs there and then, they were quite nice, I thought!

That really got me in the mood and further along the path I had earlier spotted a huge crop of New Zealand spinach. I had read about this plant plenty and was pretty sure of the identification (something you must be 200% sure of before eating). So I picked a load of it and took it back to the house. My first foray into foraging.

picking new zealand spinach leaves and washing them

Using trusty Google I double checked the plant ID and found that the most common way to eat this fleshy leafed plant was by cooking it. I decided to little fry in some olive oil with garlic and onion and then add it to a salad.

cooking foraged new zealand spinach

The outcome was that it was a nice addition to my salad. I broke my foraging virginity and am pretty sure now that as the weeks / months / years go on I will push to learn more and more and eat more and more wild foods.

How you can start foraging

Foraging can be dangerous so you need to make sure you know what you are picking. You also need to understand you do it at your own risk. However when precaution is taken you can have a lot of fun with it.

There is an abundance of information from various bloggers online and Google can help you find what may be edible in your area in just a few minutes.

Then of course there is the local library. Foraging used to be much more widespread so they may have some older books or be able to order some in or alternatively you can head to amazon and pick up titles such as this highly rated book: The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants.

Foraging is going through a small resurgence and you may also find a local group or even a course in your area that is worth a visit.

Of course it may be the case that you already forage a little. There may be a fruit tree you visit or a wild flower you like on your salad. Foraging is something we can all incorporate into our lives and something that can quickly become a growing hobby.

So, have you ever foraged? Is it something that interests you and if not, why not? Do you have any experiences good or bad to share?

Also if you get a moment I would love if you could spread this post via any social networks such as Facebook or Twitter. The buttons to easily do this can be found at the top left of this article.

Thanks a million for reading.

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