Foraging Australian-style

One of the greatest groundswells in global food trends – food foraging - is moving more into the mainstream as individuals are seeking connection with their food sources and chefs are taking up the cause of integrating more wild foods into the way we eat. Keen home cooks and culinary tourists can now sign up for seasonal tours – some city-based, some in the country – where experienced guides show where to find food growing wild and how to identify plants that are both safe and delicious to eat. Foraging Australian-style
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Foraging Australian-style

Food foraging is going mainstream as individuals seek connection with food sources and chefs integrate wild foods into what we eat


One of the greatest groundswells in global food trends – food foraging - is moving more into the mainstream as individuals are seeking connection with their food sources and chefs are taking up the cause of integrating more wild foods into the way we eat. Keen home cooks and culinary tourists can now sign up for seasonal tours – some city-based, some in the country – where experienced guides show where to find food growing wild and how to identify plants that are both safe and delicious to eat.

Orana,
Adelaide, SA

The trend of foraging 

One of the greatest groundswells in global food trends – food foraging - is moving more into the mainstream as individuals are seeking connection with their food sources and chefs are taking up the cause of integrating more wild foods into the way we eat.

Walking on the wild side in search of good things to eat is in vogue thanks to advocates such as Scandinavian superstar Rene Redzepi, yet Australia’s foraging tradition is among the world’s oldest, Australia’s Indigenous people successfully lived off the land for over 50,000 years.

The arrival of European settlers brought food plants from their homelands, many of which – such as blackberry and fennel – soon spread through the countryside and now grow wild. Later migrants from Southern Europe foraged for foods Anglo-Saxons regarded as weeds, including dandelions, nettles and chickweed.

More recently Australian foraging has experienced a chef-led revival inspired by the localism movement. At Melbourne restaurant Attica, one of the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants, the menu often features beach plants picked by chef Ben Shewry near his seaside home. At Biota, in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, chef James Viles forages in nearby forests. In Adelaide, Jock Zonfrillo of indigenous-focused restaurant Orana searches out native ingredients known to the region’s original inhabitants for hundreds of generations.

Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime Walks,
Mossman Gorge, QLD

Foraging Australian-style

Favourite foraging spots, in cities and the country, are often closely guarded secrets, and eating wild foods can be risky: many poisonous plants resemble edible ones, and some sites may be contaminated by industrial or agricultural chemicals. On private land the owner’s permission must be obtained. Rules about foraging on government-owned land vary between states and fines for foraging illegally can amount to thousands of dollars.

Keen home cooks and culinary tourists can now sign up for seasonal tours – some city-based, some in the country – where experienced guides show where to find food growing wild and how to identify plants that are both safe and delicious to eat.

Many wild foods are strictly seasonal and the timing of tours is dependent on this: if your heart is set on hunting mushrooms, for example, advance inquiries are recommended.

Josh Whiteland runs the award-winning Koomal Dreaming tours in Australia’s far south-west, near the wineries and restaurants of Margaret River. During his guided bushwalks, Whiteland – whose guests have included Rene Redzepi – explains the Noongar people’s six seasons and the wild foods that flourish in each of them. Seasonal food-tasting around a campfire might include quandong, emu plum and saltbush.

In far north Queensland, near  Port Douglas, brothers Linc and Brandon Walker guide visitors through mangroves and over mudflats and a sandy beach to find shoreline plants used for food and medicine, and to hunt for crabs, mussels and other seafoods. This is Kuku Yalanji Bama territory: after demonstrating the skills of their ancestors, the brothers host a casual seafood lunch at their family home.

In the Northern Territory, several operators offer native food tastings as part of Indigenous cultural tours. SEIT Outback Australia is among them, offering a range of tours near Uluṟu, including a specialist “bush tucker” walk where visitors can taste bush foods and grind native seeds.

In South Australia, chef Kirby Shearing of Soul Projects hosts “foraged and found” tours by appointment for between four and 12 people. Tours begin in Mount Gambier, before travelling through the Limestone Coast to a beach to collect seaweeds and herbs. The morning concludes with a three-course lunch including local seafood, and raw and cooked native greens. 

The Truffle and Wine Co,
Manjimup, WA

Fungi forage and feast

Hunting wild mushrooms is fun but fraught with danger unless you know what is safe to eat. Mushroom expert Cameron Russell leads autumn mushroom tours along the winding lanes of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, teaching hunters to locate and identify half a dozen edible varieties including pine and field mushrooms.

Gardener, author and cook Rohan Anderson blogs at Whole Larder Love and is an advocate for eating what the land provides. For an immersive, sometimes challenging experience, enrol in one of Rohan’s weekend workshops in the Central Highlands of Victoria: an accomplished hunter-gatherer, he shows where and how to find and prepare food as naturally as possible.

Manjimup, about 3.5 hours from Perth, is home to the largest truffiere in the southern hemisphere and the site of weekend hunts in the southern winter months hosted by The Truffle and Wine Co. Fragrant truffles grow in the soil at the base of oak and hazelnut trees inoculated with Perigord spores. Chief executive Gavin Booth says the hunts are a genuine hands-on experience: visitors head out in groups with the truffle-dog handlers, roaming the rows of trees and personally unearthing truffles before returning to base to eat truffle-spiked treats.

Urban harvests

Sydney-based wild food advocate Diego Bonetto scours streets, parks and even railway reserves for Indigenous and introduced edible plants – everything from warrigal greens to wild fennel. Bonetto is developing a wild food map website and app, and leads bespoke tours in Sydney, some in connection with food festivals. Doris Pozzi hosts “weed walks”, talks and workshops and in the Yarra Valley, a food and wine hotspot only an hour’s drive from central Melbourne.