Posted: 20 Nov 2012

Foraging in Melbourne
with Raymond Capaldi

To the untrained eye. Melbourne’s nature strips and riverbanks are overgrown with weeds.

But Ray Capaldi sees the lush undergrowth as a delicious source of food. Every day, the Scottish-bred owner/chef at Hare and Grace goes hunting for sorrel, dandelion, berries, thistles, wild mint and more, using the foraged goodies at his Collins St restaurant to add unique flavour and visual interest.

Before you grab a wicker basket and stomp into the undergrowth, there are a few rules to follow. Wannabe foragers should never eat plants unless they are absolutely sure of what they have picked. Raymond also steeps the leaves in a few changes of fresh water, to remove any contaminants. And he steers clear of roads and walkways, along with council land that may have been sprayed with toxic chemicals. Usually, there are warning signs around, but it’s best to call the council and ask.

Another option is to latch onto a weed expert like Doris Pozzi, who runs edible weed walks, talks and workshops around Melbourne and the Yarra Valley. And then check out Raymond’s top five foraging spots in Melbourne. Just make sure you don’t over-pick his stash.

1. Yarra River, between Richmond and Fairfield

Forage the riverbanks for bullrush (the roots are fantastic for cooking) and wild rocket (which has a great sesame flavour).

2. Merri Creek, from North Fitzroy to Northcote

Here I find wild rhubarb, wild radish (the flowers and roots are lovely roasted with fish and meat), milk thistle (use the roots in salads) and common sow thistle (the dried flowers taste great with butter on fish and meat).

3. La Trobe University, Bundoora

Around here I find vanilla lily (not to be confused with the ones in the florist shops, the roots are great), wild fennel (for soups, salads and oil – the stalks are also great for the grill), wild borage (I use the stalks in salads and with fish), pigweed (for salad leaves) and wild river mint (handle with care because the flavour is very strong).

4. North Fitzroy, along the old railway tracks

This area is great for cardoons (I use the stalks in salads),  the pink flowered native raspberry (a true raspberry flavour) and wild celery (pick the young leaves).

5. Black Rock and Mornington

I head to these beaches for seaweeds (great with fish), purslane (salads, garnishes), saltbush (tasty with lamb, fish and salads), coast wattle (the seeds are tasty in soups and as a garnish).

For more Top Fives, take a look here.




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