Oily Rag: Reap Mama Earth's wild, free food

By Frank, Muriel Newman

It may come as a surprise to some but not all food grows in a packet, lives in a refrigerator, or comes with a price tag. There are plenty of foods that cost nothing.

If you have room, get involved in the "Good Life". What about keeping your own animals such as chickens, a house cow or a milking goat? How about steers, sheep, ducks, pigs, and so on? You will obviously need some room and not too many close neighbours. If you live in town, it's also wise to check with your local council exactly how many animals you can keep on your property.

Use household scraps to feed chickens or pigs and put aside a bit of open space to grow swedes or maize for stock food.

A house cow or milking goat will produce enough milk to feed your family - with plenty of fresh milk you can make your own butter, cheese, icecream, yoghurt, milkshakes and milk puddings.

Animal manure is also good for your garden, which means heaps of fresh greens.

One reader breeds rabbits. The manure goes straight on to the garden, which gives her a bounty of fresh produce. When the rabbits are old enough they are served as a delicacy. There are many ways to cook rabbit, but if you prepare it in the same way you would cook chicken you can't go too wrong.

Here in New Zealand, we tend to turn our nose up at the thought of eating goat meat (known as chevon). Although it is not part of our traditional diet, goat is a basic meat for millions of people around the world, particularly in the Middle East. Goat meat tastes stronger than lamb, hogget or mutton and needs a longer cooking time to tenderise it (marinating the meat will also help). Goat can be dressed as you would mutton and the cuts of meat cooked in the same way.

Prepare wild duck for cooking as you would chicken. It's impossible to determine the age of a wild duck so long, slow cooking will ensure it is tender enough to eat. A good rule of thumb is to bake the duck at about 150C for three hours or more.

One oily ragger is an expert rock fisherman and always has a freezer full of fish. When his freezer is full he fires up the smoker. His hobby has saved his family's grocery bill thousands of dollars. Roast pheasant is easy to prepare and delicious (and free if you shoot your own). Pluck, gut and rinse the pheasant to get it ready for cooking. Fill the cavity with stuffing. Roast at 190C for about an hour. It may be necessary to baste the breast throughout cooking to prevent it from drying out or overcooking.

Watercress can be found in streams and, with its unique peppery taste, it is a wonderful addition to salads and sandwiches.

Puha can be served as a vegetable or in casseroles. If eating it as a vegetable, wash it thoroughly and cook it for about 25 to 30 minutes to remove the bitterness. Dot with some butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

There is a surprisingly large amount of free food available for those with a keen eye, a little motivation, and an adventurous appetite!

Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips at www.oilyrag.co.nz

- Hamilton News

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