Home || Back Issue Contents || Search ||
From the editor
Some time ago, the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) gathered people from the industry to formulate a research and development plan.
The 4th draft of this plan is now published and available for comment. I would encourage each and every one of you to get this document and add your feedback. R&D funding for bushfoods is scarce and the RIRDC initiative is an important one. A plan such as this needs the balance of many voices and, to be blunt, not many have been heard to date. Make yours one of them. Details on obtaining the draft plan are included in this issue.
On a similar note, I have (finally!) begun the process of developing a Bushfood Information Kit'. Interest in this kit is high and I hope to be shipping it within the month. It has been put together in ring binder form so that up dates can be easily incorporated and I fully imagine that there will also be additions to the current format.
I have attempted to gather as much expert advice as possible for this kit but would be delighted to have even more feedback before going to press. Details about the kit can be found in this issue - of there is an area in which you have. expertise, please contact me and I will I send you that section or sections.
Lastly - I apologise for the rather extreme tardiness of this issue - the best laid plans of mice and men, etc....
Very lastly - something strange happened with Issue 5 and a large number of subscribers did not receive their copy - I want to thank the many who rang to enquire - your good humour was remarkable.
Congratulations on one more fascinating issue of Australian Bushfoods (No.5). It was good to see several pages from John King, including more of his delightful recipes. For those of you who have led sheltered lives, his bush booze alone will ultimately earn him an AOM. This note is really concerned with John's article on the use of Aboriginal names. I could not agree more with his argument, his plea. The subject really deserves thorough development and Bushfoods Magazine is the ideal outlet, perhaps inviting readers to share personal knowledge of dialect names familiar to earlier generations. In Issue No 3 you published a passing reference to my personal aversion to inappropriate vernacular titles for Eleocarpus grandis (Dinner at 14 Ennerdale St). The use of the word quandong in this context offends me as it owns a legitimate place in its own right (SantaIum acuminatum) and is not simply one of those transferred European words applied nostalgically by early settlers. Manson Bailey (The Queensland Flora, Biggs, Vols. I-5) makes frequent references to Aboriginal titles, particularly from North Queensland. It is regrettable. however, that neither he nor his associates bothered to spend even a fraction of the effort expended on the 'Catalogues of Queensland Wood' and other expressions of exploitative philosophy, in producing a collection of dialect plant names, ('cooIoon� is a lovely word from the Tweed for Elaeocarpus grandis) which I promote vigorously but like the attempts to remove 'porphyry as a name for Brisbane volcanic Tuff, it is something of a battle. By the way, Bailey also quotes Moorqun from the Upper Barren for Elaeocarpus grandis. By way of ending, be informed that Kew Garden maintains that Elaeoearpus grandis in Queensland and New Guinea is correctlv named Elaeocarpus angustifolia, but the Queensland Herbarium is holding out for grandis. Happy days.
Tax and Research
Like everyone involved with bushfood products, I and my partner in Diemen Pepper believe that we are participating in the beginnings of a new and exciting industry which we hope will develop into a substantial contributor to Australian rural production and culture. As a keen student of agricultural history, I'm only too well aware of the lost opportunities represented by the export of indigenous species (macadamia, Geraldton Wax, Eucalyptus spp.) for commercial development in other countries. In many cases, this has happened through neglect of research effort or failure to forge a sound commercial footing for potential industries within the country.
I'd like to raise two issues for discussion, which relate to the establishment of bushfood as a secure, long term commercial activity.
The first is the question of proper recognition by all players of the elements necessary for bushfood to attain an image of substance and professional responsibility. We must support research efforts in the bushfood industry. Like many others, we applaud the initiative of RIRDC to commence a research programme in this area and the contribution of several major players to the projects currently underway. Public support for industry development comes from the taxpayer's pocket. Our industry has to be prepared to 'pay its way' as it were, if it is to persuade governments and their funding bodies to support it through research effort and public policy, Individuals and groups are all working hard to improve product quality and consistency. reliability of supply and proper food handling and safety procedures. Without attention to this work, we run a serious risk of (at best) creating the image of a confederation of opportunists and at worst inviting a food scare event which could jeopardise the whole of the industry. As in any fledgling enterprise there is a heavy demand for investment in infrastructure (plantations, harvesting and preparation systems), packaging development, product development, advertising etc. most of which must be provided by the participants themselves. All the players with long term commitment must include these investments as well as their contribution to the public purse in their calculations of price for their products. In this regard, I hope everyone in our industry is aware that the ATO has this year implemented a system for notification of transactions relating to fruit, vegetables, herbs etc (Reportable Payments Declaration). This requires producers and purchasers to jointlv notify the ATO of their commercial relationship.
While no doubt some will regard this as a piece of irritating paperwork, I'd like to make the point that those in the industry who operate tax-transparent businesses cannot compete with any who don't. It is the former who are contributing to research work and the infrastructure investment As I mentioned above, and irritating as it may be, this reporting procedure will help us all confirm our equal footing in the market.
Secondly, a (perhaps futile) warning to potential new players in our industry - be wary of schemes promising quick fortunes from bushfood products. Read the RIRDC report of last year identifying a number of areas of potential if not real, oversupply m bushfood products. DO your research. A rule of thumb which could be profitably employed by investors in any novelty primary production scheme might be:
halve the quoted product prices and annual 'per plant' yields for plantation schemes and multiply payback periods by four
Let's not see bushfood become another taxpayer funded rural fantasy in the tradition of other exotic plant and animal industries but rather an enterprise in which all participants view seriously their intention to produce quality products and to make a permanent contribution to Australian culture and its economy.
Recently statements and articles in this magazine put forth the idea that there are well developed improved selections of bushfood plants available if only we watch carefully for the sign of P.V.R./ P.B.R./plant patenting. If only it were so simple! In fact, plant patenting has a number of questionable impacts, standards and procedures which perspective bushfood growers will do well to research carefully.
Problems include the narrow range of priorities when seeking improved selections, inadequate comparison with total range of variation in a species, insufficient long term evaluation of the 'selection', lack of replicated trials, lack of data on performance, a reduction in biodiversitv on-farm (both in plant genetics and processing/flavour options), higher plant costs, and lack of support for sufficient plant exploration work and nursery development. Bushfood plant purchasers will want to carefully consider if they should purchase or boycott patented plants.
A number of useful questions can be asked of the nursery person or promoter when faced with patented bushfood selections:
How many total individual selections were evaluated to obtain The patented selection? Over what range of the species' natural distribution was collection done? What criteria were considered important in making the 'improved selection'? What nutritional or toxicological studies have been carried out? How long has the improved selection been evaluated~ in what range of environments. and for what applications? Can the promoter prove superior performance of their selection' with independent data?
Clearly, it is a Buyer Beware situation at present. Recently, a native lime promoter gained PBR in less than a year by paying the money to the statutory body that controls this. How would they answer these questions? Simply putting a name on a collection and paving for a patent right is not sufficient to indicate it is truly 'improved'.
The world seriously needs a number of things, some more than others.
Top of my list:
* a contraption for removing the itty bitty seeds from Citrus australis without pulping the segments.
Extract from 'The Bushfood Handbook' by Vic Cherikoff
Long before the nineteenth century white explorers and scientists documented the Australian environment, Aborigines had already developed their 'science' based on observation prediction, testing and modification.
Each Aboriginal group knew the qualities and habits of local species of plants, animals and other resources. They knew which particular resources provided food, medicine or both, which timbers made the best firewood and what to use to make tools, toys, weapons and shelters. Certain plants and weather patterns acted as makers in a bush calendar, telling the local Aborigines which resources were becoming available and when the seasons were changing.
The lessons and discoveries of one generation of Aborigines had to be passed on to the next. So, important resources were guarded carefully and the knowledge of how, where and when to find them was conveyed orally by direct observation or through song and visual arts. The patterns and symbols of Aboriginal paintings, whether on rock, canvas, hark or on their own bodies, represented actual areas and landmarks.
Details of the use and care of the land and its resources were written into stories and songs of the Dreaming and that knowledge passed on. Ceremonies, storytelling, songs and dances conveyed to the participants all types of information. both directly and allegorically. Stories in the form of song cycles tell of the formation of the land and its features, the birth of the Aborigines themselves and the plants and animals. The Dreaming knowledge incorporates descriptions of how spirit beings made foods and medicines from the bush as part of lie larger saga of their adventures which produced such natural features as waterholes and mountain ranges.
While all Diploglottis are highly ornamental. species such as Diploglottis campbellii, D. bernieana, D. cunninghamii (previously known as D. australis), D. bracteata, D. diphyllostegia, D. harpullioides, D. macranta and D. smithii are grown for their fleshy edible fruit.
D. campbcllii - the small-leaved Tamarind, has been described as having the best fruit of all the native tamarinds, though all are edible. D. campellii is now high on the rare and threatened list with clearing for farming on coastal lowland having been the major threat to its continued existence. Felling of a large area of rainforest best known as the 'Big Scrub� in Northern New South Wales has resulted in only twenty known trees still occurring in their natural habitat. The species is endemic in south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales in riverine rainforest, from the Richmond River to Upper Tallebudgera Creek in Queensland.
D. campbellii grows as a straight, slightly flanged tree, 18 to 25 m in the wild while in cultivation in the open it is smaller, only growing to 10m. A stately tree, it produces a dense spreading crown providing excellent shade and shelter.
Young plants can be slow growing, demanding protection from extreme cold conditions and frost. They require partial shade away from strong winds. This species succeeds best in moist well-drained loamy soils.
Leaves are dark green and pinnate to 30cm long. The leaflets
are almost opposite with 4 to pairs 7-15cm long, drawn out to a blunt point.
Flowers are small, to 1/2 cm, creamy - brown in colour and quite hairy. They are crowded in composite racemes to 10cm long. D. campbellii flowers over a long period, usually November to February.
The species can fruit while it is quite small. The fruit is a yellow/ brown thin-walled, three-lobed capsule to 6cm. It splits open to reveal one to three seeds enclosed in a pinkish-red, sometimes yellow, fleshy, shiny aril to 5mm thick. The fruit can be eaten raw or made into drinks, jams or jellies. The aril is very juicy and refreshing - acidic and imparts a good flavour.
There are 13-23 fruits, 52-92 seeds with aril, 220-410 seeds without aril per kilogram. The fruit matures from February to March.
Propagation is from seed. Germination is best when the seed is fresh and removed from the aril. Good results can be achieved within 3 weeks without bottom heat.
Although rare and endangered, this species is being actively propagated and planted in suitable areas. It is now popular in cultivation both because It is an attractive tree and because of the quality of its fruit. It is an excellent shade tree worthy of inclusion in gardens where its needs for protection, adequate moisture and good drainage can be met. It grown and fruits well in Sydney.
Lloyd, AG. (1989) Rainforest Trees of Mainland South Eastern Australia, Forestry Commission of New South Wales.
Jones, David I,. (1986, 1991), Rainforest Plants of Australia, Reed Books Pty Ltd NSW.
Mansfield, Darren (1992) Australian Rainforest Plants for Your Garden, (Mount Annan Botanic Garden Native Plant Series), Simon & Schuster Australia.
Nicholson. N & El. (1985), Australian Rainforest Plants, Vol. I Terania Rainforest Nursery.
A brief look at just some of our cold climate bushfoods.
Wattle Amongst them A. longifolia, A.decurrens, A. floribunda. It is well known that Acacia species are found throughout Australia in almost every climatic and soil type. The seed of many are edible though the commercial viability of many is yet to be validated. The use of acacia leaf, bark and root in natural remedies is still an area of unrealised potential.
Acacia melanoxylon is just one of the species suitable for farm forestry (cabinet timber) as well as bushfood production (though A. melanoxylon is not part of the 'A' team for wattle seed). Acacia longifolia var. sophorae, A. decurrens and A.floribunda are also ideal plantings for areas which experience heavy frosts Many Acacia can also play multiple roles in mixed plantings: - wind break, forage, timber and gum producer (noticeably A. decurrens).
This may be a sleeper in the bushfoods industry. A variable herb with a fairly celery-like taste, it was certainly eaten with gusto by early explorers and colonists. It prefers a damp, sunny position and will tolerate heavy frosts.
You don't see it on menus yet (or I certainly haven't!) but Tim Low tells us (in 'Wild Food Plants') that there is a giant Apium insulare found on Bass Strait Islands which could be worth investigating.
Arthropodium spp: Mountain vanilla lily
Bulbine bulbosa: Bulbine lilly
Dichopogon strictus and D. fimriatus: Chocolate lilly
Microseris lanceolata: Murnong or Yam Daisy
Although many members of the Lily family were eaten by the Aborigines, the small tubers of such plants as the Vanilla Lily and the Bulbine Lily are either bland or bitter to our taste and not likely to find their way into the mainstream. Murnong, the Yam daisy, was an important staple of the Kooris of Victoria but was decimated by stock.
Once again, the carrot or radish shaped tuber has not yet gained much commercial interest.
The Murnong (Microseris lanceolata) is quoted by Low as being one of the tastiest of the original staple foods and Baron Von Mueller was of the opinion it should be cultivated as a cold climate vegetable - but little has been done.
B. scandens: Apple berry vine
The fruit of the Apple berry, on the other hand, has a sweet, more-ish flavour, highly variable from one species to the next but usually falling between aniseed to kiwi fruit in taste.
The natural habitat of this small vine is open forests of the S.E regions of the country. Merrvn Carey (in 'Bushfood Plants for Cold Climates') states that they seem to be able to cope with a wide range of conditions. Anyone who's tasted them, raves - definitely worth more research.
Plum pine - Illawarra Plum
The fruit of this beautiful tree is starting to get the attention it deserves and Plum Pine sauce can be found on menus round the country.
It is also high on the list for farm forestry, having an excellent fine grain and dark wood.
This is a rainforest tree but adapts well to a wide range of conditions. Reasonable soil and ample moisture are necessary for optimum fruiting. Trees are male or female and a mix is needed for good fruit production. Merryn Carey and Peter Gow state that seedling rootstocks are stronger than cuttings and that there is potential for grafting to increase male/female ratios.
P. incisa: Cut leaf mint, P. rotundifolia: Round leaf mint bush Prostranthera incisa (the cut leaf mint) is getting a great deal of attention and is considered a commercial proposition. This is a reasonably hardy shrub to 1.8 m with highlv aromatic foliage. It may be subject to root rot but its natural habitat includes moist, cool, well watered creek edges and thus irrigation may be necessary in low rainfall areas.
Many of the Prostanthera spp. have essential oil potential. Study needed on toxicity.
The native raspberry (Rubus parvifolius) is another fruit which seems to vary immensely in quality. I have tasted some which were bland and even rather dry and others which were stronger in flavour and closer to what we think of as a raspberry taste. Perhaps, like the exotic Rubus, this species can be selected for commercial qualities. Merryn Carey and Peter Gow also list Rubus hillii (syn. Rubus mollucana) and it seems from their description (I haven't personally tasted the fruit) that this is a good fresh eating raspberry
As for parvifolious - when it's good, ifs very, very good but I suggest potential growers research variability, harvest and post harvest well before embarking.
Tasmannia lanceoloata - Mountain pepper
Top of the list for many, this is a high altitude plant (800-1200m) by nature and, like many of this ilk, is slow to establish. It can grow to a small tree but is more often shrub size. It requires a fair amount of moisture for establishment and thus growers iii low rainfall areas ma~ need to include irrigation in their plans (or perhaps look at Tasmannia stipitata - Dorrigo pepper). The leaves and berries of lanceolata are used in cooking and, to my taste, beat exotic pepper hands down.
Leaves are harvested all year round and the berries ripen Autumn.
Other Species for Cold Climates:
Araucaria bidwilli Bunya
Carpobrotus spp Pig face
Eucalyptus gunnii Cider gum
Melaleuca spp Paperbark
Smilax glycophylla Native sarsparilla
Syzygium spp. Lilly pilly
Tetragonia tetragonoides Warrigal greens
Get up-to-date info at Bushfoods magazine online