Grow Gather Enjoy: Foraging

Showing posts with label Foraging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Foraging. Show all posts

Preserving olives three ways

14 June 2018
For many years I dismissed the idea of preserving my own olives. I had tasted several home made attempts over the years from others and was left unimpressed. So, I figured this was just one of those things that was better left to the experts.

All this changed when I tried a good friend's attempts a couple of years ago. These were delicious, clearly surpassing any other home made attempt I'd tried and rivaling many bought options. This, coupled with the free olives available for foraging in my suburb, spurred me on to give it a go.

I'm glad I did, as now I can tick one more item off the 'to buy' list and look to my own preserves for delicious and tasty olives. Here are three different ways you can take the plunge and preserve your own too.


Foraging in your own backyard

20 March 2018
Foraging is all the rage these days. There are guides, tours and blogs dedicated just to foraging. I think it's a great concept - find food that nobody else is using and use it. What I really like is how it pushes us to rethink where food comes from and the fact that edible things are all around us. It challenges the perception that something must come from a shop or market to be edible.

I have dabbled in a little foraging myself. I especially love a good fruit find - a wild tree/bush or an unused suburban specimen. My first experience with preserving olives involved myself and daughters going on 'olive hunts' through our neighbourhood to source our goods.

I have also dabbled in the occasional foraged greens but I must confess I find most of these to be a little bitter. I'm probably also pretty lazy about trekking around to find them when there are so many greens you can easily grow at home. And also so many things you can 'forage' in your own veg garden to use as greens.

And so I'd like to introduce the concept of 'garden foraging' (an oxymoron perhaps but let's go with it for now as it sounds a little better than 'foraging for lazy people') - using parts of the plants you already grow that you haven't thought of using before.

Pumpkin leaves - a great 'greens' option for summer.


So many edible plants have edible leaves. As a general rule the smaller younger leaves are better to use but if you add enough garlic, olive oil and lemon juice most greens can be coaxed into tastiness (even those bitter wild foraged options).

  • My favourite find here is pumpkin leaves. They have a really nice flavour and best of all they are available at the end of summer when most other greens are looking decidedly sad. Use liberally in place of spinach/chard.
  • Other edible leaves I've used include sweet potato, brassicas, beetroot, nasturtium, fig and grape. I have tried carrot and radish leaves as well but they didn't really do much for me personally.
  • Of course you'll also find all the weed greens in the average garden too if you haven't yet given them a go - chickweed, stinging nettle, mallow and purslane to name just a few.


  • Chard/silverbeet is probably the big one here. You can chop finely and add along with their leaves to the dish you had planned or use as a veg filler in soups and stew. Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion features a very tasty stem gratin and also stem chips (I haven't tried the chips myself).
  • Young sprouting broccoli stems make great crudite if you have them growing in the garden.

Rainbow chard stems are both beautiful and delicious.


  • Pea and broad been shoots are great additions to salads and stir-fries in the spring when there is not much ready for harvest yet.
  • Shoots from the squash family (zucchini, pumpkin and squash) can be used similarly. I've mostly utilised these in pasta dishes. I remember reading once that the first sign of spring in an Italian market is the appearance of the very young leaves and tendrils of squash plants, called tenerumi.


  • The squash family feature here again - stuffed flowers are a delicious, if fiddly, addition to the menu plan. You can also just chop them roughly and toss in many dishes along with their vegetable counterparts or solo. I've tried them in pasta sauces, on top of pizza and in gratins (eg. zucchini flowers in a zucchini gratin).
  • Nasturtium flowers can add a little pepper and colour to a salad.
  • Herb flowers can be used anywhere you'd use the leaves or as an addition to herbal teas.

Nasturtium leaves, flowers and seeds are all edible.


Saving your own seed is a great gardening habit if only for your next year's crop but there are many ways you can put these foraged goodies to use aside from sprouts and microherbs.

  • Once roasted, pumpkin seeds are delicious as a snack or as added crunch to any number of dishes. Definitely my most utilised seed in the kitchen - I can't believe how many I threw into the compost before I knew of their tasty goodness.
  • Nasturtium seeds are also garden gold as they can be turned into a substitute for capers. I finally made these last summer and have found them just as good as capers themselves. Which is handy when you have managed to kill at least two caper plants (even though they can apparently grow wild out of rocks and thrive on neglect).
  • Herb seeds can also make a nice addition to homemade teas. My favourites to use are fennel and coriander.

So there you have it, a crash course in 'garden foraging'. The easiest way to increase your garden yields without increasing your gardening efforts.

Have you tried foraging in the wilds or your own backyard?
Any interesting bits of plants that you use in the kitchen?

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