Feature

The food forager

Green Lifestyle Magazine

The quest for free food via 'foraging' or 'scrumping' is starting to infiltrate our psyche. Ahead of the pack, Diego Bonetto has foraged ever since he was a boy, and he’s showing Australia that there's a bountiful backyard full of great food to enjoy.

Diego Bonetto

The quirky character Diego Bonetto is an expert forager who finds and eats healthy, local ingredients that are growing in the wild.

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Why forage for food?

"There’s a whole number of species, a whole number of plants and mushrooms and various fruits that you will not find in the supermarket, so it’s more about finding that special ingredient that you will only have if you go and get it yourself.

"There’s also the aspect of the passion of doing it, of actually going out and collecting from the wild. It’s something beautiful that gives back a feeling of engagement with the land around you."

You grew up in Northern Italy, how does the foraging in Australia compare to that?

"It’s easier here, much easier. There’s so much competition in Italy to find the special things. Over here in Australia you just go out to the beaten track and you’ll find wild asparagus that no one’s ever seen before."

What are some of your favorite things to forage for here in Australia?

"It depends on the season. It’s important that you follow seasons, and what’s good at that particular time of the year. My favorite ingredients would have to be mushrooms, dandelion, wild fennel, wild olives and wild asparagus. Some of my favorite dishes probably involve dandelions, because I relate a lot to that particular plant.

"I learn bits and pieces from people all over the world - many who have knowledge related to the plants living here in Australia, so the more I talk to people, the more people talk to me, and the more knowledge that gets built up."

Do you have any important advice or information for someone who is thinking of getting involved with foraging?

"I have three rules that pretty much sum up what you should be aware of and what you should look for:

"The first rule is; the best place to forage is your own backyard. That means you don’t just go improvising and tasting out in the field, because you don’t know what’s growing, how the land is being treated or if it’s being polluted or sprayed with herbicides. So you forage where you know the land.

"The second rule is to positively identify everything. That means don’t just go around trying to work out ‘this more or less matches the picture’, that’s a bit silly, and apart from the fact it might not taste good, you also might be in trouble because some species may actually give you an upset tummy. If you’re not sure of what you’re doing, then just go out with someone who is.

"The third rule is to be nice to the colony. Don’t over-harvest, don’t just crop everything and then say ‘oh I have too much, I might just chuck it away’, be nice to the plants so that when you come back there’s still more for you and for others."

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Diego is running workshops at the upcoming 'The Rocks Windmill' event in Sydney in May. Click here for more information.