Urban Food Foraging

The other day I had the boring task of waiting for an hour and a half for a chip in my windscreen to be fixed. The location of the chip repair place was an industrial part of Auckland. Being a sunny day I didn’t fancy sitting in the shop’s waiting room feeling impatient and distracted, so I went to check out the park across the road.

Foraged kawakawa, the best leaves are the bug eaten ones!

Hamlin’s Hill Mutukaroa is a regional park, and a very unsuspecting one at that. Hamlins Hill has to be one of the smallest of Auckland’s Regional Park’s, as it is nestled between the industrial main road of Great South Road and the motorway. Honestly I had pretty low expectations. Within a minute of having walked through the farm gate of the park I was blown away by how quiet it was. Hamlins Hill is a small urban farm, complete with cows and sections of (fenced off) native forest. There were native birds and flowers galore! A quick 5 minute walk uphill provided a great contrasting view of Auckland, where I could spot 6 other volcanic cones. Wandering through the park I came across a large windblown kawakawa branch which had snapped from the main bush. Kawakawa has lots of different uses, so I set to foraging the leaves. Sitting in the park stuffing my produce bag (always be prepared!) with fallen kawakawa leaves I mentally added this park to my list of foraging spots. And thus this blog post was born. 

Living in Central Auckland, it can be hard to find decent foraging places. I especially love native bush tea, but finding healthy, large native trees is not that easy in urban areas. There’s also limited information available online, especially NZ specific. I realised I’ve already shared some of my favorite tools and locations to urban forage, so I have collated them all for you in one easy to read blog post. You’re welcome! My apologises to overseas readers, this is a New Zealand specific blog post. Those of you in NZ and not in Auckland, my apologises this is a little specific to Auckland. But a lot of the information I share will be NZ universal, just not the locations!

The rules of foraging are simple: 

  1. Be respectful
  2. Keep it legal 
  3. Use your common sense
  4. Take only what you need

Don’t spoil it for other people. If there are rules in the area about limits, stick to the limit. Always leave the place tidier than you found it. If you are on private property, ask for permission. Use you common sense!

Foraging in your yard:

I’m going to start with the obvious foraging starting point; edible weeds! You usually don’t have to stray too far to find weeds, my garden is rampant with weeds and a lot of self seeded veges/herbs from my compost bin. I love making pesto and smoothies out of foraged greens from my garden and lawn. The number 1 rule with weeds is to pick from spray-free areas. For this reason I would recommend you stick to your own property and not pick from local parks. Check out this guest blog post on foraging for edible weeds here.

 

Foraging Kawakawa in Auckland:

My friend Rob, (of the edible weeds blog post fame) writes a highly informative blog about native NZ trees. So instead of me explaining to you all the reasons I love Kawakawa, I’m going to suggest you read his blog post instead. As Rob explains, the leaves that have been bug eaten are the best to forage. I forage kawakawa to dry and use as tea and am also steeping some in oil to make a balm.

Kawakawa is one of the easier to find native plants in Auckland. I’ve spotted some small bushes growing in local parks and street berms. My favourite place to forage to Kawakawa is while I’m out tramping, as it’s abundant. In Auckland you’ll find plenty of Kawakawa in the regional parks, especially the Waitakere Ranges and Hunua. In Central Auckland Kawakawa can be found at One Tree Hill, Auckland Domain, Hamlins Hill and most other decent sized parks. Make sure you are foraging from decent sized bushes, picking the bug eaten leaves and avoiding plants growing close to contaminated areas.

Foraging Avocados in Auckland:

Yep you read that right! Avocados, for FREE, in Auckland!

I’ve mentioned this one on my blog before too, you can read about the wonderful free avocado orchard at Otuataua Stonefields here. There’s not much information about this public orchard. I stumbled upon an article about it online a number of years ago but couldn’t find anything else. There is a maximum limit of 5 avocados per person. I would also highly recommend a harvesting pole or ladder, as the trees are tall and climbing is not allowed.  The orchard is in a fairly isolated part of Auckland, located just out of the small community of Ihumatao. The area is under threat of development, for more information and to support the kaitiaki (guardians) of Otuataua check out SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape).

Foraging Feijoas in Auckland:

Feijoa’s are abundant during March – June. They are actually ridiculously easy to forage, as most people with a feijoa tree are desperately trying to give them away. I don’t have a feijoa tree, and yet every feijoa season I too am inundated with the tasty pineapple guavas. I’m fortunate that my lovely neighbour shares his massive fruit from his 4 trees. If that’s still not enough feijoas for me, I visit the local public trees.

I first found public feijoa trees purely by accident. There’s a road in Sandringham, aptly named Grove Road which is lined with feijoa trees along the public berm. I’ve since learned Watson Ave and Hazlemere Rd also in Sandringham offer these fruitful street trees. Out South there is a hidden public feijoa grove in Mangere (96 Wallace Rd), which I visit on my way to the Avocado orchard.

Foraging Olives in Auckland:

Olives are also quite ubiquitous in public parks and berms. It always surprises me when I stumble upon a fully laden public olive (or fruit) tree that is obviously not being utilized. Olives are great for having in abundance as they are so easy to preserve. I haven’t gone olive picking yet as I happen to have a decent olive preserve supply from my friends, whom I swap my own goodies with. Basque Park in Eden Terrace has a decent olive grove, which I also happened to stumble upon.

The Ultimate Food Foraging Map:

And for everything else, here’s the best urban food foraging tool that you will ever need…

New Zealand Fruit and Food Share Map

I have been aware of this map for about 5 years now, although I don’t recall where I first found it. I’ve used this map to locate plenty of fruit trees and see what is local to me. This resource appears to be have established in 2009, by fellow Aucklander, Michael Brenndorfer. Although the map has been shared by various media outlets, it’s still not very well known. Which really defeats the purpose of the map! So please share this map and add on any public spots you know of.

Community Networks:

I have mentioned this on my Instagram & Twitter before, get to know your neighbours! I know most of my neighbours as I’m fortunate to live in a neighbourly community. There’s the neighbor with a pear and plum tree, a neighbour with feijoa and avocado trees, a neighbour with surplus Kombucha SCOBY (where I first got mine), and a household of children who love the mandarins on my trees. When my neighbour’s kids asked if they could pick some mandarins they offered me money. I turned it down, explaining that my household couldn’t eat all of the mandarins ourselves, and that during the other months of the year the other neighbour’s share their fruit abundance with me.  What goes around comes around. Just because I live in urban Auckland and I rent doesn’t mean I shouldn’t know my neighbours. Also humble brag, my next door neighbour (who shares his feijoas) gave me avocados!

This is the most cliche millennial instagram thing I've ever shared, but hear me out! Avocado on toast doesn't have to cost a fortune. I make my own sourdough bread and my neighbor gave me these avocados. My neighbor loaned me a tarpoline to cover my tiny house floor with. When I returned it I gave him a loaf of freshly baked sourdough. We had a friendly conversation about building and he gave me these avocados, home grown from his tree. This is the sharing economy in action people! Also talk about low food miles! I know most of my neighbours, despite the fact that I rent. I have been given fruit from many of their yards. I have shared fruit from my own yard too. I feel like this isn't a common thing anymore, which is really sad. Knowing my neighbours gives me so much piece of mind and a lot of fruit!

A post shared by Amanda in Waste Free Land (@chamandarino) on

Also there are heaps of local community garden networks. Contact your local garden and to get involved and reap the rewards!

Dumpster Diving:

Here’s the most urban foraging thing you can do, jump into a commercial dumpster and find some treasure! Disclaimer: dumpster diving is technically illegal, as it’s counted as theft and trespassing. In saying that, there are no major cases of charges or arrests over dumpster diving. I myself have been caught by security guards and the police, who have let me walk away (even with my bounty!). Just be friendly and honest, and throw in some food waste statics while talking about the real criminals being the corporations who are knowingly throwing out all of this edible food! Sorry, I tend to get a bit ranty when it comes to food waste and big business. For more information about dumpster diving, have a read of my guest post here.

The Community Fridge Auckland:

I know this isn’t technically foraging, but it is still free food! Plus yours truly set this up, so why shouldn’t I mention my own project in a blog post about surplus, free food?! You can find the Community Fridge at the wonderful Griffiths Gardens space in Auckland’s CBD (at least until the space becomes a City Rail Link construction site in late 2018). Food is usually donated in the evenings around business closing time, and is delivered by a team of volunteers. For more information about the Community Fridge, check out my blog posts here.

Foraging Resources:

For more NZ specific food foraging resources check out the following:

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