The unusually named pigface (Carpobrotus glaucescens, or carpobrotus rossii), also called karkalla, sea fig or sea bananas, is a succulent groundcover found in most parts of temperate coastal Australia. Its flowing green leaves and bright pink flowers are hard to miss as you walk the sand dunes for your ocean swim. This edible Australian native bushfood can also be easily grown in your garden.
Warrigal greens Tetragonia teragoniodes is a trailing leafy groundcover native to Australia, Eastern Asia and New Zealand – hence its other name, New Zealand spinach. In Europe it is now an invasive species, which belies its historical use as a great source of vitamin C for scurvy-riddled sailors and settlers during colonisation. Botanist Joseph Banks took warrigal greens back to England’s Kew Gardens, from where it became a popular cultivated vegetable for a while.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) can be seen as an annoying weed, but for those in the know, it is an abundant source of valuable vitamins and nutrients and is a tasty food source. Also known as pigweed (not to be confused with pigface, Carpobrotus rossii), it is a vigorous annual plant that grows like a ground cover and can be eaten raw or cooked. Highly revered in Mediterranean and Eastern cuisines, it is almost unknown to the Australian palate.
Oxalis is of the Oxalidaceae family which has over 850 different species worldwide, with about 30 species in Australia, seven of these native. A number of species are grown as ornamental plants. Oxalis is from the Greek oksos meaning sour, referring to the taste of the leaves and stems.
Yellow Dock is originally from Europe and has a wide array of medicinal uses. Traditionally it was for skin conditions (especially psoriasis), as a blood purifier, a slight laxative, cholagogue (to promote secretion of bile) and as an astringent bowel tonic. My favourite way to use it is as an iron tonic (the root) and as food (the seeds). You can also pick the seeds in late summer and use them to make flour. You can use them as a substitute for rooibos tea as well. Once the seeds are harvested and processed, store them in an airtight jar.
A weed loved equally by humans and hens, Fat Hen (Chenopodium album), also known as Lamb’s Quarters, is valued for both its culinary and nutritional benefits. An inoffensive texture and flavour makes it the perfect entry level weed for novice foragers. Fat Hen can be found in most climates but grows best in temperate zones.
Nettle grows all over Australia, preferring partially shady spots with fertile soils. The Australian native nettle, Urtica incisa (scrub nettle), is an upright perennial found in streams and rainforests. You can find other introduced varieties everywhere, such as the annuals Urtica urens (dwarf nettle) and Urtica dioica (common nettle).
Acorns (Quercus spp.) have long been thought of as a last resort food, but these small parcels of goodness pack quite a nutritional punch when processed the right way. Processing them is important, as acorns (like tea, chocolate and red wine) are jam-packed full of tannins. So much tannic acid in fact that they’re toxic to many livestock and even humans in their natural form. Leaching them of their tannins takes a little time and dedication. You also have to wait for trees to produce a mast crop every four or so years, though for the enthusiastic forager this can involve many enjoyable months of scouting these beautiful trees in the lead up to autumn. Patience certainly is a virtue where acorns are concerned, as they can reward you with easy to store sweet and nutty flour, and a cheap, cheerful and fattening winter feed for chooks and pigs.
The small-flowered mallow (Malva parviflora L.), is also known as whorled mallow, whorl-flower mallow, ringleaf marshmallow and cheeseweed. It originated in the Mediterranean and south-western Europe, but is considered native to Asia and North Africa too. It has naturalised throughout the world including all states and territories in Australia.
Wild fennel Foeniculum vulgare also called fenkel, sweet fennel, finule, is a hardy, frost tolerant biennial or short-lived perennial in the carrot family. It originated in the Mediterranean basin and has naturalised in many parts of the world. It was first recorded in Australia in 1803, and is widely distributed here. Its preferred habitat is rough terrain: empty lots, beside roads and railway lines, in fields, on hillsides and ocean cliffs. It’s particularly well-adapted to disturbed soils, which has enabled its rampant spread.