We are just beginning our ‘hungry gap’ here in North Canterbury.
It’s a time of year when very little harvestable food is available. We still have the stored crops of winter and a few greens cheating the season in the tunnel house and protected positions, but there is no fruit or anything else beyond the freezer and the store cupboards. Eggs are a wonderful exception with both our ducks and chickens are laying more each day, building to a peak around the spring equinox. ‘Easter‘ eggs the northern hemisphere’s outcome.
So we wait with much anticipation for asparagus. Reflecting the quirky perennial lily that it is, both wild and cultivated asparagus arrives before anything else in early to mid October.
It will be a long six weeks.
Perhaps then, a perfect time to reminisce on the abundance of wild food available in this beautiful region on the East Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.
My foraging heroine Kate McMillan and I were recently asked by travel writer Kenji Hall to list wild foods in our region. Kate (and friend Mel) have taught our family a huge amount of what is available, where and when. However I think the following list still surprised us both! To my knowledge this is the first time this list has been published. Like all great reflectors of life, we have Kenji to thank for it.
I hope it’s a useful and interesting guide. It’s by no means complete or completely accurate. I’ll be using the next foraging year to add or change food, and obviously each season will dictate availability. But it seemed important to write it down somewhere. I hope you enjoy our photos as well!
Brown and Rainbow Trout (October to May)
Wild cherries (both red sweet ones and black strains of morello, sour cherry)
Seaweed in summer
Salmon (January to April)
Much of the following Kaimoana (food from the sea) is available throughout the year but because Jan/Feb/March are our warmest months this is when we’re most likely to be at the beach/ out on the water collecting it.
Kina (sea urchin)
Kawahi (caught off the beach)
Nz spinach (all year round on beach)
Puha (like watercress)
This is our main harvest period, for everything, both wild and cultivated. It’s hard to separate crops into months at this stage of the year, and everything seems to come both at once and continuously!!
Plums (including prunes and Damsons)
Tahr (like deer)
Chamois (like goat)
Eel, (year round though better in winter)
Wild parsley (flat)