Sunday, July 1, 2012


There is something magical about the Bruny Island ferry. Perhaps it's moving across water, the leaving of work and home on the other side as you journey toward adventure, nature or solitude.

For me it's a 30 minute journey from my door to the boat that lifts the weight of the mundane from my shoulders and allows me to dream. Every year I travel there with some special friends who worship landscape and food as much as I do. We eat, wander, botanise, swim and think together. We gather sea celery and seaweeds to flavour the fish that we catch, we gnaw on the leaf bases of sagg plants for refreshment during a hike, or gather and painstakingly clean wild rosehips to brew tea. We are aware of the possibility for nourishment the land provides, and I've often imagined the people who trod this soil before me gathering berries and seeds, digging tubers and diving in the icy waters to catch seals or harvest abalone to sustain their families.

Much of what I know of the edible plants from this landscape is theoretical, stuff read in books but rarely put into practice, the reality of eating from the land has never really touched me. But last weekend that changed.

The site of our meal.

David Moyle, the chef at the Stackings at Peppermint Bay, was creating a wild food lunch on Bruny with Penny Clive, an historian, art lover and keen observer of nature, who was bringing an incredible musician to the island to perform, and knew landowners with a deep connection to their place who were happy to host us. David's friend Johnny makes beautiful films, and came with his friend Jeremy to record the journey.

This confluence of talented and generous people led to a magical event on a spectacular piece of coastline. Music, food, people, architecture, film and land were bound together to create something of deep, raw and delicious beauty. Visitors came to eat and listen with us and were open, questioning and involved, and left with sand in their shoes and the scent of smoke in their hair.

At first glance the site shows little promise as a place to find wild food. Open pasture, surrounded by coastline and dry schlerophyll forest. An old farmhouse, a subtly beautiful, newer building, and a working farm with a big mob of sheep. But a day wandering with Penny and David, nibbling and photographing revealed the bounty the land holds. We listed at least 30 edible plants, some native, others introduced, all with culinary potential. To taste the plants that I have known are edible with a chef I admire, and to hear his thoughts on them, their flavours and their potential, and to have Penny take beautiful, detailed photographs of them so we could identify and catalogue what we learnt was, for me, a rare and wonderful experience.

It was a beautiful thing to stand among people as they ate and share with them the stories of the plants they were eating. Hobart's tea queen Varuni gathered plants from among the tussocks and she and other willing hands picked them over to make an infusion to accompany the meal. Others watched David shuck oysters and talked of the difference between the native Angasi oyster and the farmed, now feral, Pacific oyster that now dominates the shorelines of our estuaries.

I learned so much about cooking. David chose to season with kelp, smoke, herbs and seawater. The memory of the smoky, succulent wallaby haunch, slow roasted over coals and scented with smoke from aromatic native herbs still lingers, the land and sea provided incredible flavours, we needed nothing more.

We gathered beach herbs from a frozen shore. Sand, seashells and plants
alike, all encrusted with tiny, white shards of frost which seemed to enhance
the briny tang of the herbs.

The remains of the salad.
Samphire, dune spinach, sea celery,
wild turnip leaf, scotch thistle root.

Unearthing kelp-wrapped abalone from their roasting bed.

The makings of the salad.

For me this was a truly humbling experience. One day of harvesting with my friend and colleague Sam, armed with steel tools, clad in merino and down, and wearing protective gloves left me exhausted. Blisters and chilblains on my hands, aching arms and a weary spine bought to mind the people who depended on this landscape for the entirety of their existence without these luxuries. Their strength, resilience, knowledge of and connection to the land are at the front of my mind today, along with thoughts of past Europeans new to these shores, trying to feed their families in, what to them must have seemed, a barren and hostile land.

A big thank you to Penny, David, the land owners, Johnny, Jeremy, the musicians whose magic I caught whispers of as I sliced abalone outside, and the warm and beautiful people who came, ate and spoke with us.

Succulent, sea-brined, slow grilled wallaby haunch. Delicious.

This is one of my favourite types of work. If you would like help identifying native plants and weeds on your land and finding out their uses we are available to consult and catalogue them with you. Please get in touch to find out about availability and rates please email us at .  You can also find us at Farm Gate Market on the second and fourth Sunday of each month with plants and produce. 


  1. Oh Paulette....wonderful. Take me too!!I need to learn so much from you about what we can forage from the land we live on, but not yet in.

    1. We live in a pretty special place Kate, and there is a bounty there if we have the time to find it! Thank you!!

  2. Hello Paulette
    I heard them raving about your salad on the radio...congrats
    Must come and see you at the farmers market soon

  3. Thanks Ally, a friend told me Roger and Sue had talked about it, I wish I'd heard it too. I had no idea until then that scotch thistle root was so delicious! We're at market on the second and fourth Sunday of each month, would be great to see you, it's always good to put faces to people we know in the virtual world!!

  4. Hello Paulette,
    Loved reading about Bruny.
    I bought some rosemary and Edna Walling's favourite thyme from you at the market last Sunday. When I was telling my mother about the Anzac rosemary she wanted some! Do you think you'll have any next week??

  5. Hi Belinda,
    Thank you!
    We'll only have the Anzac rosemary as cut herb, which you could probably strike yourself, I keep meaning to propagate some myself....I will soon, and I'd expect to have plants of it available in November or December.

  6. This is a beautiful post, how very lucky for you to be a part of it, I would love to know more about edible native plants, and natives in general.

  7. Hi Paulette

    Just a note to say how much I enjoyed the Bruny post - inspirational! Have now been able to identify wild turnip - can you eat the roots?