Eka forages for PIP!
Eka is an urban forager. She wants to show people how they can maintain a normal lifestyle with a nine-to-five job and still lead a secret life as a forager.Can you describe the foods you harvest from the ‘wild’ and how you do it?
I am lucky to live in Melbourne’s northern suburbs (aka the European fruit forest), and I mainly forage for fruit as it’s an easy and ubiquitous target. I follow the ‘if it’s facing the footpath it’s yours’ rule: as a tree grower myself, I expect anything facing the street to be picked. In summer/autumn most of my fruit was supplied by the neighbourhood: figs, prickly pears, mulberries, grapes, apples, pears and lemons. Another good rule is to ask the grower. Usually people are happy to share.
What inspired you to start harvesting your food in this way?
I grew up in Europe, where I spent summers at my grandparents’ place climbing my favourite mulberry tree, or waiting for the first perfect fig to ripen. There were also many mushroom/berry picking trips, regular ‘foraging’ for raspberries from neighbours, and helping my grandparents with the harvest in autumn. Your childhood experiences shape your life, and it’s up to you to choose how. I chose to be a forager.
What do you love most about foraging?
The creativity and learning opportunities. I spent the whole summer trying out different recipes and smoothie combinations. I also got into fermenting, which I feel is a natural extension of foraging and oversupply. My next steps are to learn the arts of pruning and grafting, to preserve my favourite trees, and to get into local communities for swaps and harvests.
What differences have you noticed between foraged produce compared with other sources?
Once you taste real food it’s hard to go back to commercially grown produce. Most of the time it tastes so much better, although sometimes it is an acquired taste.. Sometimes you can accidentally discover a hidden or forgotten treasure – a rare specimen that is not commercially grown and difficult to find in the nurseries. You can step into a completely different world of gastronomy.
What positive impacts would there be if more people started to forage?
People could understand ingredients better if they could recognise the tree that the produce has come from.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start foraging?
Be observant and experimental: talk to people. If you’re not sure what something is, just take a photo or collect a sample and ask around. To find the best foraging routes: take the roads less travelled, the front yards in the back streets; old laneways full of forgotten treasures; and go to the hidden corners of the parks.
If you have abundance, ferment it or make a jam. And please never be greedy – don’t take something that you don’t like just because it’s free! The birds will have it eventually (further spreading the seeds).
For more information check out Feral Fruit Trees Melbourne
The original article by Robyn Rosenfeldt appears in Issue 6 of Pip Magazine, in-stores now.
Issue 6 features articles on tiny house living, a complete guide to natural building materials, rocket stoves, wild harvest, slow fashion, garden succession planning made easy and heaps more.
The article was part of the “Wild Harvest” story in which five modern-day hunter-gatherers share their passion for eating from the wild.