In most cultures, it ain't no thing. You don't need to be a bearded hipster to go foraging for your own food. You don't have to drink natural wine and ride a fixed gear bike to know your edible mushrooms from your poisonous jobs.
Foraging is just the done thing in other countries. Spend time in Spain, or Italy, or Germany, or even Russia, and you'll find that going out and sourcing your own food is what people do. When it's mushroom season, they head out to the forest to pick mushrooms. When it's winter, they cure their own meats. If they've got space in the garden, they'll grow grapes to make their own wine.
Australia is slowly catching on. We don't have a great tradition here of growing or foraging or creating our own food, but there are tourism operators now that offer people the chance to do it. You can source some of the country's finest and most expensive produce for yourself – as long as you know where to look.
Truffle hunting, Manjimup, WA
Pound for pound, these are pretty much the most valuable foodstuff on Earth. They rival gold for cost per gram. They're coveted by the world's best restaurants. And they grow in Australia. They are, of course, truffles, the world's most delicious fungi, and right now it's truffle season in Manjimup, Western Australia. Australian Truffle Traders, which supplies truffles to the Fat Duck and the Ledbury, among many other high-end European and Australian restaurants, allows truffle fans to come along with Gavin Booth, the farmer, and two power-sniffing Labradors, in the hunt for black gold. Sadly, however, you don't get to keep your finds (they're worth about $2500 per kilo). See australiantruffletraders.com.
Oyster farming, Coffin Bay, SA
You could go out in your local area, of course, and try to find your own oysters. You could hope to luck onto a few of them growing on rocks and then chisel them off yourself. Or, you could take a much safer bet and go along with Oyster Farm Tours in Coffin Bay, South Australia, to wade out into the water and source your own tasty bivalves, before learning how to shuck them and devour. See oysterfarmtours.com.au.
Mushroom foraging, Mornington Peninsula, VIC
Where do mushrooms come from? The supermarket, obviously. Very few of us ever get out into the wild to forage for them, probably because spotting the difference between safe, poisonous and magic mushrooms can be difficult for the average punter. The solution, however, is a guy called Cameron Russell, who runs mushroom foraging workshops in Mornington Peninsula. Learn which mushrooms are edible, and where to find them. See mushroomtours.com.
Bush tucker, Kakadu, NT
Of course, there are Australians who have been foraging for tens of thousands of years. On an Animal Tracks safari in Kakadu, in the Northern Territory, you get to learn this skill from the best, heading out with a local Aboriginal elder to find freshwater mussels, palm hearts, bush carrots, edible grubs, and even live green ants. You also learn that the thing most people think of as the Maori "hungi" – a ground oven – was being used in Australia well before New Zealand was even inhabited. See animaltracks.com.au.
Barra fishing, Darwin, NT
It may not exactly be foraging when you pull your dinner up from the ocean, but it's still sourcing your own food, and there are few better places to do it than Darwin. All the fishermen there tell stories of barramundi literally jumping into the boat, and while that's pretty much certain to not happen to you, there's still a good chance of hooking a barra and then having the chef at the Hilton hotel – if you're staying there – cook it up for you. Go to northernterritory.com.
Urban foraging, Sydney, NSW
You don't have to be a country kid to find food in your local area. In Sydney, Diego Bonetto – an Italian artist, naturalist and forager – runs regular classes teaching interested locals and visitors about what's edible in a city environment. This is not some freegan dumpster-diving thing: it's about identifying edible or medicinal plants in parks, reserves, and backyards. Check out diegobonetto.com.
Wine-making, Barossa Valley, SA
Though there are plenty of Italians, Spanish and French families who tackle wine-making in their own backyard, that's probably not something most Australians are ready to get into just yet. There is, however, a good way to ease into the creation of your own drop: a "Make Your Own Blend" workshop at the Penfolds winery in the Barossa Valley. You can mix shiraz, mourvedre and grenache to your own taste. Fun – though, admittedly, the Penfolds winemakers probably do it better. See penfolds.com.
Have you ever done "foraging tourism"? Does Australia do it well? Or should we just leave this to the Europeans?
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