Want to reduce food waste? Foraging is your friend

The ABC’s War on Waste program has been stirring up a lot of debate about our plastic waste and the sheer amount of food we’re discarding on a daily basis. And it’s a good thing.

Being confronted by the statistics on how many plastic toothbrushes end up on this tiny island in the Pacific Ocean has made me vow to buy a bamboo one instead.

But being green or waste wise doesn’t just have to be for those living in the inner city. Reusing and choosing second hand are options for us all.

I’m all about second hand clothes, furniture and anything else that’s still serviceable. Thanks to the generosity of friends and family we have managed to gather most of our baby needs for our impending arrival without actually having to go into a store with the words ‘bunting’ in it.

Some people like to have brand new things and that’s fine – but when you see how much stuff is out there already – and in good nick – then it seems a waste not to give it a second (or third) life.

It’s the same when it comes to food. The idea of dumpster diving might not be everyone’s thing, but don’t discount the food that is hanging overhead or growing in the verges near your home.

One of my favourite hobbies is to scour my neighbourhood for verge-side figs and overhanging lemons.

Passionfruit is another exciting find. I’d never seen passionfruit growing before I moved to my suburb and I love their exotic looking flowers and greenish purple fruit.

I never buy figs but when I forage a bounty during the summer months I eat them fresh, roast them up with mascarpone and honey, or use the runt of the litter in a cake.

Quinces, crab apples and oranges can be the bright spots outside of the warmer months and don’t overlook herbs – keep a look out for bushes of hardy rosemary, mint or parsley peaking through a fence or growing wild in a verge. A few springs won’t be missed.

I’ve yet to experiment with foraging weeds, mushrooms and the like, but hope to branch out after doing a tour first like this one, or taking a look at the indigenous foods that are right under our noses.

If you’re after a more organised foraging experience, check out The Growing Abundance Project in Castlemaine, Victoria where volunteers get a third of the fruit picked during a harvest of an orchard, with the rest going to the tree owner and community organisations.

The Project is currently running a crowd-sourcing campaign to help purchase equipment for their café, The Local. This café is all about growing and eating healthy local food, harvesting from orchards and backyards and growing the local food economy. You’ll be supporting them safe in the knowledge that 100% of profits go back into supporting the Harvest program and other ethical food initiatives.

There’s still time to pitch in if you’re keen to support a local initiative doing some sustainable and tasty things.

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Apples anyone? Head along to an orchard harvest with The Growing Abundance Project. Photo: Annie Spratt.

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If you visit one place in Italy for the food, make it Florence

It’s not hard to see why Florence is a fav destination for many. The place is romantic, filled with history and culture, and also serves up some of Italy’s best food. But you can all too easily fall into the trap of overspending on sub-standard fare if you stick to the haunts around the Piazza del Duomo. Instead, join the locals here:

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Florence offers an abundance of deliciousness.

Mario’s

Only open for lunch, this small restaurant offers mouth-watering and satisfying meals that’ll have you salivating for days. Arrive at 11.45am so you can get a table and peruse the menu outside. You can practice your patchy Italian here but all you pretty much need to know is that you’ll get the ravioli and ribollita for starters. And then choose your meat options for the main – a large, juicy, salt-and-butter crusted pork chop, or if you dare, share the city’s famed T-bone steak between two. Order a side, throw in a glass of Chianti for a few euros and that’s your breakfast, lunch and dinner sorted.

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Florence’s Subway.

All’Antico Vinaio

Florence’s answer to Subway but about 10 times better. Be prepared for a fast-moving line and know what you want. Choose from the list, or create your own such as prosciutto, sheep’s cheese, eggplant, tomato and tapenade. Squished between slides of warm crusty focaccia bread, these 5 Euro babies will keep you full for hours. Best eaten with a bottle of Chianti poured into plastic cups sitting in the gutter – or for somewhere more classy, take away down to the River Arno.

Central Market

You really could eat every meal here. From 10am start the day with an espresso and a sweet flaky (and cheap!) Italian pastry. Then buy the makings of a picnic lunch – but be warned it may take you a few hours to peruse all the cheese on offer. Add some prosciutto, tomato tasting tomatoes, blood red oranges and some biscotti for afterwards. Still hungry later on? Head upstairs to the large food court with offerings such as fried and grilled seafood, burgers, more T-bone steak, pasta, pizza, and so much more. Grab a beverage from one of the bars and happily feed your face while you people watch.

Vivoli

You can’t visit Italy and not eat gelato. There’s no shortage of gelatarias in Florence, full of mouth-watering mounds of gelato but why not go to the best and original? It’s worth seeking out for the pear and cameral, bacio, mango… well pretty much every flavour under the hot Tuscan sun.

Where have you eaten in Florence? Any recommendations?

Appreciating gin

I’ve always thought I hated gin. That sharp reminder of alcohol as it hits the back of the throat, and its reputation as a tear-inducing, mascara-ruining tipple. But could a gin masterclass change my mind? I was keen to find out.

On a dreary Melbourne day, I joined 13 other friends at the cosy Bad Frankie to listen to owner and Australian-spirit enthusiast Sebastian Costello wax lyrical about gin.

Settling in with a 313 Dry gin and tonic spiced with a sprinkling of dry wattle seed, we learn of the spirit’s infamous past, its years in the wilderness as the poor cousin to whiskey and vodka, and its renaissance.Gin

During prohibition in the United States, ethanol was banned but industrious types instead turned to cleaning ethanol which they mixed in the bath with juniper, and other flavours to cut the alcohol. This fusion was coined ‘bathtub gin’ but its future was short lived with the Government cottoning on and adding poison to cleaning ethanol to stop its abuse.

It’s only been in the past few decades that gin has been seen as a top-shelf spirit like whiskey with the introduction of new wave gins like Hendricks playing around with different botanicals and elevating it beyond the Old London gin of juniper and lemon peel.

And a bunch of passionate and proud Australian gin makers are in on the act, keen to see the local versions thrive.

When Seb set up the bar in 2014 there were 23 Australian gins on offer, now there are 82 available featuring both traditional and native ingredients.

We’re given a lesson in the different botanicals used in combinations to flavour the gin. Added to juniper can be anything from aniseed, cardamom, salt bush and angelica root.

gin botanicalsWe bury our noses into glass jars, pinch the ingredients between our fingers and breathe deeply. Like wine, these are the flavours we will pick up during the tastings.

An  Archie Rose gin is first off the rank, its woody aroma sticking on the palette as we swish it around our mouths, swallow and breathe like we have been shown.

The next is sweeter, a Melbourne Gin Company drop that has been made using grapefruit, macadamia and sandalwood, followed by the crowd favourite, Kangaroo Island Spirits O Gin with native coastal daisy (like rosemary) the hero ingredient.

A West Winds has a salty taste, fitting its nautical design, while the Four Pillars blows you away with its high alcohol content, and rich orange, finger lime and aniseed afternotes.

The afternoon has definitely given me a better appreciation of what goes into making a good quality gin and I think it’s a spirit I could definitely get used to – paired with some tonic of course.

See what’s on offer for World Gin Day, Saturday 11 June.