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?

Living like a local: 4 ways to immerse yourself while on holiday

During a recent trip to Europe, my partner and I played the game of ‘could I live here?’ While the thinking was a pie in the sky, we were asking it while doing things that the locals were doing.

Although we saw the sights, paid too much, lined up, and took selfies, we also took our cues from residents and took time to embrace the every day.

Here are some ways you can combine your ‘to do’ list with a bit of cultural immersion to get a feel for what really living there would be like.

Stay in an Airbnb

Staying in an Airbnb gives you the opportunity to discover neighbourhoods you would never visit if you confined yourself to a hotel in the city centre. Your host will provide you with great local tips on where to eat, shop and when to visit the sights. We would never have discovered a deliciously traditional French restaurant – and tripe sausage – if it wasn’t for our lovely host.

The Eiffel Tower was nice but so was the tripe sausage.

The Eiffel Tower was nice but so was the tripe sausage.

Take public transport or use your own two feet

There is no better way to understand the occupants of a new place than by people watching. Take the train to see what commuting would be like – just be reminded that trying to backpack your way through London on the underground at peak hour may elicit a few death stares if your Oyster card declines. Taking a bus gives you a different perspective, while walking is the best way to discover hidden alley ways, cute boutiques and street art.

Visit the local shops

Eating out is one of the great pleasures of travelling but you don’t have to do it for every meal. Buying groceries at the local supermarket can be a fun and educational experience, not to mention a much cheaper option. Visiting a fresh food market is a must if you can. Pick up some supplies to take on a picnic or use it to create your breakfasts in the morning. One of our best finds in Florence was the large undercover market with stalls filled to the brim with cheese, cured meats, biscotti, and juicy blood oranges – it was a tourist attraction in itself.

Do something you would back home

One of my favourite travel experiences was spending an hour or so at the laundromat in Bedford–Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. It provided the perfect opportunity to just sit and read my book, look out the window and listen to the chatter of locals going about their business. The same feel can be achieved by visiting a local library or bookstore, sitting in a park, going to the cinema, or attending a sports match. Attending a Canadian football league game in Toronto gave us an insight into a sport we didn’t know much about and ample time to people-watch.

Try to live a little bit like a local, and you’ll discover a whole lot more about the place you’re visiting.

How do you ‘live like a local’ while on holiday?