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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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.

Don’t make a resolution: do something fun instead

It’s a New Year and for many, a fresh start. You’ve read the articles on how to make effective resolutions and vowed to lose 10kg, be healthier or tidier around the house. But what about making promises to yourself about things you actually want to do? Not what you think you should do but what will make you feel good?

Instead of making resolutions I won’t keep, I’ve decided to give myself permission to do the following things this year.

Write letters

I used to send a lot of letters to my pen-pals. I collected them like stamps with a handful in Australia, in the US and across Europe. I used to include little stickers and photos. I would clumsily translate English into German using a phrase book. I even took advantage of this paper friendship and stayed with my German pen-pals on my first trip overseas at the age of 18. They cooked me schnitzel and I went to college with them, ate ice cream and rode bikes. So, this year I will write more correspondence. I’ll write to my grandparents and relatives overseas, and send more cards to friends.

Make more of my own things

I’ve dabbled in DIY before – making my own granola, yoghurt and soda bread. My partner makes salami, capacola and pancetta, pickles and sauce. This year we want to crack making our own bread. Paying $8 for a dense seedy organic loaf now seems a little extravagant but anything else tastes disappointing so we’ll have to make our own. As well as food items I’d like to grow more in my tiny garden and make cleaning products like washing powder.

Go camping

One of my favourite feelings is waking up with the birds at dawn, pulling on a jumper over my pajamas, crawling outside of my two-man tent and sitting in my chair with a cup of coffee. Whether it’s on a site in a caravan park or roughing it in a national park, I always feel calm and relaxed. So this year I want to go away for a couple of long weekend camping trips to experience this feeling again.

My stack of cookbooks just waiting to be used

My stack of cookbooks just waiting to be used.

Use my recipe books

I have a stack of cookbooks and received two more for Christmas. This year I will actually make some recipes from them rather than just looking at the pretty pictures. My partner and I tend to rotate through the same recipes each week and while there is nothing wrong with that, it is always nice to spice things up a bit with some new menu items.

Do more things alone

As an introvert, I quite enjoy my own company. I’m quite content to read for four hours or go for a long walk. But I also enjoy dining alone and going to the movies solo. I’ve dined sans a partner out of necessity when travelling or I’ve done it because I just fancied sitting in a café for a few hours on a drizzly weekend. And going to the movies alone – especially during the day – seems luxurious. So I will give myself permission to do these things more and maybe even add an exhibition to the mix.

What will you do for yourself this year?