Back in April I had a lovely day out on the “Wild Tastes and Natural Wine Tour” – an event within the Adelaide Food and Wine Festival calendar.
We spent a relaxing Sunday wandering alone roadsides and creek beds in the Basket Range area of the Adelaide Hills, learning about edible weeds and wild foods.
Organised by Tiffany Schultz from Conscious Lifestyles, we were guided by Tiffany as well as Chris Brodie, a weeds specialist from the State Herbarium, and locals Anton von Klopper ( a natural winemaker) and Gareth Belton (biodynamic food producer and natural winemaker). Tiffany is a very impressive lady, who works to reconnect people to the earth through food. Coming from a family of food producers she appreciates that there are sustainable and caring ways to farm and share produce.
Foraged and wild foods seems to be a growing area of interest, with more and more chefs taking notice of what can be sourced locally. Tiffany says wild plants are a good option as a food source because they require little intervention. “Wild plants require no irrigation or fertilisation, but many are of culinary or medicinal value, are highly aromatic and flavoursome, full of antioxidants, and may actually be better for you than their pampered equivalents, because they have to be tough to survive,” she says.
It was pretty incredible how many wild foods we were able to harvest within a 1 square kilometre area.
Safety Notice: If you don’t know what you are doing, and can’t definitively recognise a plant, then DON’T eat it – never take risks with your health. Seriously we had a smart dude from the state herbarium with us, and even he had to double check on a few plants.
The first plant we came across has the common name “Fat Hen”, it is a dark green upright plant with sprays of small seeds that remind me of sorghum. The seeds in fact can be used in place of quinoa – which makes it a much more eco friendly alternative to the imported product. The leaves can also be sauteed. Bracken was growing everywhere, but we all agreed that unless we were in survival mode, it probably wouldn’t be eaten.
The favourite of the foraging experience was probably Sorrel, which has such a lovely fresh citrus flavour.
There were plenty of Dandelions around, and the bitter leaves can be used in salads or a sautee. It is high in anti-oxidants and I am surprised that more people aren’t calling it a superfood.
I found the native rivermint quite surprising, it is a large upright plant, not like the common garden mint. The fragrance and taste was more basil like, and it reminded me of Vietnamese Mint that comes with a bowl of Pho. The Watercress was a BIG find, Chris was hopping from rock to rock through the creek bed seeking this one out, and there was quite a “woohoo” moment when he found some. Chris kindly gave me a sprig to carry, but I pretty much ate it before we got much further. It was just perfect with crisp peppery leaves.
Some of the plants most of us would recognise included Walnuts, Blackberries, Apples, Roses, Asparagus and Fennel. The Walnut and Apple trees we saw growing along the roadside were pretty big, so must have self-seeded in the valley many years ago. And growing wild and uncared for means they are most certainly organic untreated produce. The Roses were those lovely little briar roses and they produce very tasty little rosehips that can be used for jellies or tea.
This is an organic farm, that uses biodynamic principles. Gareth supplies vegetables, herbs, leaves and flowers for a selection of restaurants in Adelaide – both from his farm and wild harvested. His extensive knowledge means that he is able to bring new flavours and ideas to the chefs, and also source ingredients that they are seeking.
An organic farm such as Gareths is all about the soil health and maintaing a balance with nature, so that pests and diseases can be managed without the use of sprays.
As the tour progressed we wandered over to Andre’s place – the Lucy Margaux vineyards, where the smell of cooking made us pick up the pace. As we walked towards the sheds, we spotted a BBQ of rabbit pieces which were seasoned and roasting over charcoal. The promotional spiel for the event mentioned a BBQ lunch, but we got WAY more than that. Tiffany, Andre, Gareth and their team of helpers put on a seriously impressive feast for us.
The massive shared table setup was just divine, with bowls of late season heirloom Tomatoes ready to serve, and stunning centrepieces of wild flowers and feijoas. Starting with spelt flour bread, which we greedily piled our Tomatoes onto, Tiffany chatted to us as she served each dish. The roasted pumpkin was just gorgeous, dressed with pearls of fresh pomegranate and goats curd.
We LOVED the pasta made with spelt flour (right in front of us – showoffs!) served with mushrooms, simple really is best. There were plenty of rabbit pieces to go around, and a salad of farmed and wild harvested greens – including edible flowers.
Throughout the lunch we had the opportunity to taste and purchase wines from Lucy Margaux and Gentle Folk, which is always a treat when the winemakers are doing the pouring and intros! Andre is a winemaker who has a beautiful and cheeky artistic spirit, he produces wines using natural methods. As he says “I have been trained, I do know what I am doing wrong”. His commitment to producing natural wines means that sometimes he has to be willing to loose a batch rather than treat it with additives.
To finish off we had a fragrant hot tea made with Lemon Verbena and other herbs, and a stunning cake made by Tiffany from feijoas (pineapple guava) – just wonderful!
Overall it was an incredible day out, and I will start looking at the roadsides and waterways of the Adelaide Hills in a whole new way now! So if you see a car on the side of the road, and a woman down in the ditch – I might not need assistance, I’m probably just foraging! (but please check just in case)
You can find out more about Andre, his wine philosophy and range here: I recommend the Pinot Noir.
You can follow Tiffany’s business Conscious Lifestyles on Facebook here
Chris is from the State Herbarium, based at the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide. The kind staff can assist with plant identification.
Make sure to visit the Museum of Economic Botany next time you visit the gardens too, boring name – but fascinating exhibits.