It’s all happening down at The Rocks Windmill. The sails are turning, wheat is being ground into flour, Diego Bonetto is telling some fascinating weedy stories, Costa Georgiadis is getting very excited about our daily bread and kids are loving the school holiday workshops.
The Rocks Windmill
The Rocks Square
12 April – 12 May 2013
9am – 5pm daily (plus most evenings for programmed events)
For information and a full program of events, visit here>>
Anne Fullerton was on a mission. Enticed by the latest culinary crave for wild food, she decided to take on the challenge of preparing a dinner entirely sourced from urban wilderness.
To do so she needed a guide to take her through the abandoned areas of Sydney and to point at the edible possibilities under her own feet.
Anne contacted you, and with trepidation followed you amongst nettle, blackberries and wild fennels to discover fields of dandelions, plantain and dock, turkey rhubarb and wood sorrel, and more that she could digest (metaphorically) on her crash course.
She was way out of her market-ready comfort zone, but eager to listen.
She was out of season for most of the things offered too, but as an eager (stoic) adventurer she followed you, like Little Red Riding Hood >>
The dinner was challenging, the guests unaccustomed to most flavours, but she succeeded in recounting her experience and experimentation in this lovely article below, published in Marie Claire, soon in the news stands.
Sydney-based foraging expert Diego Bonetto was involved in last year’s Wild Chef Challenge, part of the Sydney Morning Herald Crave Sydney International Food Festival.
“I grew up on a dairy farm in Italy and foraging is something everybody does from an early age, knowledge passed on from generation to generation,” Bonetto says.
When not conducting foraging tours, Bonetto collaborates with chefs who want to work with foraged ingredients on specific occasions.
“What I teach is just recycled information already,” he says. “It’s knowledge that our ancestors knew by heart, but got lost during the industrialisation of food and agriculture.”
The good news is it doesn’t take long to rediscover, according to Bonetto, but adds as an aside that there are some common sense rules necessary when foraging.
“Firstly, positively identify everything,” he says. “Don’t just go around with a PDF you printed from the internet trying to guess which are the plants. It’s pretty hard to get food poisoning but it’s not
impossible. Many taste bad so you wouldn’t eat them anyway, but in terms of mushrooms you can pay with your life if you don’t make the right decision.
“Best of all go with someone who knows. Foraging is something that you learn through action so you need to be taken to see what it looks like in its environment and get to familiarise with the plants.
I collaborate with a lot of indigenous people and they say once you do the story you own it, but you need to do it first. It’s not enough just to read about.
The smells, the colours, the colony and how they grow in conjunction with other plants – all these details help you identify species with confidence.”
Rule number two is to forage in your own backyard. “Especially in urban environments where you don’t know what’s safe, what pesticides have been used, and what the history of the ground is where they are growing. In your own backyard you know what’s happening,” he says.
The third and final rule is simply tread lightly. “Never over harvest,” he says. “Be sure you don’t crop all of the flowers and all of the seeds so it is there for you to come back to.”
So does this spell the end of farming as we know it, with chefs simply gathering what they need for the day from the side of the road as they come to work? Bonetto thinks not.
“We are not talking about survivalist skills, we are talking about gastro entertainment and enjoying something new and something special,” he says. “It’s not about surviving the apocalypse.”
Bonetto’s pick of wild plants in Australia
Amaranth – leaves in soups and casseroles, seeds in breads and cakes Fat hen – leaves in stir-fry, seeds as flour for bread Dandelion – leaves in salad, roots as coffee substitute Wood sorrel – leaves in salads, flowers as garnish Chickweed – young leaves used in salads or as garnish Mallow – young leaves in frittata, seed pods as finger food Wild fennel – young fronds as herb, seeds as tea Nettle – young shoots in soups and tea Rambling dock – leaves as pot herbs and baked with fish Scurvy weed – young shoots in casseroles and risottos Warrigal greens – leaves and stems in curries and as a pot herb Sowthistle – young leaves in salads or sauteed in oil with lemon
Because of what you do you get to hang out a lot with food affecionados: chefs, caterers, providores, producers, distributors, believers and amateurs.
The common threat is the love for produce, its possibilities and the discovery of natural ingredients at our door steps.
It is Mushroom season and you have started running harvesting tours, where you take people out in the (pine) forest and teach them how to safely identify a number of edible mushrooms.
Below is the account from Zo of Two Spoons, a keen explorer of food possibilities and peculiarities.
Last weekend, I joined the wonderful Diego Bonetto of Wild Stories and several other mushroom hunters for a beautiful journey into the pine forests of New South Wales. As well as enjoying delightful scenes of the countryside rush past lit in golden sunrise light, everyone went home with bulging bags of foodie treasure, with plenty left for anyone who followed in our footsteps. At $40 a kilo, I was pretty keen to learn the art of pine mushroom stalking and squishing them tightly into my backpack.
As much as it’s tempting to sound far more knowledgeable than I actually am, I don’t want to give much away, because you really do benefit from going with an experienced mushroomer. It’s not only safer, but far more relaxing and enjoyable than trying to nut it out on your own based on a blog post! If you happen to be in the Sydney area, Wild Stories is running one last outing on April 20th at the end of the season after the last two sold out. It’s all very safe – there were even signs and brochures erected at both the locations we went to, declaring the treasures to be found amongst the trees.
Off we went, feeling very hunter-gathery but also politely not elbowing anyone out of the way when we spotted one – not that we had to, especially at the second place we went to! When I spotted my first mushroom I felt like I had struck gold – literally. The rich “saffron milk” that gives pine mushrooms its distinct golden colour is delightfully vibrant.
My favourite are still the small day-old babies, which aren’t as delicate as their older three-to-four-day cousins so they last longer and don’t get smooshed so much when you try to clean them. Texture wise they’re also more like button mushrooms as opposed to their larger counterparts – tighter and firmer. That said, the larger ones are nothing like the large mushrooms in texture once cooked – the skin is much more discernible when you bite into them.
Diego also gave us some important identification lessons, in a valiant attempt to ensure we all survived our mushroom feasts. Given that the same type of mushroom can vary in appearance due to the less controllable conditions in the forest and the various bits and pieces on the forest floor that bend the mushrooms into different shapes, it was important to know multiple characteristics to look out for. He also imparted some invaluable wisdom about the context of picking them, such as the effect of the weather and type of forest.
Here were some of our rejects that we collected and were unsure of, mixed in with a few edibles too. Just like recycling, if in doubt, leave it out!
To end our morning, we were treated to the fruits of our forage, with garlic, salt and olive oil, finished with a bit of parsley. My jeans still smell smokey from slicing mushrooms by the fire and it makes me drool a little every time I catch a whiff. The mushrooms themselves pack some gorgeous umami and earthy woodiness, with the slightest bitterness to offset their richness. They were not slimy at all, but nice and toothsome without being leathery.
When I got home with my greedy backpack full of mushrooms, I got lazy and cleaned them with water (you’re meant to just brush them clean), but the skins were a lot less absorbent than regular mushrooms, so the water just kind of slid off. Still, they didn’t turn out soggy at all – a bit of a miracle really. A little kiss of butter made them even more sublime. My freezer is now heartily bursting with boxes of precooked sliced mushrooms, waiting to be used in a killer risotto or creamy pasta. I think these would work best in something with a decent amount of moisture, as their intensity and firm, non-slimy texture would lift a silky sauce and help flavour a silky sauce or soup nicely.
So far I’ve enjoyed them with goats cheese over polenta chips (waaaay too rich), and in a grilled cheese with basil oil (yeah, I didn’t learn my lesson…).
It’s here, they are all around us, it’s been raining and they are now out!
The first moon of the Chinese Year of the Snake brought above average rainfall, which to the shrewd forager -at this time of the year- means an incredible mushroom season is coming up! Friends and colleagues are already posting images of an hefty harvest.
Would you like to know what they talk about? Would you like to be passed on knowledge form the Russian, Italian, Polish, Macedonian and Spanish communities?
Wild Stories is presenting a number of foraging outings this season, following from last year’s successful outings, when we’d set-off on an early morning for a fully comprehensive bus trip.
You’re talking about Saffron Milk Caps and Slippery Jacks, Grey Knights and if we’re lucky Wood Blewits>> YUM!
See below the documentary by Justin Hewitson about last year’s harvest, and here for an account by Richard Widows.
Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre
1/12/12 – 31/1/13
“Imagine a world where we are all connected with nature – all species cohabitating in harmony, giving space to each other and allowing for the survival and thriving of each and one another.”
- Diego Bonetto
Artist, naturalist and forager, Diego Bonetto presents Wild Stories, an exhibition and public program about community and cultural connections with the Australian environment. Wild Stories is the result of an 18 month artist in residence program at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre. This residency built on Bonetto’s longstanding commitment towards challenging and undermining our preconceived understanding of rightfully belonging species. Bonetto subverts our reading of everyday nature using age-old stories; stories from all over the world related to the species living amongst us, particularly weeds.
Wild Stories aims to provide an entry point into environmental belonging and cultural identity. As exotic as weeds may seem, Bonetto successfully harvests the knowledge, experience and traditions that people of South West Sydney inherently possess or underuse, often embedded in the traditional practices of pickled foods, medicinal herb remedies, crafts, wine, folklore and mythology. Moreover, Bonetto engages with disciplines as far apart as biology, ethno-botany, anthropology, sociology and theology in order to substantiate the need for a new understanding of environmental care, respect and stewardship.
Many people were involved in the production of Wild Stories. Diego Bonetto and Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre would like to thank all of those who have made a contribution.
You are reblogging here the words from Jennifer Hamilton, on the occasion when you went on an harvest to collect with her the necessary ingredients for a Crown Of Weeds… read on>>
“A long time ago I promised to think more about the crown of weeds in King Lear. On October 12, 2012, more than two years since I made that promise, I was given that opportunity in public. I participated in the creation of a tradition at UNSW that involved the actual construction of a weedy crown. On this day Professor Deborah Bird Rose crowned me with weeds to celebrate the submission of my PhD*. Hopefully future students in the Environmental Humanities** will also be similarly crowned! The tradition was the collaborative brainchild of Drs Eben Kirksey, Thom van Dooren and Ms-not-quite-Dr myself and made with the assistance of Diego Bonetto, Sydney’s own King of Weeds. Eben suggested I make a costume to celebrate my submission, Thom was amicable to this idea, I came up with the idea of crowning myself with weeds and Diego helped me select the edible weeds.
On a frosty morning Diego, Carin (from Slow Food Sydney) and myself went walking along the Cooks River and Wolli Creek in search of rogue edible plants. Below are a series of photos that capture the creation of this foraged weedy crown.
My PhD is on the storm in King Lear and during his time in the storm Lear strips naked and then crowns himself with weeds. My favourite interpretation of this crown is from Akira Kurosawa’s 1985 Adaptation Ran (Chaos).
Hidetora’s Crown of Weeds (Emperor Hidetora is the Lear of Kurosawa’s Film)
I wanted to make the crown because I like what it represents. It is usually considered an indicator of Lear’s madness or the chaos in the kingdom. But I think the weedy crown represents the promise of an alternative political order. Taken out of its dramatic context, I think a weedy crown can be worn by anyone (of the 99%!) to represent an alternative way of imaging and living in the world. For me this alternative world positions disorderly natural forces (such as weeds, parasites and storms) and the unwieldy patterns of life and death at the heart of a refigured body politic.
This post comes with two disclaimers.
*Firstly, I have not yet received the award of PhD, given all this attention I can only hope I pass!
**I am a student of English at UNSW, not Environmental Humanities but I have been teaching in the Environmental Humanities and it was lovely of them to help mark this occasion. When I do finally receive the award, however, it will be through the English department.
Nevertheless, I am incredibly honoured to have been crowned with weeds by Professor Bird Rose and I can only hope to live up to the ideals represented by this digestible and perishable diadem.“
If you fancy yourself as a forager but don’t know a good edible plant from a bad one, let Diego Bonetto take you under his wild wing. Bonetto is hosting the Foraging in the City tour along the Cooks River in Western Sydney as part of Crave Sydney International Food Festival. The two-hour tour starts at Tempe railway station and covers a small loop of the river. Along the way, Bonetto points out weeds that are edible, and in many cases medicinal.
Our first introduction was with the commonly scorned dandelion, the leaves of which can be used in salads, the flowers in fritters and the roots as a parsnip substitute. Older roots can also be ground into a caffeine-free coffee, Bonetto explained.
“Dandelions make the most amazing honey,” Bonetto said. “And olive oil, infused into oil it’s fantastic for your skin and lips.”
Foraging is in Bonetto’s blood. He grew up on a dairy farm in Torino, in north western Italy.
In that kind of environment: “you grow up with dirt under your fingernails, you grow up with an enormous amount of knowledge around you,” he said. “If you don’t get up early there are no mushrooms left in the forest, someone has been there before you.”
Diego Bonetto introduced amateur foragers to Pig Face
With a small basket hooked over his elbow, Bonetto pointed out wild mustard, which tasted like peppery rocket; pig face with its bright pink flowers (though it has been planted here as part of a bush regeneration project and can’t be harvested), mallow — the leaves of which are mild and pleasant and are a good thickener for soups bush regeneration project; amaranth – a sacred herb of Central America, the leaves of which can be cooked like spinach; and an African olive tree, the fruit of which is prolific in Autumn and tastes “fantastic,” Bonetto said.
“But there is high wildlife competition [for it],” he added. “Wake up early in the morning if you want this olive.”
Bonetto is well known on the trail. Several walkers called him by name and shouted “hello”. He is humble and inspirational and cracked jokes along the way.
He knows exactly where to find certain edible species, including nastartium, warrigal greens and wood sorrel, which has a pretty lilac flower. Restaurants that experiment with foraged plants will pay up to $80 a punnet for wood sorrel. It tastes lemony and tart, and goes well with game, Bonetto explained.
He led us to sea blight and samphire, the latter which sells to restaurants for $80 a punnet. Bonetto explained what we can and can’t be picked: for example, the samphire and sea blight have been planted as part of an bush regeneration program and shouldn’t be harvested.
As Bonetto shared is vast knowledge of edible plants he would throw in general foraging tips.
Rule 1: “The best place to forage is in your own back yard,” he said. “Forage where you know, get to know a place, what grows when, how healthy is the colony. Foraging is not something you do opportunistically.”
Rule 2: “Know what you are picking,” he said. Use botantical drawings to help identify plants, and if you’re still unsure take good photographs that capture its structure, and find a foraging “uncle” – someone like Bonetto – who can offer advice. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it,” he said.
Foraging is in Diego Bonetto’s blood
He advises foragers, at first, to try just a small amount of an edible plant to see how their body responds to it. And foragers should never over-harvest.
“Be respectful of the plant,” he said. “If there is only a small amount, leave it.”
Last but not least, ‘gleaning’ or ‘scrumping’ are part of the forager’s trade, so if you see over-hanging fruit from a garden, or edible plants that are “garden escapees”, they’re fair game, Bonetto said, with his trademark impish grin.
For more information on Foraging in the City with Bonetto Diego click here.
Bonetto is also leading the Wild Chef Challenge throughout Crave Sydney where he will gather wild food for renowned chefs, who will transform them into a tasting. Members of the public will be taken on a foraging tour, listen to chefs discuss cooking with foraged foods, then share a tasting with wines and teas. Click here for more information.
The Food Sage participated in the Foraging in the City tour as a guest of Diego Bonetto and Crave Sydney.