Wild & Free: Foraging in New Zealand for Budget Zero Wasters

Wild & Free: Foraging in New Zealand for Budget Zero Wasters

We love foraging as a way of getting some free, zero waste kai and we’ve written about this before. We also love the feeling of locality and seasonality that comes with foraging, as well as the heightened sense of connection with our surroundings. We’ve come to realise how oblivious we used to be to the free and nutritious food all around us. So oblivious that it took us a while to recognise the silliness of spending money on certain kai (packaged or unpackaged) that we could have easily gotten for free, fresh and unpackaged, if only we knew where to look.

Now, our daily reality includes two other considerations. We try really hard not to support non-organic food growing or producing practices with our money because these practices are not good for the planet and other species, let alone our own. However, we also live and run The Rubbish Trip off a daily budget of $20. These two realities mean that we have to be pretty savvy about how we get our food. Straight up, foraging has been a bit of a life-saver for us!

We’ve decided to share regular posts on what we’re foraging and where, and what we’re doing with these weird and wonderful things that we find. We want to share some of the joy and satisfaction that we have gained from this practice, and maybe inspire others to love it too.

So, scroll down below to check out some of the foraged goodies that we’ve shared on our Instagram (arranged in alphabetical order). You can click on the picture to open up the link and read the full caption (you can do this, even if you don’t have an Insta account – yay!) You can flick through the photos if you click on the little arrow on the right hand side of each photo.

If these posts make you want to give foraging a go, we just want to emphasise that it’s important you know what you’re looking for. Many plants and fungi in New Zealand are poisonous, so you must be careful. Trial and error is no approach to foraging; it helps to go out with someone who knows what they are doing and/or always to be 100% sure of what you’re picking before you eat it. Furthermore, you need to be savvy about where you pick to avoid possible contamination from car pollution or spraying (no one wants a dose of exhaust fumes or round-up in their lovely dinner).

Apple

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Foraging isn’t just about finding mysterious things you never knew you could eat, it’s also about embracing/recognising everyday foods when they’re abundant all around us! Free, unpackaged, organic, even heritage varieties not seen in shops/commercial horticulture. A classic example = APPLES, currently fruiting across much of NZ. We officially can’t bring ourselves to buy apples anymore. We’ve been picking them CONSTANTLY the last few weeks, as we did last season. Yet, to our despair, wherever apples abound, they rot on the ground before people’s eyes! Mass apple rotting is a shame; so many things can be done with them + those places in NZ that don’t have apples coming out their ears spend $$ on pesticide-ridden shop varieties often bagged in soft plastic. Even in places where local, free, organic apples rot on the ground, many ppl still buy apples in local supermarkets (no, why??). In Nelson, someone even asked how we avoid plastic stickers on fruit – “go get them off the tree outside”, we said! Where to find apples? See local foraging guides or the amazing nationwide New Zealand Fruit and Food Share map. What to do with all the apples? Some things we do (recipes on our website): use apples in homemade muesli bars instead of imported, fumigated, non-free bananas; make apple cider vinegar (it’s SO EASY) – combine apple bits (even just apple cores or manky apples off the ground w/ icky bits cut out), sugar, water and time (we use Wellness Mama’s recipe); mix sliced fresh apples into leafy salads (great paired with balsamic or ACV and foraged walnuts); grate them fresh into porridge on the stove; stew some each week to go with muesli; make apple sauce (great oil/butter substitute in baking); try apple crumble using our easy fruit crumble recipe OR when too lazy, make apple crumble in a mug (takes c.5 minutes); brew apple tea (don’t waste $$ on apple-flavoured herbal tea): cut up apple(s), put in teapot/mug, pour in boiling water, leave to brew just like teabag. Add in other things if you want (mint leaves/ginger/raisins/whatever). What do you do with your apples? #wildandfree #budgetzerowaste Read more about our foraging here:https://tinyurl.com/y3r5vw6p

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Bay Leaf

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If you’ve seen our talk you’ll know that the Bay Leaf triggered our foraging journey. We’d never buy a bay leaf. Bay trees (Laurus Nobilis) are all over NZ; you can pick lots of leaves, dry them + store in glass jars for up to a year. Bay leaves have an auspicious history, symbolising power/victory/achievement. Those leafy head wreathes the Ancient Greeks + Romans wore were laurel (aka bay leaf) wreaths. The word laureate derives from the word laurel. Use bay leaves to flavour soups/stews/curries; chuck a leaf or two into the pot + fish them out at the end! Don’t eat them whole; our bodies can’t digest them + the leaves’ sharp edges can lacerate the throat/digestive system. Bay leaf tea is magical. Steep some leaves in boiling water on the stove for c.20 minutes. Drink the tea or use as a hair rinse for conditioning/dandruff-busting/warding off headlice, a facial skin toner, or a foot soak to fight infections like athlete’s foot (bay leaf has anti-fungal powers). As an anti-inflammatory, drinking bay leaf tea or adding to your bath (or grinding up dry bay leaves + putting the powder into the hot tub) can soothe sore joints/arthritis. Some say bay leaves alleviate headaches + migraines. When Hannah’s got a migraine/headache she drinks bay leaf tea and rolls up the leaves and puts one up each nostril (see fig 2 ;-)). Dubious, perhaps, but as a migraine-sufferer, Hannah will try anything to stop the pain! Research suggests bay leaves regulate blood sugar levels, so can be useful for managing type-2 diabetes though, by the same token, can interact with medication so discuss with your doctor. Bay leaves also interact with some pain + sedation drugs + anaesthetics, so avoid if on those drugs or getting surgery. Bay leaves also repel insects/pests. A plate of bay leaves in your pantry keeps pests ‘at bay’. WARNING: Poisonous lookalikes include English laurel, cherry laurel, mountain laurel, rhododendron. These plants are TOXIC; make sure you know what you’re picking! Also, while bay leaves are safe for humans, they’re toxic for some animals, including cats, dogs + horses. #wildandfree #budgetzerowaste More about our foraging here: https://tinyurl.com/y3r5vw6p

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Blackberry

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Despite the guilt associated with being joyful about the fruiting of an invasive weed, we can’t help but get excited about blackberry season. So, evidently we got pretty excited in Wellington last week because blackberries are everywhere and they’re ripe for the picking. That blackberries are edible may not be a revelation. However, we suspect that many people are unaware that they’re currently abundant or else have vaguely registered this but haven’t felt inclined to make the most of it while they can. Given berries purchased at the store come either in a plastic punnet or, if they’re frozen, in a soft plastic packet, the prospect of free, unpackaged berries is something we’re keen to get amongst 😉 How do we use blackberries? Well, if you walk for transport (as we often do), leave a bit earlier than you need to allow time just to stop and eat blackberries straight off the bush (it’s the actual best pastime ever)! You can also leave home armed with ice cream containers or similar and pick a large quantity to then freeze, avoiding the need to buy frozen berries in plastic bags during the year. Another way to store the blackberries for later is by making jam (find a recipe online). If you freeze the berries, you can pop some in a food processor with a chopped frozen banana and whip up a yummy sorbet/ice cream. Or chuck them in smoothies/your winter porridge for a summery (purple) kick. Personally, our fave thing to do with blackberries is to subject all our friends + family to blackberry crumble, the most ridiculously easy, cheap dessert to make (see our imprecise recipe:www.therubbishtrip.co.nz/recipes-and-inventions/sweet-treats/). Embarrassingly, we actually made this 3 times last week for 3 different potlucks (fortunately no friend crossovers occurred at any of these gatherings). NB: blackberries are a weed, so be careful to avoid sprayed bushes – roadsides and verges are key danger area (usually councils won’t spray them when they’re fruiting as they know people pick them, but still be savvy – you can also contact council for spray plan to be extra sure). #wildandfree #budgetzerowaste Read more about our foraging here:https://tinyurl.com/y3r5vw6p

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Chickweed

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Chickweed! This prolific plant is easy to find almost anywhere & is both delicious & nutritious. It’s the ultimate in convenience food because it’s always there when you need it (except for the height of summer, when it dies back). Recently, we stayed out in the wops in the South Island & had run short of money & fresh produce – we just took a little walk around the property we were staying (a spray-free spot) & harvested more than enough chickweed for our night’s dinner – whoop! You can use chickweed in salads, in any recipe that calls for spinach, you can frizzle it up in a pan like in our photo here, or make it into a scrummy pesto. While studies are thin on the ground, word on the street is that chickweed is high in vitamins A, B & C, and iron too! Chickweed does contain saponins, so it is generally recommended that pregnant & breast-feeding women steer clear. Apart from eating chickweed, you can also infuse it in oil & turn it into a salve, which some say can soothe dry, itchy or irritated skin. We reckon blitzing it in a blender with a bit of water & some oats would produce a great, cooling, slightly cleansing skin/face mask – we shall put that on the old bucket list. How do you identify chickweed? It grows along the ground in sprawling, stringy clumps & is shallow-rooted so can be pulled out easily, with an almost elastic feel. It has oval leaves that sit in pairs on either side of the stem. A single row of fine hairs run up one side of the stem (switching sides after each pair of leaves). The plant has little, five-petalled white flowers that look like stars, hence chickweed’s attractive Latin name, Stellaria Media. Caution: chickweed grows prolifically & is often the target of weed-spraying people. Make sure that you harvest it only from spots you know have not been sprayed. You can find chickweed in most backyards (including your own, probably), so as long as you know you haven’t sprayed herbicides, you should be fine! #wildandfree #budgetzerowaste Read more about foraging here: https://tinyurl.com/y3r5vw6p

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Horse Chestnut (not edible)

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Horse Chestnuts are NOT FOR EATING. They're poisonous, but still useful! They're high in saponin, so you can use them to wash clothes :-O Yup! Know about soapnuts? This is the same deal 'cept horse chestnuts grow in NZ rather than the Himalayas, don't come in packaging & are FREE!! Simply harvest a good bunch of horse chestnuts (leave the green spiky husk), smash up the nut (e.g. wrap in towel & whack with hammer, or cut into bits with a knife. Some recipes suggest putting in blender, we do NOT recommend using equipment you use for food in case you leave traces behind & make yourself sick), put bits in heat resistant bowl, fill with boiling water, leave to soak for 24 hours. Water will go milky; strain out the bits of horse chestnuts, compost them. Put the liquid in a jar with lid, keep in fridge & use as you would laundry liquid. We tried this; IT WORKS just like soapnuts… Amazing. NB: Mixture keeps c. a week in fridge. To stock up on "laundry liquid" for longer, gather a large number of horse chestnuts & instead of making a big batch of liquid, store the chestnut bits so they're ready for you to make into liquid as you need over coming months (either by freezing OR laying chestnut bits out on tray to dry out in direct sun/oven and then store in airtight jar). You can skip the liquid making phase and use the broken up pieces as you would soapnuts (I.e. put a scoop in a little cotton bag or bag made of old pantyhose and chuck in with laundry), but you may need to wash with hot water for best results. Notes of caution: 1) beware of allergic reaction; if when breaking the nuts your skin becomes irritated, stop – you shouldn't use them. If you make the liquid with no reaction, just do a small laundry load first time to make sure you don't get skin irritation from the washed clothes. These precautions are wise when trying any new laundry cleaner. 2) saponins poison fish (in fact some indigenous Americans traditionally caught fish by putting small amounts of saponin water into streams), so don't be letting this liquid or resulting greywater enter natural waterways or stormwater. #wildandfree #budgetzerowaste More about foraging: https://tinyurl.com/y3r5vw6p

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Kawakawa

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Kawakawa! An amazing native plant, prolific throughout the North Island and the northern South Island. Both its leaves and berries are edible and packed full of goodness. We can't possibly cover all its uses/beneficial properties – please share your own insights! Kawakawa has impressive medicinal properties (antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic). Fully dry the leaves out and solar infuse oil with them to use in balms to soothe irritated skin, psoriasis, excema. Got toothache? Chewing fresh leaves can help relieve the pain. Consume carefully! Kawakawa is powerful and has diuretic (and, some suggest, aphrodisiac) effects. It’s also a mild blood thinner, so avoid if you’re on Warfarin or similar. You can brew tea from kawakawa leaves. We usually pick fresh leaves for tea, as needed, but you can pick and dry out bunches for storage. For cooking, embrace kawakawa’s distinctive, peppery flavour (and slight mouth-numbing effect – no coincidence that kawa sounds like kava…): boil the leaves as a stock or use fresh or dry leaves as a herb/seasoning. AND… kawakawa fruits in Jan-March! Female trees produce long, cylindrical berries that go orange when ripe with lots of little black seeds. You can eat the ripe berries straight off the plant (we manage about 4 before the mouth-numbing kicks in) or pick a bunch and freeze for later in the year. NZ foraging guru Johanna Knox covers them individually in melted choc for an after-dinner treat! We've seen recipes that mix 3 or 4 kawakawa berries with ginger, onions, garlic, oil for a broth paste for seafood or tofu dishes. NB: Kawakawa is a native plant, so no worries about it being sprayed, but you should pick mindfully. Kawakawa is a sacred plant, used for food but also worn at tangi. Māori have tikanga for mindful picking, including not taking more than you need, especially from single plants (for example, the berries contain the plant’s seeds; you need to leave some so more plants can grow!) and only harvesting from healthy plants (if a plant is struggling, it’s not going to help it if you nick some of its leaves). #wildandfree #budgetzerowaste More about our foraging here: https://tinyurl.com/y3r5vw6p

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Nasturtium

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Foraging! One of our favourite ways to get local, seasonal, organic, zero waste, fresh kai on a budget. We don’t think we share enough the wonders of foraging and how much we rely on it, yet it’s almost like a ritual for us. We also reckon that more people would forage if they knew that the weeds hanging around their backyard were edible, and what they can do with them. So, we’ve decided that one of our goals for 2019 is to start sharing our foraging exploits through a new post series Wild & Free. You can read more about this on our website. Our first little share is the mighty nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)! You can eat all parts of the nasturtium. The leaves and flowers can be put into salads. We find the leaves a great substitute for rocket. You can make a pesto from the leaves. You can also collect some nice sized leaves, stuff them with something yummy like a rice mixture you’ve prepared earlier, and boil them up in a tomato sauce (a bit like stuffed cabbage leaves). One thing many people don’t know is that you can also eat the nasturtium seed pods, which you can turn into “poor man’s capers”. Right now, it’s the “seeds-son” for this; the little seedies are out in full force in Wellington – we’ve been picking and pickling them like there’s no tomorrow! You’ll find a bunch of recipes on the internet. We pick the seed pods, rinse them well, put them in a sterilised jar and cover them until completely submerged in vinegar (we used apple cider vinegar). Put jar lid on and put in fridge. They’ll be ready in a couple of weeks. No need for water bath and no botulism risk because you’re submerging them in pure vinegar. If you find the resulting ‘capers’ too strong, next time put them in a salt water brine for 24 hours first, before you pickle them in the vinegar. For extra shelf life you can bring the vinegar to boil with some sugar and salt before pouring, hot, onto the seedpods in the jar. Have you got any awesome nasturtium recipes? #wildandfree #budgetzerowaste

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Onion Weed/Three-Cornered Leek/Allium Triquetrum

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It’s the season for Onion Weed/Three-Cornered Leek/Allium Triquetrum! These little oniony-garlicy guys are everywhere & that’s just perfect👌 They can be used in cooking in so many ways AND you can eat the whole plant – from the flowers, to the stalk, right down to the bulb (if you’re pro enough to pull it intact!) Onion weed is extra special to us because it’s the first ‘weed’ we ever foraged 💚 Some things you can do with onion weed: 🌱Use the flowers as a garnish – pop some atop your avocado on toast or in your salads 🌱Use it in meals in place of onion & garlic (ideal for this moment when so much shop garlic is imported from the USA 😱) 🌱Use as the base for a delicious homemade pesto (swipe left to see Hannah’s literal joy at her very 1st onion-weed pesto…) 🌱Chop the stalks up & use instead of spring onion or chives, whether in an omelette or atop a curry or noodle soup. 🌱Dehydrate to create a stock powder & use all year around – we haven’t tried this yet, but someone suggested it the other day & we reckon it’s GENIUS. 🌱@juliasedibleweeds even ferments them like sauerkraut! It’s important to know how to ID onion weed because there’s potential to mix it up with snowdrops & snowflakes, which are poisonous. But, never fear, there are some giveaways: 🌱Onion weed flowers look quite different to snowdrops & snowflakes – they’re star-like & have a clear green line that runs down the centre of each petal (swipe left for pics) 🌱Onion weed smells quite strongly of onion/garlic. 🌱Onion weed is sometimes called “three-cornered leek” because its stalk has a distinctive three-cornered shape. Break it off & look at it in cross section – you’ll see a triangle (swipe left for pics). Be mindful of where you pick onion weed. It loves growing on roadsides & dank banks, so if you aren’t a bit savvy, you risk picking stuff that’s been sprayed with round-up, dog pee, car exhaust fumes or all of the above. We’re lucky to have onion weed in our gardens, but it’s easily found in spots other than by roads. Walking just slightly off the beaten track can lead you to huge patches. Joy! #wildandfree #budgetzerowaste More about our foraging at tinyurl.com/y3r5vw6p

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Strawberry Tree/Arbutus Unedo/Medronho

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Sweet Chestnut

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Sweet chestnuts! 'Tis the season! We've picked so many our hands are wrecked from sharp, roasted chestnut shells & the burrs' porcupine-like prickles (pro-tip, when foraging, open the burrs on the ground with your feet). NZ underrates sweet chestnuts; they're highly edible and so nutritious (vitamins B1, B6, C & protein) NZ foraging guru Johanna Knox suggests they're a superfood! Imagine all the $$, packaging, energy & disruption of local food supplies to get exotic superfoods, when sweet chestnuts are on our doorstep! Perhaps ppl don't know chestnuts are edible, how to use them, or maybe they're unfashionable 'coz they're low-fat & high carbs & starch (not keto)? You can eat them freshly roasted or use in cooking like a potato or other nut. Remove the brown shell first either by roasting (tastier if you'll be eating them straight) or boiling (MUCH faster). To roast, cut a big X into one side of each nut, put in covered pan on stove or roasting dish in oven, cook on high heat or about 200oC for c.20 mins until shells curl back from the cuts, remove from heat, peel to reveal bright yellow fleshy nut. Dig in! To boil, cut fresh nuts in half w/ sharp knife. Chuck in pot of boiling water for 10-15 minutes. After this, shell basically slides off. We put cooked chestnuts whole in soup, curry, creamy mushroom pasta, bliss balls & to thicken homemade mylks. We've also blended them into a choc-chestnut spread to fill cookies or use in baking instead of oil. NB: 1)Don't confuse sweet chestnuts & poisonous horse chestnuts. They're genetically unrelated but look similar. Distinguish by the outer burr (sweet chestnut burrs have many fine porcupine-like prickles that stab you. Cf horse chestnuts' less aggressive burr in our last foraging post) and the nut itself (horse chestnut is smooth all over, whereas the sweet chestnut has a prickly/hairy point). 2)Unlike other nuts, sweet chestnuts have short shelf life coz of their high-water, low-fat content. Chestnut butter/peeled chestnuts keep c. 2 weeks in fridge. 3)Don't eat sweet chestnuts raw; they can be high in tannic acid until cooked. #wildandfree #budgetzerowaste More about foraging: https://tinyurl.com/y3r5vw6p

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