Posted by Phytopath on Mar 2, 2010
Australian bush foods hold the interest of many visitors and locals alike.
Some have become known worldwide, like the Macadamia nut for example, others just remain an oddity. I will briefly list a few of the more commonly found bush foods – common that is, in gardens.
Grevillea robusta, common name Silky Oak, is a stately rainforest tree grown in many parts of the Australian continent as an ornamental. The Aborigines soaked the nectar filled flowers in water to make a sweet drink. This tree has one of the richest sources of nectar.
Leptospermum spp. known locally as tea-tree. These shrubs were used as a tea substitute by botanist David Nelson and gardener William Brown of the HMS Bounty in 1788. They are beautiful plants commonly grown in many gardens for the profusion of white flowers.
Kunzea pomifera, or Muntries to the locals. This unattractive ground cover is often found in coastal sand dunes or dry sandy desert areas. The plant fruits best in alkaline well-drained sandy soil. The fruit, a fleshy edible capsule, looks smells and tastes like a miniature apple. The berries can be eaten fresh, on their own, or in a fruit salad, or dried or frozen for later use. They are very nice stewed or made into jam. The Aboriginal people of the Coorong in South Australia dried the fruit and then pounded them into cakes for trading among the clans. Today Muntries are grown commercially in plantations.
Enchylaena tomentosa, common name, Ruby Saltbush. Many people consider this plant to be an annoying weed. It is a spreading groundcover with greyish coloured leaves and is found in arid regions and coastal locations. The plant is well adapted to saline soils. The fleshy leaves can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable and in the MacDonnell Ranges; the fruit were soaked in water to make a sweet tasting tea.
Marsilea drummondii, known as Nardoo. The leaves look somewhat like a four leaf clover but the plant is actually a fern. It is found in colonies on river flats and in swamps. When the plant is grown submerged in water, the leaves float, but when grown in the soil, the leaves and stalks stand upright. Nardoo is the infamous plant known in Australia as the food which Burke & Wills ate, when they starved to death.