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Issue 6

Brian King -

munt flowerthe man who grows Muntaris!

(picture - flower of Kunzea pomifera)



A continuing series on and by people in the industry.

My first experience with bushfood occurred at a young age while living on a grazing property in the south east of SA. The property had sections very close to the coast and larger areas of what would then have been virgin mallee behind the sandhills and beaches. While my older brothers would be off into the mallee scrub chasing rabbits I would tag along to ferret for old quandong stones under the many trees growing in the area. The stones made perfect marbles and at the end of the day, when bored playing with them, I would crack the stones and eat the kernels.

I can also remember springtime and the sandhills covered in Muntari or Muntaberry blossom for as far as the eye could see. In summer, the same area would smell like apples when the fruit of the Muntari was ripening. This was perhaps my favourite time of year. After swimming at the beach, we would walk back through the sandhills on our way home and collect a handful of fruit to eat along the way. That same area is now almost completely void of this plant and the mallee scrub that abutted it. In it's place there are holiday homes and cabins and tracks crisscrossing throughout. It is sad to see but that's what we call progress.

The bushfood experience was relived when starting my first job with an oil survey company in the Northern Territory and continued with subsequent employment in the electronics field. The job allowed me the opportunity to visit many parts of Australia. Working throughout many arid areas of SA, NT, WA and occasionally, Cape York in QLD. I developed a strong interest in native plants and the indigenous people's method of using them. I was constantly amazed by the variety of foods available to these folk in areas that appeared so inhospitable, yet they could always point out different plants and ways of using them for food or medicine.


At every given opportunity I would watch, listen, taste and learn. The wonderful thing about aboriginal people is that they are always so willing to share their knowledge, not because there is something in it for them but simply because it is their way. Many friends were made during repeated visits to these places and it is to them that I am grateful for the knowledge gained and great passion I have not only for bushfood plants but for Australian native plants in general. The idea of growing native plant foods in a plantation situation had always been on my agenda but work commitments did not allow the time so for some years all I could do was research and grow a few plants for personal use. About the time I became disenchanted with my job as an electronics technician and with all the travelling involved in it, the chance arose to study horticulture and as luck would have it, buy the property which is now home to Muntari Wild Food Plants.

These days I contract my services to an agricultural electronics firm (can't seem to get away from it!) and operate the business which itself uses contract workers. The nursery is situated in the lower mid-north of the state and the heart of the Gilbert Valley in the small township of Rhynie. With reliable annual rainfall, broad acre farming of cereal crops forms the main bulk of produce from the area.


The business started life as a plant nursery and I guess you could say a poor man's research centre, where over the last few years, around 200 different species of native plants reported or known to be edible, have been propagated and trialed.

From this work our interest has narrowed to 15 - 20 species, 90% of which are from temperate or arid zones. Extended trials of these species is taking place and promising selections of Muntari (Kunzea pomifera), Sweet and Common Appleberry (Billardiera cymosa & scandens respectively) and Wattles (Acacia sp.) are starting to emerge. Good results have been achieved in grafting work with a number of species to enhance their commercial production prospects including Muntari, Native Lime and Quandong. Bush potato (Ipomoea costata), native cucumber (Curcumis melo), native leek (Bulbine bulbosa), native cherry (Exocarpus species), while perhaps not so high profile as native limes or quandongs, are also on our list of useful plants. Some have been used successfully as replacements for exotic fruits normally used as bulk in bushfood jam and chutney recipes. It makes sense to us to use as much native produce as possible in our products.

The business is steadily growing and now includes bushfood plantations, harvesting/processing machinery such as seed cleaners and quandong stone removers. A new line of value added produce is to be available later this year.

Although still in their infancy, all of these things are viewed as essential elements to the development and long term success of the business. While markets for products are increasing slowly in line with rate of production we see the need to place much more emphasis on educating the consumer in uses of bushfoods which to date has been minimal. It would also appear that retailers may need a little advice, too, if a visit to a large chain store is anything to go by.

While searching for bushfood products known to be on trial, they were finally spotted in the Asian foods section! Not that there is anything wrong with Asian foods mind you, it just seemed an odd place to put them.

I work towards the day when one can walk through a supermarket and see Australian bushfood products in easy reach of other favourites. For this to happen, there needs to be demand, for demand of a product there needs to be consumer education, for ..... I'll stop now before repeating myself, myself.

Congratulations must go to Sammy & Co on the 1st birthday issue of Australian Bushfoods magazine, well done. May there be many more to follow!

Index: 6
From the Ed
Introducing diploglottis
Aboriginal Food
Temperate species
Tourists and Bushfoods
Essential Oil Distillation
Profile: Brian King
Bushfood Plants for Colder Climates
3 Bucket Garden
Profile: Jenny Allen
Bush Jams - John Wrench
Company profiles
Book reviews
Who's buying and selling

The Three Bucket Garden ~ Part 2

Colleen Keena, Qld

Continued from Issue 5...

Where the planting merged into neighbouring properties, trees and shrubs from forests were included, e.g. Acacia fimbriata, Hovea purpurea, Lophostemon confertus. "Faunascaping" was not ignored, with species such as Ficus coronata, Harpullia pendula, Lomandra longifolia, Lopho-stemon confertus and Stenocarpus sinuatus included as food plants for butterflies and their larvae, and plants such as Ficus fraseri, Glochidion ferdinandi, Grevillea robusta, Hibiscus heterophyllus, Stenocarpus sinuatus and Syzygium sp. to attract birds.

The site formed a triangle, with equal sides of approximately 50 m and a slope of about 30 degrees.

A plan was drawn to indicate where the beds should go. The beds were designed to intercept surface flow and allow it to soak into the ground, control run-off and erosion and direct surplus water into a dam. As well, the planting  was arranged so each plant received adequate sunlight. The soil varied from red soil to sandy loam. After deep-ripping, mounding and channelling, planting took place in mid-October with plants obtained from a local rainforest nursery specialising in south-east Queensland species. Plants were in pots of 125 mm or more to ensure a satisfactory survival rate. The owners planted 1.5 to 2 metres apart and then mulched as much as possible with an organic mulch. The drought affected availability of mulch and some beds have not as yet been mulched. These have required weeding as the growth of rainforest plants is adversely inhibited to an even greater extent than other plants by grass and weeds.

As well as indicating the layout of the beds, the plan indicated the species to be included in each section but the owners decided on the placement of each plant. Design characteristics of rainforest plants were exploited for aesthetic purposes, particularly colour and texture. White is a favourite of the owner and so white plants were included where possible, e.g. the Hibiscus heterophyllus plants were white rather than yellow. Texture was an important design element. Plants closest to the house verandah were chosen for the large leaves expected of rainforest plants whereas plants backing onto the eucalyptus forest behind the garden were selected to blend into the background, e.g. Lophostemon confertus. Even in the beds closest to the house, plants were chosen both to blend, e.g. Grevillea hilliana and Buckinghamia celsissima and to contrast, e.g. Grevillea hilliana and Grevillea robusta.

From mid-October until mid-February, only very occasional, very light showers occurred. Temperatures at times reached well over 40o C. No plant received more than three buckets of water throughout this entire period. An inspection of plants prior to the mid-February arrival of rain showed only one unmulched plant drooping slightly. The only plants which died were damaged in a severe windstorm just after planting and were mostly the smallest plants that had been planted. These were replaced and the replacements have grown well. The owners have been so impressed with their "rainforest", they have dug up even more lawn and today their neighbour who is tired of watering his acreage was on a `tour of inspection'. The drought certainly has provided the impetus not only to re-evaluate attitudes to use of water in the garden but also to implement strategies to ensure a water-efficient garden, even one comprised of rainforest species.

Much has been written about minimising water demand. To this should be added the knowledge of those who have specialised in growing "native" species, for example:

  • mounding and channelling (John Hunt)

  • deep-ripping as advocated by Peter and Ann Radke and Garry and Nada Sankowsky of Yuruga Nursery in Growing Australian Tropical Plants

  • deep-ripping and use of local species as described in Putting Back the Forest, A Landcare Guide for Brookfield Pullenvale and Moggill by Bryan Hacker, Rona Butler and Rae Rekdahl

  • deep-ripping, water traps, mounds and use of local species advocated by DPI Queensland in Tree Note 818 and Tree Note 823

  • deep-ripping and mounds illustrated by Ralph Bailey and Julie Lake in Creating an Australian Rainforest Garden (reviewed by Neil Marriott in GDSG Newsletter 7, pp6)

For those interested in designing with rainforest plants, Darren Mansfield in Australian Rainforest Plants for Your Garden (Mount Annan Botanic Garden Native Plant Series) starts with site analysis and functional requirements and includes architectural uses, engineering purposes, climate control, aesthetic reasons and appreciation and identification of the plants themselves.


The next section includes small space design, large space design, narrow space design, formal gardens, naturalistic, bush tucker and there is a section entitled `using rainforest plants with or in place of exotic plants.'

Designing for drought can be achieved with Australian rainforest species. Establishing a water-efficient garden can be successful, even in extreme weather conditions. This project has given a new dimension to my understanding of use of water in the garden. The owner of the garden laughed when he read the first draft of this article and commented "A three bucket rainforest? Yes, and that's all it will ever get!"

*P.S. The neighbour has started digging!