Top ten native Australian foods for your kitchen!
Native Australian produce is local, fresh, healthy and promotes Australian biodiversity. So why don’t we eat such foods more often?
It’s not for lack of content or variety. In fact Aboriginal people were sustained by a thriving food culture featuring more than 5,000 different native foods for tens of thousands of years.
Nor is it for lack of nutritional value. Research is quickly revealing bush foods as superior sources of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals – our very own ‘superfoods’. Maybe we need to be better educated about why and how we should grow and eat indigenous produce.
Here are 10 native Australian foods to introduce into your kitchen. Experiment and enjoy what the land has to offer…
If you’re struggling to read the above, check out the list below!
With their elongated form and delicate pink beads inside, finger limes are famous for the way the citrusy vesicles burst with flavour inside your mouth, making them a spectacular accompaniment to just about any dish, but especially seafood.
If there’s a uniquely Australian flavour that has made its mark internationally, it’s lemon myrtle. Famed for its sweet, citrusy aroma and taste, the lemon myrtle tree grows along the QLD coast and the leaves can be used to add a fresh lemon flavour to any dish.
This native spinach – also known as the New Zealand spinach – is hardier than the English version and some say better tasting too. It grows all year round and must be blanched in boiling water for 10 – 1 seconds before eating to get rid of harmful axalates.
Bush tomato has a strong sun-dried tomato, caramel and tamarillo flavour which is delicious in recipes with cheese or eggs. It comes from Australia’s arid desert regions and is already being developed as a commercial crop by manu Indigenous groups.
Found along the southern shores of Australia, samphire – also known as sea asparagus – burst with natural saltiness and a crisp, crunchy texture reminiscent of asparagus. Fine young shoots that are bright green are the best to use raw, cooking can be a quick blanche, or saute. Pairs well with seafood.
This so-called ‘native peach’, which grows in Australia’s semi-arid regions, was prized by Indigenous Australians not only for its tart flesh but also for the the medicinal properties of its leaves and kernel. They are great for baking such as in pies, or jams and dipping sauces too.
Also known as ‘sea celery’, this coastal native is used in soups, dressings, flavoured butter – with seafood and white sauces. It’s closely related to European parley, both in appearance and flavour, although it grows in a prostrate manner over rocky ledges and sandy ridges.
Tastes like a combination of roasted nuts, chocolate and coffee. This bushfood has been used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years – it contains 33% more protein that wheat. Roasted and ground Wattleseed is great for baking, thickening of sauces and casseroles.
The Snowberry, found growing in the chilly wet forests and sub-alpine regions of Tasmania, is snow-white and plump in form dotted with a blood-red tip. Its sweet and crunchy iciness has captured the heart of top chef Peter Gilmore of Quay Restaurant in Sydney, who uses it in his desserts.
The crunchy, buttery Macadamia is native to Eastern Australia. The nut is delicious eaten raw, and Macadamia oil is prized for its healthiness, its high smoke point, and sweet flavour. It is an essential ingredient for salad dressings, stir fries, baking and pan-frying.
Other Natives to try:
- Aniseed Myrtle
- Cinnamon Myrtle
- Davidsons Plum
- Desert Lime
- Gumbi Gumbi
- Illawarra Plum
- Kakadu Plum
- Lemon Aspen
- Lilly Pilly
- Native Basil
- Native Currants
- Native Sage
- Native Thyme
- Peppermint Gum
- River Mint
- Sea Parsley
- Strawberry Gum
- Tanami Apple
This is far from a comprehensive list though. If you ever get the chance, do try to visit Karen Sutherland’s Gunyah garden – it’s a sensory delight and has a focus on edible natives. CERES also has a number of edible natives scattered throughout their park, as the Designers Guild discovered recently.
Want to learn more? Native Tastes of Australia has heaps of good info…