Enticing Tourists With Bushfood and Herbs
Terence Carpenter - Koinonia Pastimes - Candelo
My wife, Geraldine, and I had a dream some years ago that I should take an early retirement from the public service and purchase a small plot away from suburbia. Our dream included self-sufficiency as far as possible, practicing permaculture methods and operating a bed & breakfast business with wheel chair access.
With the passage of time our plans have expanded to include organic certification for the growing of herbs and vegetables. (We presently have "In Conversion" status with OHGA).
Since our B & B was going to be wheel chair friendly, we should incorporate a 'touch and smell' raised herb garden area. This facility would provide an often denied experience for wheelies.
Our interest in bushfood was aroused by the 'Bushtucker Man', Les Hiddins, programs on the ABC TV. During 1994, Andrew Felke of Australian Native Produce Industries and the Red Ochre business, presented a bushfood tasting at the Canberra Botanical Gardens, As a consequence of this event, we decided to include bushfood plantings into our horticultural plan. Of course some plants will be included in our raised herb garden beds for the benefit of wheelies.
The current revision of our business plan includes all of the above, It is proposed as far as possible to use home grown produce (including free range chooks, ducks and a couple of piglets all part of the permaculture concept) in our B&B. We trust also that we will have sufficient produce to sell, either as harvested or value added, under the Sapphire Coast Producers' Ass. umbrella. Whilst we don't envisage sufficient income from these sales alone to make a living, when combined with our of her interests, it all contribute to our diverse sources of cash flow. Our hospitality plans provide for optional provision of picnic lunches and evening meals on advance notice. This extra activity will enable us to further use our home grown and on-site value added bushfood produce.
We have a 2 hectare plot on Kameruka Lane near Candelo (19 km south west of Bega on the far south coast of NSW). We have a NNE aspect with varying slope between 10 to 20 degrees on an elevation of 200 metres at the highest point. This past winter we experienced only 4 significant frosts, and only the occasional fog. The average rainfall recorded by our neighbour over recent years is 800mm. Reticulated water from Tantawangalo Dam (regional water supply) is not economical, we rely on the Lord to provide all our water needs. We have 2 rain water tanks with a total capacity of 120,000 litres, and a dam of 600,000 litre capacity. The roof catchment areas (house and garage) are sufficient given the average rainfall to exceed our expected domestic water usage. A header tank is about to be installed to hold water pumped from the dam for gravity reticulation to our herb and vegetable areas. Plans are in train to process all our grey water through gravel and reed tanks for use on our 70 fruit trees. Most of the bushfood trees and shrubs are planted below the septic transpiration bed, with the larger trees providing a windbreak. Prostrate bushfood plants are scattered around the property on earth banks and in the vegetable garden.
Our plot was originally part of a beef cattle property, and treeless! We have planted hundreds of trees for windbreaks, shelter belts and spray drift barriers. Our present neighbours are sympathetic to our organic status, but what about many years down the track if they move on? Trees selected fit into at least 2 of the following categories; honey and nectar, flowering, edible fruits and nuts, animal fodder, mulching, firewood or specialty timber for wood craftsmen. As with most plants, one cannot emphatically state that a particular plant will or will not grow in a specific area or location. I recognise that there are some specific environmental conditions required for many plants. However we can, and often do, modify small areas by creating micro-climates and/or otherwise artificial environments. We currently have a low cost shade house, using 2nd hand materials (although at this time it is without a roof due to the wild winds last October) for those plants which need protection from either sun or frost. With our bushfood plantings, apart from trees already mentioned above, we have usually purchased 2 of a number of species to ascertain how they perform in our area. We have thought about companion planting and have yet to learn about this aspect of bush horticulture. The subject of alleopathy with bushfood plants is also to be investigated.
Podocarpus elatus - Illawarra plum or Plum pine
Plants currently in the ground include:
Acacia floribunda - White sally, Gossamer wattle (flour)
A. longifolia/sophorae - Coast wattle (flour)
A. melanoxylon - Blackwood (medicinal)
Backhousia citriodora - Sweet verbena myrtle. Lemon myrtle (herb, seasoning)
Banksia serrata - Red honeysuckle (nectar)
B. maroinata - sweet drink
Brachychiton populneus Kurrajong (coffee, nuts and fodder)
Callitris rhomboidea - Port Jackson pine (medicinal)
Ceratonia siliqua - Carob (nuts and fodder) - not a native
Leptospermum petersonii - Lemon scented tea tree (medicinal)
Podocarpus elatus - Illawarra plum (marinade, pickles, scones, tarts)
Solanum aviculare - Kangaroo apple (berries)
Tasmannia lanceolata - Mountain pepper (seasoning)
Acmena smithii - Lily pillys (Syzygium spp) - jams, jellies, cakes, tarts, muffins
S. australe, S. leuhmannii, S. paniculatum - Lilly pilly, Riberry
Apium prostratuin - Sea celery (garnish)
Austromyrtus dulcis- midyim berry (berries)
Bulbine bulhosa - Native leek (seasoning)
Carpobratus glausesens - Pig face (fruit)
My advice to anyone not yet growing bushfoods is to spend time studying as many relevant publications as possible, consult your local library. Consider your overall plan for your future income and lifestyle. You may be eligible for primary producer status. Whilst the taxation office doesn't have any specific rules, they do have guidelines. If you haven't already drawn up a business plan. this is another useful tool. Good luck.
by John Wrench
The early settlers were grateful to the Aborigines for their example of indicating the edibility of certain native fruits. The Europeans, however, were quick to put the fruits to a purpose quite outside the experience of the Aborigines; they used them to make jam. So can we, if we observe a few important factors in jam making.
To be successful, all jams require three essential components in addition to the fruity parts (colour, flavour and aroma):
(1) Pectin, as described below, which forms the characteristic colloidal gel in the presence of acid and sugar. (2) Sugar, used in about the same weight as the fruit, or in the case of jam jellies (cooked fruit liquid minus the solids) 1g/ml of filtered liquor. (3) Acid, ie, fruit acid (hydroxy acid) such as malic, citric, tartaric, etc. The presence of such acid in the fruit is detected by the degree of sourness, and to be adequate must produce a response in the mouth and salivary glands as when a lemon is sucked. Deficiency of acid may be remedied by the addition of other, more strongly acidic fruits, or of the acids mentioned above at the rate of about 25 g/kg of fruit.
About Pectin. Pectin is a rather imprecise term which applies to the substance(s) which produce a viscous colloidal gel when certain pectinoid compounds are heated with sugar and fruit acid. It can apply to the natural formation during jam making with a felicitous choice of components, or to the white powder produced commercially from fruits, such as apple. This extracted substance can be used in a wide range of food products, including jams made from fruits deficient in pectin.
The pectinoid substances occur in nature, in plants as cell wall cement, in the non-rigid parts of plants, such as fleshy fruits, citrus pith and the outer layers of root hairs.
In chemical terms, this primary substance or protopectin is hydrolysed to pectinic acid, which is the methyl ester of polygalacturonic acid. Does that start to remind you of methyl cellulose, another well known commercial substance producing colloidal gels? Anyway, pectinic acid plus sugar and fruit acid forms pectin, the magic gel-former. By the way, some of these terms should be used in the plural, since a range of related substances actually occurs.
Back to jam. The basic method of making jam is to stew the fruit, chopped or minced, with just enough water to do the job without sticking or burning, until it is tender. At this stage, a simple test for pectin can be performed. Spoon out about 5 ml of juice into a glass or plastic transparent tube or narrow jar, add about 15 ml of methylated spirits, mix and allow to stand for two minutes. Since pectin is insoluble in ethanol, the development of turbidity, flocculation or a clot indicates to some degree the presence of pectin. Less than a heavy response indicates the need for a supplement, either by way of pectin-rich fruit, or the addition of commercial pectin (mixed with the sugar), about 25g/kg of sugar, added at the next stage.
It used to be possible to buy pure pectin from some jam factories, but no longer in Brisbane. Most large supermarkets, however, stock sachets of "jam starter" which also contains citric acid, with directions for use.
Similarly, citric and tartaric acids are freely available in stores. The acid, or acidic fruit or juice can be added at the final stage, if needed.
The sugar is added gradually, with constant stirring, using a wooden spoon, maintaining the heat until the sugar is dissolved and the jam boils, at which stage the heat must be reduced. Two effects are observed when the sugar is added: a somewhat miraculous mobilisation of water (an osmotic effect) and a brightening of colour.
Please note that because of the high concentration of sugar the boiling point is well above 100oC, even 110oC, so that a hot jam splash on the skin can cause pain and damage; wall paint and floor tiles are also vulnerable.
Unless the jam contains an excess of water, a brief boil is enough; prolonged boiling at the high temperature causes caramelisation of the sugar, with darkening and spoilage of flavour, so-called "burning". A small amount of jam spooned onto a cold surface will set in a short time and form a skin which wrinkles when tilted. If this fails, further boiling may be necessary, but beware of overheating.
Bottling. While the jam is still hot (but not so as to crack the glass), pack it in dry sterile jars, but refrain from applying the sterile caps until cool, in case drops of condensate form on the surface of the ham, diluting the high concentration of sugar (reducing the osmotic pressure) and permitting the growth of spoilage organisms.
Seeds in Jam. Large seeds in some of the native fruits such as Burdekin plum or Davidson's plum are hardly likely to be left with the fruit; the smaller seeds, such as those in the Syzygiums, Eugenias and Citrus are not easily removed, and pose some problems. Seedless riberry is now widely planted, but most of the natural crop picked every summer is still seed-bearing. Brown pine, of course, does not bear fruit in the true sense and the small cones are readily detached from the so-called Illawarra plums.
A brief reference was made earlier to the separation of fruit solids in preparing jam and jellies. There are two reasons for preparing jellies - the attractive nature of the translucent soft gel, and the problem of dental damage inflicted by the hardened seeds lurking in the jam.
Seeds of all kinds become hard but brittle if heated dry at 150oC - 180oC, greatly assisting the process of pulverisation by various means for various purposes.
A far different result is produced when fruit seeds remain in the jam mass at 110C. The seeds become not brittle, but really hard and tough and unchewable.
On the other hand, at the first stage, when the fruit is cooked to tenderness before the sugar is added, the seeds are as soft as any boiled seeds and chewable. If the solids are separated by straining off the liquor for jelly, ie Riberry jelly, the material containing soft seeds might well be used for relish, chutney, etc. Some more fresh fruit may be needed to restore colour, as well as the pungent items, either native or exotic, such as Tasmania spp, chilli, ginger as well as garlic or onion (there being no native Alliaceae) plus vinegar and sugar. Chewy riberry relish on `roo' is a fine dish.
There is an old tradition of using flower petals for jam; many Australians are familiar with Rosella jam made from swollen calyx of an Asian plant, Hibiscus sabdarilla.
As it happens, the native Australian Hibiscus species (there are forty) can be used to make a kind of rosella jam, but using the soft parts of the fresh flowers, detached from the often bristly calyx.
The mucilaginous flowers contain adequate levels of pectinoids, but do require the addition of acid, such as Eremocitrus glauca or Microcitrus spp. One unusual feature of these plants is that, regardless of the original colour of the corolla (be it white, pink or yellow) the jam is always a brilliant rosella colour. We have even made good jam from the flowers of the cotton tree, Hibiscus tiliaceus, giving it the charming Turrabul name, Tal wa `pin.
A brief point about another native jam source with colloids and no acid - Podocarpus elatus, Plum pine.
It is advisable to cut the "plums" finely or to mince them before cooking, but for surprise, always include a few whole. In addition note the change in colour from dark purple to reddish purple when the acid is added.
In preparing this article I have avoided simply listing pedantic recipes. On the other hand it seemed important to reveal how and why jam happens, and to leave liberated readers to get on with being creative with the sources at hand.
Reproduced with the kind permission of the author of the course notes from Bushfood and Walkabout.
Fish Finger with Lime Cream Sauce
Finger Lime (Microcitrus australiasica var sanguinea)
5 x fish fillets (eg snapper or salmon) plain flour salt & pepper
1 onion, diced 2 cups sour cream 1/2 cup dry white wine 2 fresh red-pulp Finger Limes 3 tblspns green peppercorns salt & pepper
Dip fish in seasoned flour and shake off excess. In a large frypan, heat the butter and fry the onion until clear. Remove onion and keep warm. Fry fish until cooked (approx. 5 mins), remove and keep warm. Return onion to frypan. Pour in white wine, add sour cream and green peppercorns and bring to the boil, while stirring. Reduce sauce until it reaches the consistency of thick cream. Slice finger limes, scoop the pulp-vesicles out with a teaspon and remove any seeds. Add to sauce and mix through. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over fish, serve on a bed of rice.
Quantity: 6 serves
Comments: tastes great!!
The following are from BTS Australia -
Akudjura crusted blackened salmon cutlets
4 salmon cutlets
4 tablespoons Akudjura
1 egg, beaten butter for frying
Brush one surface of the cutlets with the egg and coat thickly with the akudjura. Heat the butter in a frying pan to smoking and fry the un-seasoned side of each cutlet until cooked half way through. Turn the cutlets over and finish frying, blackening the akudjura. Using tongs, remove the backbone and long bones and serve the cutlets with a native pepperberry potato cake and drizzling the plate with a thin lemon aspen honey soy sauce.
Prep. time 30 mins
4 medium potatoes, peeled and finely grated
1 x 65g egg, lightly beaten a generous pinch of salt
30g cornflour oil for shallow frying
Soak the grated potatoes in cold water for 20 minutes, drain and pat-dry with paper towelling. Mix in the akudjura, egg, salt and cornflour adding extra cornflour if the mix is too wet. Heat the oil in a small heavy frying pan over moderate heat and fry potato cakes until crisp and golden on both sides.
Akudjura tapinade and bush tomato oil
Prep. time 10 mins 200g Bush tomatoes
400ml water 1 tsp salt
500ml polyunsaturated oil 1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp ground Mountain pepper 1 tsp ground oregano
marinated mix of olives, mushrooms, eggplant and capsicum
Coarsely chop the bush tomatoes and bring them to the boil in the salted water. Drain, reserving the water for use in stocks or sauces. Pat dry the bush tomatoes on absorbent paper and transfer to an appropriately sized glass jar. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Seal and leave stand for at least 10 days. Use the oil as a flavouring for pasta, pesto or dressings and use the marinating vegetables as a tapinade, blending to smoothness with a little of the flavoured oil.