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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In defence of public holidays

Melburnians were out in force on Friday for the public holiday they were given in order to prepare for the Australian Football League Grand Final.

No one would argue that it’s a pretty ridiculous reason to be given a public holiday, but judging by the number of people I encountered on my bike ride around the city, it was evident everyone was taking full advantage of it.

Predictably, industry and business groups were not happy with decision, warning of a ghost town and productivity loss.

But Premier Daniel Andrews defended his public holiday, highlighting the positive impact the time off would have on families. I tend to agree with his reasoning.

While small businesses and some industries may have suffered and lost money in paying staff penalty rates, can a cost be placed on people’s health? Shouldn’t we place importance on work/life balance as well as the economy?

I like to think of public holidays as large-scale giant mental health days. For those who can get a day off, it provides the time to do something you enjoy, to spend time with people you care about or to just do nothing.

Research conducted to coincide with Go Home on Time Day, found that the hours Australians work in overtime in a year adds up to almost $110 billion. Not paying their employees for this extra time is surely a benefit business is already reaping.

Melbourne was glorious for the public holiday on October 2.

Melbourne was glorious for the public holiday on October 2.

The sunny weather obviously has an impact on the number of people being active on the public holiday; there were groups of cyclists, joggers and couples running together. Families and groups of friends were taking up real estate on any patch of lawn available for picnics and barbecues. Others left the city for the water, the highways to the coast and river much busier than they would have been otherwise.

Watching everyone enjoying this free day made me think of how important it is to be forced to not work. Despite our image to the contrary, Australians really don’t like not working.

We are a nation of workaholics. The latest Roy Morgan figures show Australia’s full-time workforce has about 21 of days of leave accrued.

So a few forced public holidays scattered throughout the year is, in my book, a public service.

What do you like to do on a public holiday?