- Chloe Grabham
Forage for wild weeds in Sydney's Inner-West
It's a clear wintery Saturday in a park along the banks of the Cooks River. Cyclist and joggers zoom past, taking a much more energetic approach then what I have planned for the morning.
There are scattered spots of sunshine that hit the dew drizzled shoots of grass dampening the leftover over crunchy autumn foliage and flatweed leaves under my feet. A mixed group of about 12 or so have gathered to acquire and explore the mystical and medicinal world of all things plants -native, international and even edible weeds.
Teaching and sharing his wealth of botanical wisdom on this sunny morning is our charismatic guide, Diego Bonetto aka The Weedy One. Distinguished for his influential contribution to environmental activism and the foraging food movement within Sydney's hospitality industry, Diego communicates his passion and knowledge through animated conversations and memorable stories.
Anybody who has the even the slightest appetite for wild food, needs to check out this interactive workshop set in the unsuspecting mecca of weediness in Sydney’s Inner-Western suburbs.
Standing with sturdy mangrove vines to the right and the shade of a bushy Camphor Laurel to the left, you feel like you are away from it all….. until that “Marrickville-moment” arrives as an A380 prepares to land at nearby Mascot, jolting you back to reality and that you are indeed of in the heart of Sydney.
Diego retells tales once shared by local indigenous members that reflect on the traditional connection they have with the land, and the way in which plants and trees have shaped the indigenous culture. This intuitive and respectful care for the seasons is a principle which is slowly coming back into practice (better late than never) especially when it comes to the world of food.
Taking the whole edible weeds and native plants movement to the next level is many local Sydney restaurants. Embracing the easy accessibility, lengthy seasonality and all round trendiness of serving up “native/edible weeds”, the likes of Warrigal Greens and Wild Sorrel are fast becoming the a trendsetter on the plate.
In the small space which we stroll along the Cooks River for about 2.5hrs, over 10 varieties of edible and medical weeds and plants overflow from a small wicker basket. Learning to identify and understand the role of weeds and the everyday ecology of suburban spaces (like your own backyard) starts to make you look at things differently. Let’s just say I was more than keen to make a salad with freshly picked Rumex sagittatus (aka Rambling Dock).
Diego also reiterates how important it is to understand the area where your foraging from and what you are foraging before consuming any weed/plant. Being 100% positive in identifying the plant and knowing the conditions in which it has been growing like exposure to pesticides etc are critical before eating any plant.
A great day for all ages, pack a camera, an open mind and see a weedly interesting side to Sydney. Trust me, you will never look at a Dandelion the same way again!
To find out more about Diego, his workshops and even wild foraging feasts click here