When international chefs, such as taste trailblazer Rene Redzepi, learn about Australia’s backyard bush tucker they go green with envy and want to try our bush tukka food. It’s time to put some bush tucker plants in your own backyard.
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Bush tucker flavours
Coming from countries where most of the flavours have been tried and tested for centuries, it’s like having a magic box of new toys to open and explore.
With the organic superfood obsession sweeping across the nation, it’s a wonder that more of us haven’t foraged in our own backyards for some natural bush tucker flavours like Wattle Seed, Lemon Myrtle and Quandong, also known as the desert peach.
Bush tucker in your backyard
Well, look out world, because these flavours are now coming to a backyard near you. Perhaps it’s yours? It’s time for the daisies and begonias to move over for Finger Lime and Midyim Berries, muntries and black plum.
Look out for Tucker Bush’s Samphire at your local nursery. You’ll have seen this on menus as sea asparagus. It’s salty and high in vitamin A, but the young green shoots are delicious sautéed or blanched and tossed with lemon and olive oil. Goes beautifully with seafood or salads and is best in summer. Try it in a pot in full sun as it is drought tolerant.
I’ve recently purchased a saltbush plant. Once it grows a bit I plan to use it in salads and to accompany lamb and fish. I’ll also be trying the leaves ground up as a replacement for salt.
You may already have pin lilly pillies growing in your backyard as they are a popular hedging tree. The little red fruits can be eaten fresh or frozen for later use. Try them in fruit salads to add a tangy crunch or they make good jams and chutneys.
Blue quandongs are native to south-east Queensland and have the prettiest little fruits. I often see them on the ground in local parks when they are in season. Quandong fruit has a hard seed like a walnut which is traditionally used by Aboriginal women for necklaces. Best eaten fresh rather than dried, the fruit has a bitter, tangy flavour and goes well with red meat. Try them in a stew. Some people also use them for pickles although they do not have very much flesh.
Photo: Kerry Heaney
Finger Limes grow well around south-east Queensland and come in a variety of colours. Add them to a glass of champagne, and they will do a little dance for you. The flavour also matches well with oysters, calamari and fish. It’s a thorny bush so be careful when you pick the ripe fruit which is about the size of your thumb, depending on how big your thumb is!
I like Cape Byron Distillery’s Slow Gin which is macerated with Davidson Plums plus a good deal of sugar to create a drink I happily consume as a dessert alternative. The plums taste a little sour, and the fruit grows directly on the trunk of the tree.
My Lemon Myrtle tree got left behind growing strongly at my previous house, however, I have found a new source in the street planting at North Harbour Hamilton. The leaves have an intense lemon fragrance, and it grows throughout the subtropical forests of south-eastern and central Queensland. Use the leaves in tea, ice cream, biscuits, cakes, or dips. If you can distil the oil from the leaves, it makes a wonderful scent for bath products and is said to have anti-fungal properties.
It’s easy to make Lemon Myrtle tea. Just pick some leaves and put them in a mug of boiling water. When the leaves and the water turn brown the tea is ready. Add a teaspoon of honey for sweetness if you like. It’s a good idea to cover the mug while the leaves steep as this traps the essential oils back into the water rather than evaporating.
Another tree you might have in your backyard is a paperback. This medium-sized tree has a papery bark (hence the name) which it sheds once a year. The bark strips off easily and can be used as a wrapping to cook chicken, fish or vegetables. You need to soak the bark first and then place the ingredients inside the bark. Wrap it up and tie with string or if you are cooking on a fire, wrap the whole parcel in alfoil. It gives a delightful smokey flavour to your food.
These are just a few of the culinary additions that can boost your backyard. Happy planting.
Blue quandongs. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Where to find it?
If you would like to know more about bush tucker take a Tropical Fruit World tour. Located in the Tweed Valley, Northern New South Wales, they have over 500 species of fruit from around the world including an extensive collection of bush tucker plants.
Find out more about these native plants at Tucker Bush.
Interested in Australian food?
Try this recipe for Sausage Rolls with Australian Bushfood Flavours.