Australia: Demand for native foods pushes foraging trend to greenhouse cultivation

Thousands of pots of living microgreens line the benches of the greenhouses at a Burringbar property in northern New South Wales.

Iain and Mandy Reynolds, who also grow edible flowers at Pocket Herbs & Produce, have recently added bush foods to their range of hydroponic produce.

They are tapping into the growing demand for native foods by chefs, both here and overseas, who are keen to use ingredients that are innovative and different. The trend of chefs foraging for these ingredients in the wild was shifting towards cultivation of bush foods — for a number of reasons. Mr Reynolds said not only was foraging unsustainable, it did not guarantee chefs a consistent supply.

"We felt that if we could grow these plants that are traditionally foraged in more of a sustainable way, but also in a way that can give the restaurants a product that's of a repeatable quality and an ongoing reliable basis, then we can actually carve a niche out in the market.
"We cannot control everything obviously but we can ameliorate the worst of the weather ... we can heat in the night and we can add some ventilation."

Some of the bush foods starting to line his greenhouse benches — and increasingly in demand by the industry — included saltbush, pig face, warrigal greens and samphire.

"We've chosen these because of the halophyte aspect to it and the fact we believe we can introduce the saline into our system and get the plants to have that saltiness in a sustainable and ongoing manner," he said.

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