Foraging kicks in regional Victoria
Drunk with delight at swinging our dollars to local farmers rather than the pockets of supermarket heavyweights, we skipped through the streets of Kyneton, Victoria to the local markets, eager to stock up on fresh fruit and veg for the week.
But before reaching our destination our eyes, hands and mouths fell upon a plethora of wild plums, lavender, rosemary, dill, fennel, some bitter greens and a whole lot of not quite ripe blackberries. The more we stumbled across, the more seemed to appear. Fresh, free food seemed to spill into alleyways and car parks, weaving through parklands and ascending over the fences of unsuspecting homes. Unable to contain our excitement, we loaded up baskets, pockets and mouths, and with an assortment of juices dripping down our chins smiled and motioned for walkers by to join the free food party. Yet despite our attempts, only a single family stopped to pick some plums before wandering off to continue their morning.
It appears that in a carnivorous landscape which thrives on animal agriculture, foraging for wild, edible foods is not readily encouraged as an acceptable hobby or practice. Which leaves me wondering, ‘has our relationship with food shifted so much that we are unable to identify plant matter as edible unless it replicates the modified moulds of ‘food’, which idly await consumer purchase in packing containers and supermarket shelves? Does the physically absent yet pervasive and enculturated slap on the wrist prevent us from challenging the constricting constructions of ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’ behaviour with an act as simple as foraging?
For while the idea of free, fresh food is a convincing argument to take up foraging, it is reasonable to have further concerns…
What if those berries are poisonous? What if those plants have been doused in chemical sprays or other contaminants? What if I get yelled at or crash-tackled to the ground for procuring a couple of pears, and have to scrape each millimetre of squished fruit from my pockets into my mouth, tears and saliva merging into one?
Fear not! Insightful and capable human beings have foraged on this planet since their very inception and since such times, edible food app’s have been developed, region specific maps have been produced and google exists dear friends, consult it well. That said, don’t pick in visibly polluted areas, try to discern the health of the plant and its neighbours, take a friend on the hunt and don’t eat anything you’re unsure about.
So go on beautiful people – straddle that fence, sift through your Granny’s back yard, look around that path you wander each week to take a small step alongside the localised food revolution; for you will not find more seasonal foods than that which thrives without requiring on human intervention.