Tuesday 7 July 2020

Foraging For Food

It is a bit of a dreary day today, one of those grey days with wind and rain that are perfect for curling up and devouring a book or two.

Foraging is something that fascinates me.  I am not into it large-scale, but I do enjoy finding and gathering food that is growing wild or that no-one is using. 

A loaded lemon tree, with fruit free for the asking

For me, this gathering can be anything from asking a neighbour if I can have some of the citrus fruit they have lying on the ground, through to picking blackberries off a patch of wild brambles beside a deserted beach.

A grape vine growing wild on an empty section

Of course, the biggest thing when out foraging in the wild is to correctly identify what it is you are gathering so that you do not inadvertently eat something poisonous, or gather something that could have an unwanted effect such as causing a miscarriage.

Fly Agaric toadstools are especially poisonous

One also needs to be aware of the environment the plant is growing in – never harvest from beside a busy road, for instance.  When gathering watercress it pays to be aware as to whether or not there are animals in the vicinity, as they may have contaminated the bed with effluent.

Watercress in a mountain stream

I have been browsing through the three books in my little library that deal with foraging in New Zealand:

Simply LivingA gatherers’ guide to New Zealand’s fields, forests and shores by Gwen Skinner

A Field Guide to the Native Edible Plants of New Zealand by Andrew Crowe

A Forager’s Treasury- A New Zealand guide to finding and using wild plants by Johanna Knox

I used to dream of owning a patch of wilderness where various spreading herbs, edible flowers, wild berries, and useful weeds could grow wild and run riot.  I fondly imagined going out and harvesting things as I wanted them, but in reality the untidiness of such a wilderness would probably drive me mad!

Enjoy your day J



  1. I read this and then really laughed when I got to the last sentence. I think I'm in the same category.

  2. I remember how free and careless (!) we were back in the day. Strawberries, blueberries raspberries, peas, apples... cherries, plumes... I wonder if kids these days still do this.

  3. Yes, a wilderness would need tidying in my back yard too, but this time of year I do let chick weed and miner lettuce grow where ever they land as they are good salad greens at this time of year. My Dad taught me some medicinal herbs to forage too... e.g. the native hebe (Koromiko) for stomach upsets
    Stay safe

  4. Hello, I have picked many wild berries. I am afraid to pick the mushrooms. The books look helpful.
    My hubby is in charge of our untidy yard. Enjoy your day, have a great week ahead.

  5. I must confess that I have never worried about having a miscarriage as a result of foraging! Foraging has many benefits and there is a very satisfying connection with "real" food - to say nothing of the taste. It has become a little too popular here with some woodlands suffering from too many footprints and areas denuded by people who don't know how to forage properly.

  6. We always picked wild blueberries, blackberries, crowberries, raspberries, pin cherries, cloud berries and lingonberries when we were young. It kept us busy in August and September.

  7. We always picked a lot of blackberries that grew wild in cow pastures when I was a kid...and we also cooked dandelion greens and some other wild plants...

  8. I didn't realize that lemons grew in NZ but that lemon tree is proof positive. It is amazing. If I lived near such bounty I'd take as many lemons as I was given because I am very fond of lemon flavour. When they come on sale here I zest them and freeze the zest and juice separately for future use.

  9. That lemon tree is loaded. I hope you're picking lots. So much you can do with a lemon.
    The local women all forage especially for greens in the fields and any tree with fruit hanging over a walk is fair game. Lots of wild thyme and oregano too.

  10. Margaret - we had/have a similar dream!! And, yes, it would drive me mad too, looking after it all. Had such a big chuckle at you writing that comment. But, foraging is special indeed. When feijoa season started I went for a walk each day, looking for a feijoa tree which might drop fruit onto the berm. It didn't happen. But I did find an enormous one - in my back yard. I was so happy, out there every day, "foraging".

  11. We used to get blackberries when we were in the Far North and roadside peaches but that was about it.


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