The vast majority of Sydneysiders buy their fruit and vegetables from their local farmers market, green grocer or one of the big supermarkets without giving much thought to its origins or thinking of an alternative method of sourcing their fresh produce.
One thing Sydnesiders don't seem to be keen on is foraging for their food. In fact, I detect a built in fear of 'urban' foraging. Almost every time I mention it to people, they frown in horror and ask something like "how do you know it's not poisonous"?
Quite clearly, we as a people have by and large lost the knowledge of foraging for food which our ancestors once possessed.
But a big city like Sydney provides many opportunities for the urban forager to harvest an amazing array of seasonal fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be wasted. Apart from the benefit of being seasonal, fresh and local, it's also free.
It was only last year that the world's number one chef, Rene Redzepi was here in Sydney extolling the virtues of foraging for fresh local fruit and vegetables. This is the philosophy of his Danish restaurant Noma, voted the number one restaurant in the world for the past two years. Sydney's food lovers may have been impressed by Rene foraging for berries in Copenhagen but here in Sydney?
Naturalist, urban forager and weed eater Diego Bonetto runs tours in and around Sydney. His Weedyconnection project aims to help people rediscover the traditional knowledge of foraging. "To some plantain, dandelion, chickweed and sow thistle are a nuisance, to others they are a delicious salad, a seasonal treat!"
Apart from weeds, Sydney's creeks, beaches and parks provide a surprising range of produce. Blackberries, mulberries, lilly pillys, warrigal greens, watercress, wild fennel, wild asparagus, persalane, rosemary and wattle seeds should all be on the urban forager's menu.
Warrigal greens, Australia's very own native spinach, is often found growing along many of Sydney foreshores and rivers. Native persalane is also found everywhere and like warrigal greens, probably overlooked as a weed. Wild fennel is seen growing along creeks, roads and railway tracks. Blackberries are found in many locations, especially nearby large suburban reserves and bike paths and who doesn't know of some old neglected Mulberry tree? Then there are the many surprises that you may find in your own suburb such as oranges, mandarins, lemons, figs, grapes and a range of other fruit hanging over back yard fences or in deserted properties.
It is impossible to name every location where urban food can be found but suffice to say, people have tried. Foraging and edible weed identification resources on the web include:
Sydneysiders shouldn't turn up their noses at urban food, but we should be careful about what we take. Apart from the free seasonal produce, you'll get some fresh air, exercise and discover parts of the city you might not have otherwise frequented.
I had never thought about this before...when I first read the title of your article I thought it was about fresh food markets (which I love), but this was incredibly interesting :) I'll definately have to check out the websites you suggested, thank you!
By Bec Ninness - senior reviewer Wednesday, 28th of September @ 04:26 am
Happy foraging Bec, let me know what you find.
By Anonymous Thursday, 29th of September @ 12:49 pm
The title of this article had me in stitches, good job sir! Nice pictures, too. I love the environmental focus of this, too. Great idea, I’ll have to try it. Though it does seem somewhat thieving, would I get arrested?
Hi, can we re-label this 'Where to forage for your supper in Sydney' and re-birth it?
By glenop - senior reviewer Sunday, 29th of April @ 03:20 am
Oh your a life saver, i used to LOVE foraging as a kid, I'm 24 now and had honestly thought that most foraging had become illegal :(, i would love to go out looking for wild mushrooms, to me there is nothing better then going out in search of fresh food that isn't modified or old. i think i shall get my partner to go with me, i need to convince him :D, any good mushroom spots near penrith or blue mountains ????
By Anonymous Tuesday, 26th of June @ 05:21 am
Check out the weedyconnection link and get in contact with Diego, he runs wild mushroom tours in season...which you just missed!
By Anonymous Tuesday, 26th of June @ 03:30 pm
Thankyou for this article. Coming from overseas I have noticed the aversion to foraging...but its very satisfying to forage. In fact i quite miss it. You have inspired me to begin again!
By Rota - senior reviewer Monday, 24th of June @ 07:03 am
Ta Rota, I picked up some warrigals, chickweed, stinging nettles, watercress and sorell this morning. The seasonal variety is amazing!
By glenop - senior reviewer Monday, 24th of June @ 07:21 am
Reminds me of picking watercress when I was young. Glad to see it's making a coming back.
By mccon0 - reader Wednesday, 23rd of October @ 11:41 pm
Was not expecting this - how interesting! If I can't find any greens, may as well dig a little deeper and catch a worm haha
By Lucinda - senior reviewer Monday, 5th of December @ 06:21 am
warrigal greens (aka maybe Aboriginal Spinach) are tasty - just something like oxalate so they might recommend you cook them rather than eat a lot raw - might upset the tummy - I was fine and liked the tangy taste raw.
By ultim - reader Thursday, 8th of June @ 11:27 pm