Monday, June 3, 2013

A Forager's Treasury: Johanna Knox

This book is both delightful and delicious.  No sooner had I bought it than I had to buy another one. The first copy has become an unexpected gift for a friend.  Everyone I know seems to be interested in food and foraging, to some extent or another and it's fantastic to have a contemporary resource based in New Zealand. A Forager's Treasury covers a range of plants, what they look like and what they're useful for. It also has a great recipe section at the back of the book - not just for food, but for skin care products as well. It even looks at plants that can be used for dye.

As Johanna points out in the introduction, times of economic scarcity bring about renewed interest in foraging.  This is also true for vege-gardening and considerate consumption patterns in general. People seem to take advantage in times of relative abundance and not worry too much about waste but in times of scarcity we tighten up our belts, preserve, conserve and forage.  I especially love how this book opens up new potential foods. As a child I was always told onion flowers were inedible, despite their distinctly oniony aroma, and I believed it until I read a Blog post of Johanna's about tempura battering them.  I still haven't tried it, but one of these days...

I first became aware of Johanna Knox about four years ago when she commented on one of my early Masters blog posts. I love how the internet works in linking people with similar interests and activities. I became a regular reader of her blogs, particularly Star-Cooked which had a lot of interesting information about solar cooking and foraging.  She has heaps of other blogs too.  It was through Johanna and Sandra that I became really interested in blogging and my Masters took a different direction.  I met Johanna in person at a Cafe in Wellington a few years ago. My toddler proceeded to lie on the floor of said cafe, her older child behaved in a much more socially responsible way, sitting at a table, while we talked about all sorts of things - food, politics, economics - fun stuff like that. I love meeting like-minded people.

Food foraging seems to intuitively relate to the concept of food sovereignty in its associated values and practice as well as in its vulnerability.  In order to forage for food people need to have the access to suitable wild landscapes and the knowledge of what to eat and when and how to prepare it. One of the key issues for food sovereignty is of people and communities having access to land.  We are lucky in New Zealand that there is heaps of stuff growing everywhere, but like most other places, we are faced with fewer and fewer truly 'public' spaces. We don't have commons for growing food or even many parks and road-side verges that aren't at risk of being sprayed with potentially harmful chemicals.

Dumpster-diving is often described as urban foraging.  The difference is that it relies on (and minimises) the waste created by corporate food systems rather than pre-existing organic matter that would simply bio-degrade and be recycled naturally.  Some people I know intentionally eat as much foraged food as possible - munching on plantain and dandelion leaves - in order to make use of what is already available as well as intentionally lessening dependence on 'the system' and saving money. I, personally, prefer the idea of munching on puha pakoras.  


  1. looks like a great book to take down into the gully! Thanks for letting me know of its existence

  2. I tried the onion flowers in tempura batter after she mentioned it in her This Way Up spot on National Radio. I wished it tasted more oniony, but otherwise good.

  3. Thank you very much for posting this Isa! That was a fun coffee, and your daughter behaved just as a toddler should. :) I wish I could lie on the floor in cafes sometimes.