Adam Grubb (also behind the global permablitz movement) and Annie Raser-Rowland run edible week walks around Melbourne and have co-authored The Weed Forager’s Handbook.
A great way to release our inner hunter-gathers which have laid dormant for centuries, foraging is seeing an increase in popularity as we increasingly seek to become more connected to the source of our food. For 3.5 billion years before the advent of agriculture, foraging was how we fed ourselves, that’s 99.9997 per cent of evolutionary time according to Adam, so it’s something that is in our bones.
When foraging for food, we could not be closer to the source of our nourishment. If you know a little about the history, traditional uses and folklore of weeds, “you can sometimes get a tiny glimpse of what indigenous peoples must see, of being able to read stories in the landscape, of being aware of useful resources all around you. It's a really comforting feeling, a feeling of being at home wherever you find your botanical friends”, says Adam.
But you don’t have to head out far into the bush to find these plants. Many of our ‘botanical friends’ can be found on our own doorsteps. Unlike veggie patches, they require no input or labour, so even though weeds may not have a significant environmental reputation, are actually possibly the most sustainable food you could eat.
“Foraging is about seasonality, unique flavours, local identity, taking pleasure in freedom and free resources, and taking time to live a little bit more 'in' rather than 'on' the landscape”, says Adam. It’s certainly a skill which resonates with the values of slow, sustainable living.
And the health benefits speak for themselves. “As strange as it may seem, a remarkable number of the plants we call weeds turn out to be not only edible, but more nutritious than their cultivated cousins”, suggests Adam. Wild weeds tend to be higher in vitamins A, C, E and K, antioxidants, and omega-3s than domesticated plants. They are low calorie but nutritional dense and then there’s the exercise you expend foraging for them. Indeed, there is evidence to suggests that time spent in gardens and nature improves intelligence, concentrations and sense of wellbeing.
Apparently, activities essential for survival also tend to feel good. “To the pleasures of eating and sex, add foraging. Ok, maybe not as intense, but it definitely has its hypnotic charms”, says Adam.
Whilst foraging for weeds isn’t going to feed the planet, it does bring us closer to our food, is highly sustainable and has a multitude of benefits for our health and wellbeing. Maybe the time to ditch the term ‘weed’ and give these wildlings a more befitting name.
To find out more about foraging, book a place on a foraging venture or check out The Weed Forager’s Handbook, visit: www.eatthatweed.com
Beautiful images of Adam and Annie’s foraging antics can also be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/87106229@N05/sets/
*Foraging for weeds is not something you should embark upon without some knowledge of what you’re looking for. You don’t want to be making a foraged salad laced with poisonous plants. To make sure you’re hunting for the right plants, get some basic knowledge from books, the web or workshops like those run by Eat That Weed.