Mapping our backyard orchards in the western suburbs


    By Slow Food Melbourne

    Who doesn’t love something for free? And with all the talk about a cost of living crisis and the need for us all to ‘tighten our belts’ we are all looking for ways to economise. So have you realised how much free food there is in your neighbourhood? Literally hiding in plain sight.

    The wave of migration from Europe to Australia after WW2 brought many people from rural communities who had been used to subsistence farming. This quite literally means they had to grow and produce themselves all the food they needed to feed their families. Many moved to the western suburbs attracted by local jobs and cheaper land. In the west they could afford a house on a block of land large enough to grow all of their own food. As the saying goes “growing your own food is like printing your own money!”

    While many of the original migrants have moved on, the legacy they have left us in the west are remnant gardens and quite literally thousands of fruit trees. The fruit from many of these goes to waste as most of us are not aware of what we have in our backyards or on our nature strips, or what to do with it.

    Slow Food Melbourne is hoping to buck the trend and teach people the backyard bounty they could be eating, preserving and sharing. The project Urban Harvest Local aims to map local resources to share the produce and the knowledge of using the food right under our noses!

    Workshops showing people what they have in season, and how to use it, are being run on our market days at Spotswood and West Footscray. Partnering with food journo Richard Cornish we have so far shown people what to do with lemons, loquats, cherries and most recently figs.


    Figs are not often available in fruit shops or supermarkets as they are a soft fruit which don’t travel well. They also need to be eaten as soon as they are ripe so can’t be stored. The good news is there’s a large number of mature fig trees dotted all over the west and much of the fruit is feeding birds, possums and fruit bats when we could all be eating, drying or boiling up jams to enjoy the bounty. Richard showed us a variety of ways to serve and enjoy fresh figs and we will soon have video and recipes available on the Urban Harvest website for you to try at home.


    There are so many olive trees in backyards and on nature strips it’s time we all got harvesting and make the most of a free resource. Did you know there has been a worldwide shortage of olive oil pushing prices up by as much as 50%. Here in the west we could be getting it for the cost of having the olives pressed, not to mention fresh, with no food miles! If you’d like to get involved in a local olive harvest and olive oil pressing Slow Food Melbourne can organise an olive pressing if you are up for cropping the olives. 

    More info at or on Facebook Urban Harvest Local and Slow Food Melbourne.

    Join us at our farmers’ markets or contact us at

    Our content is a labour of love, crafted by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the west. We encourage submissions from our community, particularly stories about your own experiences, family history, local issues, your suburb, community events, local history, human interest stories, food, the arts, and environmental matters. Below are articles created by community contributors. You can find their names in the bylines.

    Your feedback

    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here



    Latest Articles

    Latest edition

    #97 June 2024

    Recent editions


    Become a supporter

    The Westsider is run on the power of volunteers. Your contribution directly contributes to ensuring we can continue serving and celebrating our community.

    Related articles