Bushfood or Bushtucker are the plants that are native to Australia, they grow naturally in the environment without needing water or fertilizers, they have been here for thousands of years and are the original plants of this country.
For over 40,000 years the Aboriginal people of Australia have lived off the land; eating well when food was plentiful and surviving on little in times of drought. They quickly learnt which plants provided nourishment, they also know when the fruits or berries are ripe to be picked and eaten.
All Aboriginal children learnt from their parents and their elders or teachers who would take them out into the desert and the bush and teach them all they needed to know to look after themselves. They also taught them the right time to pick and eat the foods on offer.
Yes, they would hunt and kill the animals for food, an excellent source of protein. The men would teach the boys to hunt and the women taught the girls how to fossik in the ground for food and also how to prepare it.
Yes, Bushfood is definitely healthy to eat.
There has now been a lot of research done on Australia’s native food plants and there have been some outstanding results concerning the health benefits of eating bushfood.
There are so many reasons why we should be using Australian native herbs and spices in our everyday cooking. Apart from the fact that it grows naturally in this country and can cope with variables and extremes of climate and still thrive, it's actually good for you.
Yes, definitely we can cook using bushfood and it’s easy to incorporate the beautiful flavours of the bush into our everyday meals and favourite recipes. eg Wattleseed muffins, Lemon myrtle ice-cream, Kangaroo Lasagne. We have lots of recipe ideas
No, don’t just assume we can eat the leaves and berries that are growing in the bush. Not all plants are edible and some can could make you sick if you eat what you don’t know. Many of the plants eg bush tomato are green on the bush and when they’re ripe they drop off and turn and dark red, then can only be eaten then, if they are eaten when green they could make you quite sick.
A lot of the places that we go walking have bushfood plants, but because they could be part of a national park or forest then special permits would be needed to be able to pick the plants.
If you don’t know what it is then DON’T EAT IT
Lemon Myrtle is exceptionally rich in Calcium, Vit C and Anise Myrtle high in magnesium. Tasmanian pepper and wattleseed have been identified as great sources of zinc, magnesium and calcium. Quandongs contain magnesium, zinc and vitamin C. Bush Tomato, Tasmanian pepperleaf and wattleseed contain iron.
This is to help you incorporate these herbs and spices into your everyday cooking.
As with all herbs and spices use with discretion at first until you learn the quantity needed to suit your own palate.
Store in a cool dry place.
A medium-sized native tree, it originates from east coast rainforest areas. In the early 1990’s lemon myrtle was rediscovered as a culinary herb. The dried leaves are highly aromatic, similar to a blend of lemon, lime and lemongrass.
Uses & substitutions: This useful herb can be used with fish, chicken and fantastic in Asian style dishes as it can be substituted for lemon, lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves.
Simple recipe idea: Add a dessertspoon of lemon myrtle to a whole fish (approx 1kg) cooked in foil and bake in oven or on the BBQ. Try putting some in your creamy salad dressings. Add lemon myrtle and ginger to your favourite tea for a refreshing drink. Stir-fry some chicken and add lemon myrtle to taste.
Aboriginal use: Pre 1788 – Aboriginal people use B.citriodora for healing as a powerful antifungal agent and sanitiser. They added it to their food for flavouring, mixing with seeds in damper and adding to seafood.
Lemon myrtle can be drunk as a tea or applied as a wash for coughs, colds and stomach upsets.
Health benefits: Contains calcium. Anti oxidant; chlorophyll a and b identified, this is implicated in the reduction of oxidative stress in the human body that is linked with the prevention of chronic diseases. High in lutein, a carotenoid compound that plays an important role in eye health.
There are several native peppers all with varying degrees of “hotness” a useful herb to have in your kitchen cupboard.
I use the Mountain Pepperleaf, which is dried and ground, almost every day in place of the regular pepper, it has an aromatic flavour, along with the peppery spicy flavour.
Pepperberries, from the same bush, are a lot hotter, great over ground over pasta dishes or anything requiring pepper.
Uses & substitutions: The pepper leaf and pepper berry can be directly substituted for the long-established Indonesian vine peppers that we have traditionally used. Extracts from the plant have been added to chewing gum in Japan, it is also used there to add flavour to wasabi.
Health benefits: High in folate, anti oxidant. Contains magnesium, zinc, and calcium. High in lutein, a carotenoid compound that plays an important role in eye health.
Also known as the desert raisin as in it’s dried appearance it certainly does resemble one. It is a scrambling bush that grows in the desert areas of Australia. Aboriginal people would only use them after they have dried on the bush which reduces the harmful alkaloids in the unripened fruit. To preserve they would mix them with tree resins, roll into a ball and put up in the trees to dry. When needed they would grind them down to a powder. Whole berries can be ground in a food processor, coffee grinder or similar to a coarse powder. They have a piquant, spicy flavour perhaps along the flavour lines of sun-dried tomatoes, but over use they can be bitter.
Uses & substitutions: They can be added to any of your favourite tomato dishes, pastas, pizzas, soups, and casseroles to give it a spicy flavour, as they are dried they also act as a thickening agent. Remember they are a spice not a direct substitute for fresh tomatoes.
Simple recipe idea: Chop three whole fresh tomatoes, fry with an onion until the tomatoes have broken down and the onion translucent, add about 1/3 cup of bush tomatoes, this will add a spicy flavour and thicken the tomato juices, add tomato sauce to sweeten slightly, a bit of sugar if you wish. Add mountain pepper and salt to taste, also basil chopped can give a great flavour, when cool you can use as a dip or otherwise put into a prepared pastry case and serve as an entrée as a small bush tomato pie, top with some chopped fetta cheese and salad greens and olives. Otherwise add a little water to thin out and mix with pasts.
Aboriginal use: Aboriginal people would always wait until the fruit was dark red and dropped to the ground
Health benefits: High in folate
This is a medium-sized tree grown in the rainforest areas of eastern Australia, it is related to the lemon myrtle. Aniseed myrtle has a distinct aniseed/licorice flavour. Outback Chef’s Aniseed myrtle is dried and ground ready to use. It grows in sub tropical conditions in eastern Australia.
Uses & substitutions: It can be used wherever you use Star Anise, Pernod or even fennel to give a great Aniseed flavour to your dishes. Try with prawns and chilli or add to your pork roast.
Simple recipe idea: Roast any combination of vegetables in olive oil eg Potato, pumpkin, zucchini, carrots, garlic, beetroot , capsicums, add salt and pepper leaf, and a good sprinkling of Aniseed myrtle
Aboriginal use: as a flavouring for foods.
Health benefits: High in Vitamin E, Anti oxidant, high in lutein, a carotenoid compound that plays an important role in eye health. Anti oxidant, chlorophyll a and b identified, this is implicated in the reduction of oxidative stress in the human body that is linked with the prevention of chronic diseases.
There are a lot of different species of acacia growing throughout the arid regions of Australia. The tree can be anything from 3 to 6 metres. Aboriginal people would mill the wattleseed from the dried seed in the pods. Outback Chef’s wattleseed has been dried, roasted and ground ready for use.
Uses & Substitutions: The flavour of wattleseed has a subtle coffee/chocolate flavour. It can be added to muffins, a non-caffeine substitute for instant or ground coffee or even add in your morning muesli. Before using gently heat the wattleseed over a pan to release the flavourful oils.
Wattleseed make a great ice-cream giving it a distinctly coffee flavour.
Simple recipe idea: Make your favourite muffin recipe, either chocolate or plain, heat ½ cup of wattleseed gently over a pan to release flavour, add to muffin batter…then cook.
Aboriginal use: This was a food source traditionally, and still is, in the arid/desert regions of Australia. Women would collect the seedpods when ripe; separate the seed ‘yandy’ clean in a coolamon. Dry and roast by the fire, pound and grind into a flour. This could then be mixed with water to make a dough, and then cooked on the fire for damper.
Health benefits: A rich source of Magnesium, Zinc and Calcium and Iron. Low GI, high levels of protein
This rambling bush grows across south-east Australia near river banks or in any moist forest conditions. The thin leaves are very fragile, they have small mauve flowers. It has a strong spearmint flavour and aroma.
Uses & Substitutions: River Mint can be used either fresh or dried anywhere that you want a strong mint flavour. The early pioneers used River Mint on their Sunday roast lamb.
Aboriginal use: River Mint was used as a medicinal herb for coughs, colds and stomach upsets. It was also used as a flavouring for food.
A medium-sized tree growing to approx 20 m, it is found in the woodlands in Eastern Australian, mainly around the New South Wales area.
The leaves are long and bright green, they have are extremely aromatic and have an intense fruity “berry-like” flavour..
Uses & Substitutions: Used in the confectionary, bakery and cosmetic industry, Strawberry Gum is fast becoming a favourite in the bushfood industry as a dried herb for flavouring food and teas, this flavour works well with vanilla.
Aboriginal Use: The leaves were chewed for their unique “berry” flavour and branches were moistened and put on the fire to create a steam and release their aroma, thought to help nausea.
The leaves are like shiny, dark green parsley. It grows on rocky ledges in the sand or amongst seaweed which gives it it’s own unique flavour. It has small white flowers in summer. Like a carrot it has a tap rood which gives it a semi-perennial capacity.
Uses & Substitutions: Captain Cook used it as a flavour boost and gave it to his crew to prevent scurvy when “The Endeavour” came to Australia in1770. The early Europeans used it in their soups and on vegetables. Sea Parsley can be used in salads and soups.
Aboriginal Use: Used as a flavour enhancer and to maintain good health.
Grows like a ground cover, Hot dry climate.
Fruit tastes like a spicey apple. Sweet. Useful is salads pies and baked goods, jams and relishes
High levels of Vitamin C and high levels of antioxidants, significantly higher than blue berries
Known by the early settlers as the Desert Peach
Outstanding anti oxidant capacity, high levels of folate and Vitamin E and C, good source of magnesium, zinc and iron
Strong tart flavour, this native fruit has 3 times the Vit C than oranges!
A medium sized coastal subtropical and tropical rainforest tree .
Small pea sized berries that have a strong clove/cinnamon flavour. Used in jams, baked goods, confectionery, syrups and sauces.