Last week I went on a camping trip to the Goulburn River, about 60km from Mudgee, with friends from the north coast who were passing through on their way south. This river, with its broad bed of white quartz sand and rounded basalt cobbles, and crystal clear, shallow water, flows through the pagoda formations of the Narrabeen Sandstone.
The Goulburn River rises on the eastern slopes of the Great Dividing Range, near the village of Ulan, east of Mudgee, and flows generally eastward, through forests of eucalypts, angophoras and callitris, until it reaches the Hunter River, south of Denman, descending 337 metres over its 221 kilometre course.
The Goulburn River’s wide, sandy banks and forest landscape offer easy walking and good swimming in summer, as well as some amazing birdwatching. Hundreds of known Aboriginal heritage sites are located along the river.
Our camp site among the angophoras was on the high side of the river bank.
We spent much of our time walking upriver. The beautiful warm autumn days and blue sky made this little adventure idyllic. We saw a few interesting sights…
such as this snake track in the river bed…
and this bleached skull- not sure what kind of animal it belonged to.
All along the river were lovely casuarinas and willows, showing signs of recent high flows, probably from the rains we had in March.
The north coast visitors being very familiar with foraging, were excited to see a good number of edible weeds growing in the river sand. These have been brought down as seeds by the river as it flows through farming lands. If you’re not familiar with the foraging movement, you may be interested in this article:
I’ve written about the use of wild greens in my blog post A free-spirited garden.
It was quite exciting to think we could forage for our own greens in this landscape. Best of all, the plants were young and tender, as the rains had been relatively recent. I was quite sceptical when Con said we could eat this prickly weed…
Margaret was delighted to find tender young purslane plants. I felt a bit sheepish when I admitted that I’d recently spent several hours digging purslane out of my lawn…
Con’s favourite, amaranth, was there in abundance
Amaranth is known as a super-food and has a large number of powerful nutritional benefits- check it out online.
There was a green of the mustard family (possibly canola, which is widely grown in the basalt soils of the region) thriving as well.
Mustard greens growing with the prickly weed
We found edible mallow (another one I’m always pulling out of my garden), but didn’t pick any of it .
Con picked armfuls of the prickly weed, amaranth and mustard, and Margaret came back with a posy of tender purslane.
Con set about the meticulous process of selecting and cleaning the most tender leaves. He learned this technique as a boy in Greece, where there’s an ancient tradition of gathering wild greens. Con’s mother would spend hours cleaning the greens, using six changes of fresh water to ensure they were immaculately clean before cooking them.
All except the purslane were steamed and served (cooled) with oil and lemon juice. The purslane we ate raw, as a salad green.
I liked the steamed greens, and was relieved to find that the prickly one wasn’t prickly at all when cooked. But the zesty purslane, chopped fine and sprinkled on a sandwich with cheese and onion, was my favourite.
It was dark and very cold by the time our evening meal was ready, so I didn’t get a photo of the steamed greens on that occasion. But this photo from my blog earlier this year, shows a dish of steamed amaranth, served in the classic Greek style.
On the way back to Mudgee, I was able to point out the many wild asparagus plants growing along the roadside, escapees from the farms operated in Mudgee once upon a time by the food canning company, Edgell. These plants will be sending up their tender shoots next spring, and in that season it’s not uncommon to find cut stems where local people have evidently been gathering them.
Do you have wild greens or edible weeds growing where you live? Have you ever eaten them?
[Just in case the link above to the article about edible weeds doesn’t work, here is the URL: https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2016-05-12/edible-weeds-and-how-you-can-use-them/7406004.]