I remember the first time I joined one of the wild mushroom foraging tours run by Diego Bonetto. At the time, all I could think of was what I was going to make with the mushrooms. But very quickly I discovered that foraging for wild food was much more than just getting a bunch of “exotic” food for next to nothing (although, you know…that’s pretty rad). Through the process of foraging, Diego introduced my greedy little brain to nuggets of wisdom about history, and what “natural food” really, truly means.
In the years since it’s been pretty inspiring seeing this wild revolution unfold. It’s in our dining scene, through chef collabs. It’s in our gardens, with a new respect for the usefulness of weeds, and what they’re telling us about the state of our soil. And thanks to the Wild Food Map Diego successfully crowdfunded, this new appreciation for the overlooked can continue to inspire us wherever we may be, by being right on our smartphones.
We had a quick natter with Diego to spread his seeds of wisdom even further on the winds of the interwebs.
What are the some of your favourite moments in developing and maintaining Wild Food Map?
The favourite moment is ongoing. As we go forward with the project we just keep accumulating effort and responses, working on it and for it. And all of this for no other reason that we think this is a worthy project. I am constantly amazed by the generosity of my collaborators.
What are some of the most common misconceptions about eating weeds?
That they are deliciously soft tasting vegetables. Quite often they are not. On the contrary many are quite strong and challenging. The reason for this is because we adapted to domesticated food: plants that have been bred for mellow and appeasing taste. Which is good. The only issue here is that in breeding species to become soft tasting often that corresponds to breeding out important minerals, fibre and vitamin content from it. Wild plants taste strong, and that’s why they are good for you.
As a professional forager, what would be your top tip to those starting out?
Get to know your garden and immediate surroundings. Get to know the species that you see everyday in your daily walk. Notice how they change through the season, what they look like when they are sprouting, developing, fruiting and dying. This visual appreciation of cycles is priceless when getting to know plants in all of their stages.
What are some of your favourite dishes you’ve had featuring foraged ingredients?
Nettle focaccia, produced with Joey Astorga; Vietnamese style chicken salad with rambling dock, scotch thistle and farmers friend, produced with Jared Ingersol; Dianella infused gin, produced with Trolley’d; Confit and pickled pine mushrooms with poached duck eggs on toast, produced with Aaron Teece.
What should I know that I probably don’t know about wild foods?
Wild produce is not a free meal, it is a gift from nature. People should treat it as such.
And lastly – what’s your favourite weed?
Image credits: Aimee Crouch