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What we can forage

Aotearoa has a variety of plants you can forage. Head to a nearby meadow, field, stream or weedy hill and fill your basket with wild food. Cynthia van de Loo is an experienced food forager and shares her knowledge with Womenclan. 

There’s an abundance of free nutritious food everywhere, it’s likely you just haven’t noticed it yet. Fruits, fungi, roots, stems, flowers and leaves are all freely waiting to delight your taste buds. The potential around us is endless, says foraging expert Cynthia van de Loo, who is based in Nelson (Whakatū). “These wild edible plants are packed with nutritional and medicinal values.”


Cynthia believes foraging for food allows us to become more connected to ourselves and our surroundings. “Understanding the interconnectedness of plants and the rest of life allows us to see how we all feed each other.” The simple act of seeking and finding releases happiness hormones, endorphins and dopamine, she says. 


Just before lockdown in 2020, Cynthia organised the build of a community compost and food stall. It was topped up regularly with the abundance of neighbouring gardens and produce she foraged from the nearby Grampians. She’s seen how well a community can work together and thrive when these kinds of initiatives are created. “Community resilience is a big part of foraging, particularly in times of need such as financial hardship, food shortages, today’s climate and during natural disasters.” She’s championed ensuring the public reserve behind her home is herbicide-free, the first of its kind in Nelson. Organising over 70 volunteers to help with her mission, together they planted more than 100 fruit and nut trees for the community to freely forage from.


Things to know about foraging

Aotearoa has a diverse mix of introduced and native species able to be foraged. Wild plants have continued to grow despite urbanisation...

Want to keep reading? Find the full story in Womenclan: Journal Two, available now.

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