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Bush foods have been used for centuries in Aboriginal cultures not just as everyday foods but for medicinal purposes also.
It is only in recent decades that other cultures are looking to these foods for their unique flavours and dietary benefits.
Although not yet ‘main stream’, research is helping these foods to be acknowledged more widely and many hatted chefs are choosing to add them to their menus as a point of difference from other restaurants.
We do advise though to do some research yourself before eating the bright and appealing berries from the tree outside your home. Although there is a huge array of tasty native fruits, not all are edible and some must be consumed in small amounts or prepared in a certain way before eating.
A lot of native flavours are much more intense than we are used to, so it is best to begin by adding small amounts to your cooking until you get used to the tastes
Here are just a few interesting and flavourful native plants that you can add to your veggie garden today
Rubus rosifolius - Wild raspberry
This vigorous shrub is well known to our indigenous peoples as a bush food and medicine.
It has gained popularity in recent years as a tea, used widely for stomach complaints menstrual cramps and even to ease labour symptoms.
It is rich in antioxidants and a super tasty addition to the vegetable garden.
The bush can easily take over so keeping it contained in a pot or raised bed is recommended.
It, like most of the berries, is very prickly, so plant away from walkways or where small children play.
Billardieria scandens – Apple berry
The fruit tastes like stewed apples or kiwifruit, eat the ripened fruit that has fallen from the tree or roast unripened fruit for an amazing desert served with ice cream!
It is a rambling shrub perfect under Eucs or among other natives in the garden
Preforms best in a semi shade damp position but can tolerate a wide variety of soils.
Backhousia citriodora – Lemon myrtle
The leaves of the Lemon Myrtle are used for flavouring a variety of foods and for aroma therapy, soaps and perfumes.
Boiling or baking reduces the flavour and potency so adding the ground leaves at the end of the cooking process will give you the strongest flavour.
Oil is also distilled from the tree and can be used in baking and as essential oils in burners and massage.
It is an evergreen rainforest tree usually growing around 5-15m, it is very hardy tolerates most conditions except boggy sites.
A versatile tree that can also be grown as a container plant indoors.
Backhousia myrtifolia – Cinnamon myrtle
Similar to its cousin lemon myrtle.
Replace for cinnamon in all its uses.
Tetragonia tetragonoides – Warrigal greens or New Zealand spinach
A short lived groundcover with 2m spread used as a spinach supplement by the first settlers and even taken back to England where it gained popularity in the early part of the 20th century.
Because of its high oxalic acid content the leaves should be blanched or dropped in boiling water for a few minutes to remove the acid before eating.
It is best grown in a semi shaded area where soil is not too dry.
We received some great feedback via email on your experiences with bush foods, here are some helpful hints from readers..
Jan is on a low salt diet so she has made a replacement using sea parsley, old man salt bush and sesame seed ground finely in a mortar and pestle, she says she is now so used to the flavour that she prefers it to actual salt, she has even shared with friends who now use the replacement regularly.
Mark uses the bark from his Melaleuca quinquenervia (Broadleaf paperbark) to wrap meat and fish for the bbq, he swears it gives the best flavour and keeps the meat tender, his tip is to soak the bark for at least 10min before using.
Meredith sent in this recipe, it’s her favourite to serve for afternoon tea with guests and is always a winner
LEMON MYRTLE BISCUITS
500gm sifted SR flour
25gm Ground Lemon Myrtle Leaves
1. Cream together sugar and butter add the eggs one at a time, fold in flour and lemon myrtle until combined roll into small balls
2. Flour fork and press slightly bake in moderate oven (Approx 180C) for 12 to 15 minutes
3. Cool and store in an airtight container
Thanks so much for all your great tips on using bush foods if you want to join the conversation add to the comments at the bottom of this blog or contribute on our Facebook page, we would love to hear from you.
Until next time, happy eating!
The team @ Harvest
Let’s face it life is busy.
Between work, kids, housework, and trying to maintain relationships, we really are time poor, which is why so many of us need our garden to be a little self-sufficient.
But let’s get one thing straight - there is NO garden, other than a plastic one, that requires no maintenance at all.
Plants are living beings, they grow and change through the seasons, some are slow and steady, some are in a big hurry, some drop their leaves, some bear us fruit, others are wiry and hard, some are gentle and delicate. Hey plants are a lot like us!
And like us, plants need to be looked after, they need love, sun, food and water to flourish, this is essential to their existence.
Now, if we plant a plant in our garden, it hasn’t chosen to grow up there, we have put it in an environment where it needs more care than if it was in the wild, think of a Tiger in a zoo, we need to feed it and monitor its health to ensure its survival.
So to do we need to monitor our garden.
If we identify the biggest threats to our home gardens, for example; watering issues, soil health, insects and lack of or too much sun, we can then look for solutions to make the garden function better on its own without too much human intervention.
So we’ve come up with a few tips to help you have a beautiful low (not NO) maintenance garden;
- · Prepare your site well in the beginning. If you have a bare site weed it thoroughly before planting, even leave a few weeks in between weeding’s to ensure you have got all those pesky critters out! Always dig them out by the roots and dispose of them thoughtfully.
- Mulch is our friend, it supresses weeds and keeps the roots cooler on those extreme days. It helps to retain moisture in the soil reducing watering times.
- · If you love the look of a formal garden, choose plants that a slower growing and have a clumping habit this will help minimise trimming and pruning.
- · Think about a watering system, it could be as simple as a drip feeder hose, turn the tap on set a timer and you’re done.
- · Choose drought tolerant plants, if you do forget to water they are going to have a better chance at survival. But don’t assume because your plants are drought tolerant that they don’t like water, every plant needs water!
- · Hate mowing? Replace lawn areas with Native lawn or a garden bed. patios and decking are also great solutions, or even better hire a local gardener you will be surprised what they can do in just an hour.
Okay, so it means putting in some time at the beginning, preparing your garden, having a bit of forethought and spreading some love, but isn’t that what its all about?
The joy, life and energy our gardens bring to us and having the ability (and luxury) to connect with nature, to be shaded from the elements and to be provided with food, isn’t it worth the effort, time and care?
Because without it …well….
Hope you found this article helpful, feedback is always welcome.
The team @ Harvest