Growing up on a farm in Italy, Diego Bonetto remembers being tasked with "collecting the wild greens of spring, the summer berries and the autumn mushrooms."
He moved to Australia in the mid-90s and worked in orchards and garden centres. He now takes groups on foraging trips around New South Wales.
His clients include people from the catering industry who come because they like new produce, and can see value in introducing new values in their kitchens. Young families come with their kids because they want to them to engage with their environment. Migrants from China, Italy, Greece, Macedonia, Malta, Spain, England and the Middle East come to rekindle something they grew up with.
"Survivalists come because theyre getting ready for the zombie apocalypse," Mr Bonetto laughed.
His golden rule is "if you dont know what youre doing, dont do it."
"Foraging isnt experimenting," he said. "Foraging is not Bear Grylls in the desert trying to guess whether he can eat this or hes going to die.
"Foraging is cultivating relationships with your own neighbourhood. If youre filling up your breakfast bowl with anything, make sure you know what it is."
There is no rule of thumb for what you can or cant eat in terms of appearance or colour. While you can learn about plants through TAFE courses and university, Mr Bonetto said that most knowledge about edibility and foraging of plants is inherited.
"If you study botany, or horticulture, youll learn about how to define plants but not necessarily what is safe to eat and what isnt," he said.
He encourages people to read about the Australian environment, go to workshops and botanic gardens, or learn about bush tucker from Indigenous teachers.
"Theres no replacing the lived experience of engaging with resources. Once you do it, you absorb it in a way that cannot be transferred through a YouTube clip."
Mr Bonetto said that when youre not foraging on your own soil, you should only take ten per cent of the available resources, and you should spend plenty of time getting acclimatised before you take anything at all. "Before you touch anything in a particular environment, you should walk that environment for one year."
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