Rather than featuring a plant, this post is about my trip South. I’ve recently come back from a fortnight visiting Collingwood, Nelson and Christchurch where I ran workshops on Wild Edibles, visited old friends, made wonderful new friends and did some Wwoofing (Working on Organic Farms in exchange for board). One of my old friends NgAngA (who by the way is an amazing artist) based now in Collingwood and who organized two wild edible workshops back in November 2014 when he lived in Takaka. He kindly sells my books from his gallery and even has organic produce for sale next to his gallery.
I’d not spent time in Collingwood before but it is a quaint little seaside town. I stayed in a tiny cabin in the only camping ground on its own little peninsula surrounded by sea, located just down the road from NgAngA’s art gallery. I didn’t have much food with me so decided to go foraging. I
found an amazing patch of ‘weeds’ that had garden veges in it as well. There was wild turnip, silver beet, mizuna, mibuna, galensoga, lots of orach which was new to me, purslane, amaranth, fathen and puha. I was just delighted and picked a whole bunch to cook. While I cooked I chatted to Sonny, who being Māori informed me he ate wild edibles growing up and taking a whiff over my pot confirmed I
had wild turnip in it. He thought it would be a whole lot tastier with the addition of a fatty bone, but I didn’t have one. I did have some seed bread, avocado and tomato which with my wild greens was a tasty breakfast! Sonny gave me a big nob of butter for the greens. There is a blur through the photo of my breakfast because I dropped my camera and the protective lens shattered. I later removed the glass but it gave an interesting effect while still on the lens. During breakfast I did some study and identified orach from my weed book.
I was rapt to meet Sonny because he confirmed something else I’ve wondered about for ages concerning black nightshade solanum nigram. Sonny told me his mother picked black nightshade leaves and cooked them up. I’d heard that people in the Pacific Islands eat them and so I’ve always
wondered about it. So I tried picking young leaves and cooking them myself and they taste ok and I’m still alive! He said they also ate the black, ripe berries which I knew about and have often done.
Don’t get me wrong I am not going to rush out and eat a lot of black nightshade leaves because it is in the solanum family and we don’t eat the leaves of other members like tomato, capsicum, potato and egg plant and that whole family is not so good to eat for those suffering arthritis. But it is good to know one can eat it if one had to, and if they are growing in unpolluted soil. I have often seen nightshade grow where it has been sprayed and perhaps it can help take up toxins and then I would not eat it. There is a part of the plant however, NOT to eat which is the green berries, so avoid eating them and teach children only to eat raw ripe black berries, like ripe red tomatoes.
Deadly nightshade is a totally different plant called Atropa belladonna. It is rare in NZ and only grows in the Christchurch area. See what it looks like below.
I walked the Collingwood beach at dawn and watched a gannet fly low over the sea. Further along the beach I found a coprosma shrub with ripe orange berries and I ate lots. Each berry has a large stone in relation to the amount of flesh, but I enjoy them as I know they are full of rich nutrients and antioxidants. I don’t chew the little stones but spit them out. Birds eat the berries and the excreted stones are how the plants are spread.
Later the same day I traded my new friend Suzanne, who I met in NgAngA’s gallery, a weed walk along with NgAngA and another local showing them all the plants I’d earlier discovered. In return Suzanne took me on an excursion to Aorere river and we found a side tributary for a swim and sun bathe. On the way we stopped at the famous Langford’s Store at Bainham, had a look around at the collection of memorabilia and had a refreshing cup of tea with gluten free slice. What an amazing step back in time that store is, now run by the great niece of the original owner. We went on to the beginning of the Heaphy Track, reminding me of my tramping trip walking the track in the late 80’s. The next day I took the bus over to Nelson. My time in Collingwood was short but sweet and I will definitely be going back!