Hello wild ‘n’ weedy wanderers!
I’m Karlie from Karlie Eat to Live, where I blog about yummy and nourishing things, such as traditional, nutrient dense wholefoods, fermenting and gut health and, yep, eating weeds, wild food and urban foraging.
I am excited and honoured to be invited to work alongside Diego Bonetto, aka the godfather of Sydney’s wild food scene, as a guest blogger for the Wild Food Map via my weekly series "Weedy Wednesdays", where I will be sharing some of my outrageously fun recipes made with wild foods that I forage with my own hands.
So how does one find herself entwined in the tendrils of this wild ‘n’ weedy world of foraging? Let me share my story.
For some time I had looked wistfully at vacant blocks of urban land, wondering about their potential for food. Imagine if, I asked, 1. councils allowed us, and, 2. humans put their heads and muscles together, how much food we could grow (not to mention boycott the dastardly supermarket duopoly we are enslaved by) on all the spare land lying dormant in local urban environments?
Well guess what. Turns out this ‘empty’ nature strip near my home, along with most vacant urban blocks, is in fact not empty at all, but already FULL of food! Doesn't look like it. But it is. You only have to unlock the door of knowledge (and perhaps take a few lessons in Latin) to see the mind blowing potential already surrounding us. Trust me, you'll never look at a nature strip the same again.
Food is hiding in plain sight. Oh, and did I mention that IT’S FREE?
My two favourite ‘f words’… ‘free’ and ‘food’. Wild food is packed with nutritional, medicinal and financial benefits, so let's get our hunter-gatherer on!
Episode 1 of Weedy Wednesdays is all about 'the food under our feet'. Yep, we walk on food every day and most of us don't even know it. Here are a few common garden weeds that I was able to identify in my own back yard on my first foraging adventure, all of which I enjoyed fresh for dinner that very night, like the best hunter-gatherers from centuries past.
What if many of the unruly weeds in our garden, doomed for the dumpster, were just as edible as the vegetables we strategically tend beside them?
What if some of these free, all-too-easy-to-grow uninvited guests were so nutritionally dense that they are just about the healthiest things you could possibly eat - higher in vitamins, anti-aging antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids than cultivated plants?
What if many of them also had medical traditions dating back centuries?
'Well it’s all true! And if you know what to choose, they also taste great. A gastronomic adventure awaits the knowledgeable forager, and a free living pharmacy…' -Eat That Weed
I don't think many people would pass up an abundant supply of free food if it was shoved under their noses. So it just boils down to a matter of dispelling social conditioning. I dispelled my disdain for the ruffians that had always reared their ugly heads between the perfect blades on my Sir Walter Buffalo grass after lots of online reading, and by ordering a copy of The Weed Forager's Handbook, A Guide to Edible and Medicinal Weeds in Australia, by Adam Grubb & Annie Raser-Rowland. And it's fascinating stuff!
"A weed by any other name would taste as sweet,” -Costa Georgiadis, foreword, The Weed Forager's Handbook.
It finally arrived! I'm unstoppable now!
"For the gardener tired of joyless weeding... open your eyes to the fact that the problem can indeed be the solution." -The Weed Forager's Handbook
And it's not just indigenous people, horta-loving Greeks and crazy ladies like me who eat ‘unwanted plants growing in undesirable locations’ (ie, the dreaded weed). Even the cool kids are doing it, like celebrity chefs Kylie Kwong, and Matt Moran. When I sat down to a fancy dinner at Sydney's two-hatted Aria restaurant, I simply had to try the indigenous Australian ‘foraged greens’ on their menu, even if I knew I could be collecting them for free and was now paying through the nose to eat them there. It turns out three of the courses we ordered featured wild food, both indigenous and introduced, including ice plant (carpobrotus edulis), warrigal greens (tetragonia tetragoniodes) and pigface, aka 'Beach Banana' or 'Karkalla' (carpobrotus rossii).
Greeks prepare 'horta', literally 'wild greens', all the time. I used to walk to uni every morning and would often find myself behind two old ladies who'd chatter away in Greek whilst gathering what I thought were useless dandelion (taraxacum) weeds to feed their budgerigars. Later I realised THEY were eating them. You may have heard of 'spanikopita' - Greek spinach pie, or tiropita - Greek cheese pie. Well there's even a version using weeds called 'hortopita' - literally, wild greens pie.
It’s fascinating to find out about weedy delights enjoyed in traditional cultures. My partner, who also partakes in my weedy meals, told me about the wild greens his family used to gather and eat as a child in Afghanistan - 'tharah' on river banks and 'pothina' in dry grassland (in Dari language).
So it's time to spread the word. Take the kids out into the sunshine and give yourselves a botany lesson. Not only is this a unique opportunity for us city-dwellers to relive a hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the past, but the experience can transform our perceptions of the cityscape. And, trust me, you will have so much fun discovering new things in the process.