DORIS POZZI

 

When Spring hits the Yarra Valley, the bushland, paddocks and roadsides burst into life. To knowledgable foragers there is great opportunity in this growth. Local expert Doris Pozzi shared this knowledge with the Stones kitchen team when she introduced us
to the bounty of edible weeds and wild vegetables in natures supermarket. “What is a weed?” Doris questions. “It really is just a plant growing somewhere we don’t want.” 

Doris and Steve Pozzi made their tree change seven years ago when their love of home grown food outgrew apple crates and their small backyard in Fitzroy. Settling in Badger Creek just out of Healesville, they found a block with a lot of opportunity. “The property needed so much work.” Doris reflects. “It was once owned by a horticulturalist and nurseryman by the name of Sam Croft. “Starting with a virtual blank slate, he planted out the property from 1972-1977. Between then and when we bought it though, the property sadly grew completely wild and came right up to the house. We literally needed a machete to cut back the growth. By our creek there is an amazing collection of weeping Japanese Maples that were grafted by Sam himself, who had a particular talent for creating these popular specimen trees. This passion has left the property with the stunning legacy of a mature forest.” After years of labour, Doris and Steve now have
the most beautiful seven acre oasis of different plants and trees, with one acre devoted solely to food gardening. The conscious garden design features zones based on importance and needs. This planning is a classic technique used in Permaculture, a practice Doris is well educated in. 

The couple host groups on informative and eye-opening tours of their forest garden. For our team it was a revelation to learn that
so many weeds are not only edible but healthy and delicious. As Doris picked and shared various familiar weeds growing freely in her beds, the enthusiasm that poured from her wide smile and healthy glow was infectious. Our chefs hesitantly nibbled and considered
the foreign flavours and as their palates came alive, they were quickly comparing flavour profiles and coming up with food pairings.
To an audience of chefs that are always driven to discover new flavours and produce, it was an inspiring visit. And in terms of sustainability, seasonality and locality, edible weeds tick all the boxes.

Growing up with Italian heritage, eating weeds was tradition for Doris. She remembers being embarrassed when her Mum would stop
on the side of the road and pick weeds for dinner and her school lunches. “Kids at school would laugh and say ‘Oooh you have weeds
in your sandwich!’” Upon reflection and now living an active sustainable lifestyle she appreciates her upbringing and the health properties that so many weeds offer. 

Doris started researching for her book Edible Weeds and Garden Plants of Melbourne in 2008 and over two years, put together what is regarded as a fantastic resource for anyone interested in the subject. She had great assistance from people around Australia, “There are
a couple of really knowledgable weed people in each state and everyone was so helpful.”

As our tour continued we found the property just kept on going. Through beautiful old gates Doris led us to her netted orchard complete with guinea pig lawn mowers. The property backs on to the tranquil Badger Creek which Doris told us is, “Beautiful on a hot day in the summer. We put our fold out chairs right in the water and cool off.” She laughs. 

A refreshing blend of smoothies using weeds and other ingredients from the garden waited for us when we came inside. The crackling
fire was warm as our hosts hospitality. Even from indoors we could admire the property. We sat and took in the garden through the light filled kitchen and living room which was surrounded by windows. 

On our way out Doris’ partner Steve arrived on his motorised bicycle with a basket of shopping, a little puffed but grinning ear to ear. Clearly the couple take great pleasure in hosting groups. They say the property still is a lot of labour, but working with nature and in many cases leaving it the freedom it needs, they have created an ecosystem that is not only beautiful but edible. 

If you’re interested in learning more, Edible Weeds and Garden Plants of Melbourne can be purchased through the website of Doris Pozzi
at edibleweeds.com.au and be careful where you’re standing, dinner may be underfoot!