Wild Foraging

Many people have learnt over many years how to survive by using what is around them. In my case I grew up with a family and schools that taught many of the basics. I learnt more from family than from school, but it was interesting to look back and remember Geography, and Science classes where we learnt about how the Australian Aboriginals could survive in the bush simple with a few stick or rock implements.

Wild foraging is not just about finding food, its about recognizing landscapes that hold potential. In my local region the native bushland parks are loaded with food in plain sight. 99.9% of people wouldn’t know that nearly every Acacia tree carries a variety of sugars and proteins through the boring grubs that can get as large thumb, seeds that in most species are edible, and sugar ants that often suck sap off these trees.

Carapace of the Acacia boring grub

Another easy to find in Summer species of wild food in this region is the Australian Wild Cherry – Exocarpos cupressiformis have small edible berries that must only be eaten when the flesh turns white. Eating the unripe maroon coloured ones can make you have extremely loose bowels and dehydrate you.

Exocarpos cupressiformis

Roots of many native plants are edible if you know what plant to look for. In many cases you will hardly ever see some of the best tasting ones as they generally only have a short life above ground each year in late spring. These are the bush yams, or tubas. There are many varieties, but in my region the most prolific is the Fringe Lilly, Thysanotus tuberosus. It grows in a wide variety of situations, from semi-arid parts of south eastern Australia to coastal areas receiving more than 1300 mm of rain per year. They are often found in open country, heathlands or in dry sclerophyll woodland. The Tuber can be up to 15cm long and 5cm wide.

Fringe Lilly Thysanotus tuberosus

Warigal Greens are a native spinach. Many seed stores now sell this to plant in your garden, but be careful as they develop large numbers of seed and can come back annually in the same spot regardless of how many times you remove it. It is a tasty green leaf, Like spinach, it contains oxalates; its medium to low levels of oxalates need to be removed by blanching the leaves in hot water for one minute, then rinsing in cold water before cooking. It thrives in hot weather, and is considered an heirloom vegetable. Few insects consume it, and even slugs and snails do not seem to feed on it

Geebung or Persoonia is a native tree that in the dry sclerophyll forests of the SE set small bunches of fruit that can be eaten if you can find some the birds have not got too first. They are a favorite food for Currawangs and Bower Birds. The pulp around the hard stone in the drupes of Persoonia is edible although “the operation is a little like nibbling sweet cotton wool”.

Along with the native landscapes there are other locations that can for a few months of the year create a massive bounty of fresh food that can be dried for long term storage. Pine forests here in Australia have had fungi bought in too support the pine plantations ecosystems. This fungi has the potential to create huge amounts of food in late Summer into Autumn through mushrooms. In particular the Saffron Milk Cap which is the most identifiable and one of the tastiest wild mushrooms I know.

Saffron Milk Cap – Lactarius deliciosus
Picked and ready too transport

These amazing mushrooms dry easily in the sun or in a low humidity environment inside a shed or a drying cabinet. They can then store in a vacuum sealed bag for many years. Extended periods can be achieved by adding in a silica gel or O2 absorber bag into the vacuum sealed bag. They must be cardboard like in feel and have no soft spots. They should lack smell nearly entirely.

Please be careful with your identification of mushrooms. Key thing to remember is if you cannot recognize it, then don’t eat it. The Saffron Milk Cap will grow with many other species that can from a distance look similar. Please always remember the Saffron Milk cap will bleed saffron/orange when you cut the stem. If it does not then throw it away.