Eighteen months ago, I’d never been to a cooking school or food workshop. Now, it seems every other weekend I’m off to learn something new. This time last year I was in Bali, doing a Casa Luna class, this time a few weeks ago I was enthralled in a Fermented Foods workshop but today, it was all about the local neighbourhood. Once again, community minded ‘Green’ Dean Bleasdale was running an event. This time, ‘Eat Your Street’.
At the duly appointed time, we met at Dean’s house in Carina (home of the Winny St Crop Swap) to wander the suburb, visiting some local neighbours gardens, learning about edible weeds, bush tucker and honing our eye in spotting food sources all around. In what is a relatively average suburb with very working class roots, it was surprising what was available.
Dean had organised for us to visit some local back and front yards so we could see the extensive fruit and vegetables that can be grown with a bit of determination, in suburbia. Grapes, olives, guava, citrus, bananas, our old friend the mango as well as endless varieties or herbs. Andy from around the corner was successfully growing rockmelon along the cyclone mesh fence, rather than on the ground as I had usually seen.
Under foot, edible weeds abounded. One I have always known as Portulaca (and it actually is Portulaca oleracea) is also known as Purslane or Pigweed. It’s lemony and can be scattered into salads as can tiny little shamrock shaped Oxalis corniculata or Yellow Wood Sorrel. Larger amounts of oxalis need to be cooked to break down the oxalic acid. Young leaves of the Plantain (Plantago major) can also be added to salads or cooked as a green.
Many’s a morning I sat in Aunty Marjorie’s kitchen in the UK, reading the recipe for ‘Dock Pie’ on the souvenir plate on her wall. And there it was, Dock weed (Rumex) growing all around the backyard of a neighbour. Of course, many of the ‘weeds’ are plants that are normal food sources in other cultures or have gone out of fashion but are on their way back in. Did you know that you can eat the leaves of the humble Cobbler’s Peg (Bidens pilosa)? Kylie Kwong has them on her Wild Food menu at Billy Kwong. Better get out in that yard and start tasting before the foodies price you out of the market!
The tour also took us to the local creek where we spotted native ginger, a council planting of garlic chives that was almost certainly planted for its hardiness rather than to provide a food source to the community, as well as habitats for yabbies and even eels. After two hours we had looped back to Dean’s for a refreshing drink, snack and relax. This is the first of these walks that Dean has put on, after canvassing the neighbourhood for willing participants and spotting plenty of food sources in the vicinity. He hopes that those who attended (some from as far afield as Deception Bay) will be able to organise similar short walks in their own suburbs. He has put the call out for others to join in. The event is totally free and is a great way to connect with those who share similar interests and, to meet your neighbours!
If you are interested in organising or participating in an Eat Your Street walk, the best thing is to visit Green Dean’s website or Facebook page and connect with him. He can give advice, ideas and support and would be certainly keen to join in.