For over 60 thousand years Indigenous Australians have lived in symbiosis with the natural environment, and due to this inherent connection, have a wealth of knowledge about this vast Continent's native flora. For countless generations, Indigenous Australians have cultivated, harvested and utilised Australia's #Native Plants for food and medicine. Only recently has the rest of the world started to take notice of the knowledge they have to share and the incredible nutritious value and potential certain native plants have for cultivation and sustainable ethical food production. For the last decade super-foods from the Amazon have become popular, so could Australia be next in new trend in super foods? There are 6000 identified known edible native plants in Australia and many of them have an untapped potential to feed the world due to the fact they can grow in harsh environments and have undiscovered medicinal properties.

Advertisements
Advertisements

Gubinge (Terminalia ferdinandiana) the Super Plum.

Known by many names including Gubinge, Murunga, Billy Goat Plum or Kadaku plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana), this fruit is still little known by people internationally. Yet it is growing in popularity due to its recently scientifically proven medicinal properties and delicious flavour. Indigenous to North Western Australia and Arnhem Land this little yellow fruit - which actually is closer related to an almond than a plum - has long been used as bush food and medicine by the locals. It is known as "gift of the dreamtime". Traditionally, it was renowned for its antiseptic properties in assisting in healing wounds, boils and ulcers. This is due to it holding the world record for its extraordinarily high content of vitamin C - 3000mg to 100g of fruit, that is 50 times more than in oranges! It also contains many beneficial antioxidants, including high amounts of ellagic acid which is found scientifically to help prevent viral infections and is a known anti-carcinogen.

Advertisements

It has recently become a popular addition to skin care products due to containing skin nourishing trace minerals, such as vitamin E, zinc, lutein, and high amounts of the antioxidant, gallic acid, which have been found to reduce the impact of ageing and assist in fading sun spots. Kakadu Plum is one of the highest antioxidant rich substances on earth with an amazing variety of phytonutrients, which are found to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer's and cancer. It is fast becoming a popular medicinal supplement due to its high amounts of vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, iron, copper, folate and calcium.

If you do not live in Australia it may be very difficult to source Kakadu Plum fresh, although the dried powder is still very nutritious and available to purchase online worldwide. I found a tasty way to have the powder each morning is put a teaspoon of the powder in a glass and add a quarter of the glass freshly squeezed lemon or orange juice and fill the remainder of the glass with some sparkling mineral water making a delicious refreshing drink.

Advertisements

A great way to start the day, alkalising the body and boosting immunity. In Australia people are making preserves, chocolates and ice cream with it due to its yummy flavour. Being so nutrient rich is an added bonus.

Kutjera (Solanum Centrale)

Kutjera, Akudjura or Bush Raisin is a type of native bush tomato, also known by the Pitjantjatjara people of Central Australia, as Kampurarpa. It has been a cultivated bush tucker staple for the Pitjantjatjara for thousands of years. Although the rest of the world may not be aware that Australia has a few varieties of native tomato (Kutjera apparently is the best variety) which are tasty, sweet and nutrient rich. Kutjera has not yet hit the international market as a commercial product, but it has the potential to be one and is available dried online through specialty retailers. It has plenty of potential as it can be cultivated in a dry, harsh environment with little water and can be dried and added to meals for a unique delicious flavouring and high nutritional content.

I was fortunate to try this delectable fruit when I visited Central Australia last year, it had a unique, delicate, multi faceted flavour and was the nicest food in the Solanaceae family I have honestly ever eaten. It has a wonderful pungent carmel, tamarillo like flavour and is an excellent addition to chutneys, sauces and can be added to meals such as soups, casseroles and pastas. It also contains incredibly high amounts of immune boosting vitamin C, carbohydrates and antioxidants yet to be thoroughly studied by science. Yet since Kutjera has nutritionally supported people dwelling in the desert for thousands of years it most likely has many still undiscovered healing properties.

Wattle seed (Acacia ssp)

Another age old Indigenous bush tucker staple, known in different regions and languages as different names including; Yarlirti, Arlep, Ariepe, Ganabargu, Ngatunpa, and Pulkuru. Seeds and pods have long been ground down to make a flour, to make a damper (un-leven bread) from a few varieties of the humble wattle, part of the native acacia family which is widespread across the country. Edible known varieties of this tree include; Acacia victoriae, Acacai aneura, Axacia retinode, Acacia sophorae and Acacia pycnantha (golden wattle), which is Australia's floral emblem and has brilliant yellow flowers.

Wattle seed is high in protein, potassium, iron, magnesium, fibre, zinc, calcium and beneficial lipids and has a low glycemic index. With a delicious nourishing nutty flavour it can be a great gluten-free alternative to wheat or oats, that can be added to muesli, gluten free bread, muffins and cakes, cookies and smoothies. It is a tasty addition to sweet and savoury meals. Due to its high protein content and ability to grow in harsh, arid environments with limited water and cultivation it could be the superfood which will help prevent world hunger and maintain food security by cultivating this tough nutritious plant. Right now in famine struck places such as Nigeria, there are incentives to grow Australian wattle seed, and it is providing much needed sustenance for desperate communities. Wattle seed farming is sustainable and low impact to the farmers and the environment, while adding nitrogen to the soil. This beautiful tree has a lot of potential and advantages to share with the whole world.

Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora)

Lemon Myrtle, also known as; Lemon Scented Ironwood, Lemon Scented Backhousia and Sweet Verbena Myrtle is part of the Myrtaceae family of Eucalyptus trees. It is found native on the North East Coast of Australia and is a beautiful aromatic shrub, which has long been used by locals as a bush medicine and food. It is a potent antiseptic and is used to treat cuts and abrasions. Due to its anti-bacterial properties along with its anti-ageing benefits, it has become popular in skin cosmetics. It also has an incredibly appealing citrus scent, which is a lovely addition to cosmetics and perfumes. Lemon Myrtle essential oil is used for aromatherapy, and as an organic disinfectant, which is very useful as a chemical free cleaning product. Although it is more widely known for these purposes, it is also edible, and dried Lemon Myrtle's zesty flavour can compliment many a cuisine as a spice. It has a distinctive citrus like aromatic taste which compliments roasts, dips, sauces, curries and sweets, although one does not need to use much in cooking as it is very potent. One can also consume Lemon Myrtle as a herbal tea.

Lemon Myrtle has a great flavour and is very nutritious, it has the highest known concentrate of Citral which has renowned anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties - more than the other brilliant Aussie bush medicine, Tea Tree. It is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin A and E and an array of antioxidants. Like Kakadu plum it also contains the carotenoid vitamin lutein, which is proven to prevent ageing - in addition, macular degeneration, the leading cause of loss of vision due to inflammation of the retina. It is also known to boost immunity, relieve cramps, rheumatism, headaches, fevers and prevent diseases created by harmful pathogens. It is a powerful medicinal ally to incorporate into one's food, cosmetics and a few drops of the essential oil in a hot bath is very relaxing.

A positive way to celebrate Australia's Indigenous culture

This article has only touched the surface of the potential Australian bush foods can have on the world, and how their production could be a wonderful culturally relevant fair trade industry for Australia, especially in Indigenous communities, and a positive way to celebrate their culture and preserve their knowledge of bush tucker. There is still a lot we can all learn about these incredible tasty and medicinal plants, and many other wonderful native foods, which I have not discussed in this article. I highly recommend adding one of these delicious foods to your diet today and support Australia's growing fair trade local industry.