below is an extract from the article By Sheridan Randall, as it appeared on the latest edition of Open House Magazine, an online and printed publication for the food industry.
Read here the full article> thanks Sheridan
Plants gone wild
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