We are so lucky in New Zealand to have such a great variety of food at our fingertips. To start a lifelong passion for great ingredients, don’t forget to let your kids in on the secret and teach them how to hunt, fish, gather … just like our parents did for us.
Probably one of the easiest things to gather and the most enjoyable. Whether digging for pipis at low tide or picking mussels from the rocks, it’s heaps of fun splashing around in the surf and collecting dinner in the process. Always have an adult present and take only enough for a feed.
Pick your own berries.
I have always looked upon the numerous varieties of berries as ‘nature’s lollies’. From wild blackberries in the late summer to roadside berry farms, plucking these delicious treats is a wonderful joy of life.
Plant fresh herbs
In pots all year round and get the kids to learn the names and varieties … parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme!
Keep an eye on the weather in autumn
And when the first decent rains come, take a trip out into the country to look for field mushrooms. Once you spot them in the fields, pull over to the nearest farmhouse and politely ask the cocky if he minds you walking his fields to gather a basketful. Be sure to mention that you will pick plenty for him as well.
Off the wharf is a favourite activity for me and my two daughters, Alice and Connie. We always have fresh ice to put them on immediately after ending their lives with a quick iki (stab) to the head. Lightly flour, cook in a little butter and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice. It’s slow eating, removing the bones as you go, but more time around the table, which is a bonus these days.
Purchase a collapsible crab pot
For under $50,tie a chicken carcass in the middle of it and at low tide (preferably dusk) walk it out to waist deep and let it ‘soak’ for 20 minutes before retrieving. Repeat until you have a feed of Paddle crabs. Remember to put the little ones back.
Picking watercress from fresh spring creeks.
Beautifully green, crunchy and with a terrific peppery flavour, it can be found in many areas of New Zealand. Mix with simple iceberg lettuce to kick your salads up a notch.
If you or a family member has a gun licence and 22 calibre rifle,
A knock on a farmer’s door to get permission to walk over their land to shoot a rabbit or two will generally be greeted with “by all means, be my guest”. Wild rabbit is delicious to eat. Slow roast or braise with red wine, winter herbs, onions, carrots, garlic , mushrooms and chicken stock, served over mash potato … incredible.
Pick your own stone fruit.
There are still plenty of orchards that allow you to grab a basket. It’s as cheap as chips, you eat your fill, then take 10 kilos home to preserve in jars, ready for you to enjoy a taste of summer in the depths of winter.
Finally, the last type of foraging,
But one that is not always readily available, is to gather fresh walnuts in the shell. To crack open and extract perfectly-formed fresh walnuts from their natural casing is outstanding and is leap years ahead in taste than anything store-bought.
Al Brown is an acclaimed chef, cookbook author, TV host and very keen fisherman. As a Dad himself, he is passionate about families and food, and would love to see all kids have a chance to hunt, fish, pick and gather. www.albrown.co.nz