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Australian Bushfoods magazine Issue 7, May-Jun 1998

 

Introducing Lilly Pilliesriberry

Colleen Keena, Brisbane

We were first introduced to the lilly pilly family almost 40 years ago in Papua New Guinea. 'Familiar' fruits were either unavailable, or of poor quality and prohibitively priced, often both. However, a large, pink-to-red fruit called "Laulau", (Eugenia mega-carpa), was readily available. The fruit was very refreshing to eat. We enjoyed the fruit so much that when we returned to Australia, we looked for something similar.

Eventually we ate the first fruit from our Eugenia coolminianum, now called Syzygium oleosum, and this reminded us of the flavour of the "Laulau". We saved the seeds and we planted and planted. These were almost the first plants in our initial attempt at a rainforest garden when we moved to our current site in 1981. These trees now form a tall dense boundary completely screening our house from our neighbours. Unfortunately, all the land around us was cleared and any possums that survived the tree felling took up residence on our block. We rarely obtain any fruit now as the trees are tall, so we went looking for smaller lilly pillies to plant right beside the house where we would perhaps have a chance to obtain fruit before it disappeared.

We found two varieties of lilly pilly that were small enough to be planted right next to the house. The first of these was Eugenia reinwardtiana or Beach Cherry. The fruit was sweet but we missed the refreshing quality of Syzygium oleosum. The other type of lilly pilly that we tried were the smaller growing forms of Syzygium australe. These were the size we wanted and the fruit had the delicious crisp flavour we were seeking. We now look out the study window at three Syzygium australe plants, mature bushes yet just the height of the house. While we enjoy looking at these trees with their glossy foliage, reddish new growth and their showy white flowers, we especially enjoy eating any fruit we manage to reach ahead of the possums or birds.

treesAt the time of planting these smaller growing Syzygium australe there were only a limited number of forms available. This is no longer the situation. There is now a plant to suit every garden, be it a pot on a balcony or a windbreak on acreage. For landscaping rather than strictly bushfood production, plants available range from "Undercover", a prostrate form which spreads 3m x 3m, the diminutive "Tiny Trev", 75 cm in 5 years, through "Blaze", 1.5m, "Aussie Copper 1.5-3m, "Bush Christmas" 2-3m, Variegata, with variegated foilage, to 2.5m, "Aussie Compact", 3m x 1m, "Aussie Southern", 3-4m. These plants provide a marked contrast to the wild form which occurs in S.E. Qld and reaches 20m, with larger trees usually being buttressed at the base (REPA, 1994). As well as variation in growth habit, there are also variations in foliage which varies in colour. For example, 'Blaze' lives up to its name in the winter months, and 'Variegata has' lighter patches. As well, the leaves vary in form, with shape ranging from the almost circular leaf of the round leaf variety, to the narrow leaf of the dwarf "Minipilly" through to the lance-shaped leaves of other forms. This list is not exhaustive but gives an indication of the variations in size and foiiage currently available.

Although Syzygium australe can be found from south-eastern NSW to north-eastern Qld, it can also be grown from Melbourne to Darwin in either full sun or semi-shade (Zodiac, 1995). Plants are hardy to moderate frosts and grow well in temperate climates (Jones, 1986, 1991).

Plants rarely need pruning as they naturally form a thick bushy shrub, making them suitable as a screen or for a wind-break. They perform well as tub plants. In fact, many of these plants can be found covered in blossom while still in 15cm pots in nurseries. Their adaptability to a wide variety of conditions and their neat bushy habit have made Syzygium australe popular in cultivation (Mansfield, 1992).

Given the variations in growth habit, the wide range of conditions under which it will grow and above all its tasty fruit, Syzygium australe is an excellent choice for anyone looking for an introduction to the approximately fifty Australian representatives of the more than five hundred species of lilly pilly.

What is a Bushfood?

acaciaThe World Health Organisation UN defines bush foods as "foods that were eaten by an identifiable population for a significant period of time'.

That gets rid of one of the most prolifically cultivated Australian

'bushfoods" - Lemon myrtle (Backhousm citriodora). There is little or no evidence that this species was utilised by the indigenous population.

A rather simplistic description could be 'those foods occurring naturally in the Australian bush" All right - but what do we do with those improved selections now being sold for their quality and yield attributes?

You could devolve to an extremely broad definition - 'native Australian plants which can be eaten.' Ah, now I'm feeling more comfortable - but I have a niggling suspicion this description won't quite make the grade. The red Quandong (Santalum acuminatum) was certainly eaten by the indigenous population for a very long period of time and it is certainly eaten by us latecomers with decided relish - but is it from the bush? The fleshy, sweet orange you eat today is the descendent of a thin-fleshed, tart, rather dry fruit which has been selectively bred for hundreds of years You'd hardly label it "bushfood' Likewise, the Quantiorg is being cloned and tissue cultured into a commercially acceptable shape and taste - so when is it no longer 'bushfood"? If the bushfood industry were rely solely on wild harvest, the product - whether it be wattle seed, quandong, finger lime or burdekin plum, would be of such high variability as to make the most tenacious processor blanch. On the other hand, if demand for warrigal greens creates a massive hydroponic industry, is it still a 'bushfood"?

And what of the shades between these two extremes? Native species grown in their natural habitat in 'nature-mimicking' mixed plantings as part of a revegetation program could be termed 'new bush' foods. Native species grown in their natural habitat in a single-species planting could be 'hi-rise' bushfoods. Native species grown in hot houses in Israel might do well to wear the label 'lost bushfoods'. Here, for discussion, is my personal view:

A bushfood is:

* an edible native plant which was eaten by the indigenous people

* is grown in Australia

* is or can be certified organic

* can be harvested from plants which have been improved through selection, including cuttings and tissue culture

* is wholly processed in Australia

* is not contained in a product which is substantially imported (I don't believe Hungarian tomatoes with native pepper can be termed a "bushfood")

A food is not a bushfood if

* It has been genetically manipulated

* It is grown overseas

In Issue 8. I'll look at some of the guidelines that already exist - and hopefully publish some of your responses.

For now, perhaps you'd like to give some thought to what a bushfood is - or isn't.

The Sandalwood Nut

Gourmet Food For Farmers

santalumAdapted from an article by Prof: J. E. D. Fox, School of Environmental Biology, Curtin University of Technology

Reprinted from the `Land Management Society Newsletter', November 1997

Increasing interest is being shown by Australian gourmet food producers in the potential commercial value of growing the WA sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) on farms. Ecotypes of sandalwood are distributed over a large geographic area in WA to which they could be planted. Sandalwood is a useful indigenous commercial tree species for catchment protection in saline areas, in partially cleared areas, or for regenerating remnant vegetation sites. Many remnant sites have suitable host species of varying ages that would provide ideal planting sites for sandalwood.

The sandalwood nut has long been a minor source of food to people living and working in the bush. Kernels of the fruit can substitute for more traditional nut ingredients as a nutritious and acceptable substitute for a range of products. Two aspects of the use of the nut have been considered. The nut was used on its own as a snack food, and also as an ingredient in prepared food. Kernels can be dry-roasted and made acceptable as a snack food. Further studies on the preparation of the nut should aim at improving their subtle flavour.

All present-day commercial nuts originate from small wild fruits that were improved by selection of outstanding specimens and by breeding. Along with the outer coat of the quandong fruits (Santalum acuminatum), the kernel of the WA sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) nut has been considered attractive by many people. Natural selection within sandalwood may have resulted in trees with large nuts having been favoured by adaptive forces.

Sandalwood nuts have long been eaten by both country people and Aborigines. Both groups have a range of products to choose from and may be considered the gourmets of the bush. A number of individuals appear partial to this naturally occurring product as a dietary item. The hard-shelled nut is usually cracked between rocks, or with a hammer or pliers. The kernel is eaten plain or more rarely, toasted on an open fire.

Nutritional values are very similar to other commercially available nuts. They have high levels of fat (61%) and are rich in protein (18%). The combined effects of earlier sandalwood harvesting and of land clearing for agriculture have led to a scarcity of the species. Formally widespread in the Wheatbelt, sandalwood is currently harvested from the Eastern Goldfields, Murchison, North Eastern Goldfields and Central Desert, regions of the state.

It has been demonstrated that sandalwood seeds germinate well in the field after direct sowing in February-March with no pre-treatment necessary. Well grown experimental specimens are available for observation at Curtin University.

Land Management has established demonstration plantings in several areas. Field establishment is hindered by the need for seedlings to attach to hosts, by grazing damage from both domestic and feral animals, and by susceptibility to fire. The most suitable host is jam wattle (Acacia acuminata), preferably 2-3 years of age at the time of sowing sandalwood seed. Fencing is necessary if rabbits are present in the areas selected. Sheep must be excluded until plants are more than 2m tall.

The potential market in the speciality nut trade for sandalwood is a stimulus encouraging the development of sandalwood plantations. Landowners in South Australia have commenced substantial plantings. Cultivation of sandalwood provides a source of edible nuts within 5-6 years of establishment. A valuable scented wood for later harvesting will accrue, adding value annually to those farm areas set aside from cropping and grazing.

Individual property owners may not benefit from the sale of the wood in their lifetimes, but the value of their land will increase annually due to the presence of sandalwood trees on their property. They will leave increased assets for the next generation.

Santalum spicatum will grow in semi-arid as well as better watered areas. This is particularly important as water for irrigation becomes scarcer and of lower quality due to salinity. As with most species, growth is slower in lower rainfall areas. The production of a fruit without irrigation in dry areas could become very important. Observations have been made of healthy individuals growing on the edges of saline areas. Many remnant sites have suitable host species of varying ages growing, which would provide ideal planting sites for sandalwood.

Growth and Yields

There is a large amount of variation. Nut and kernel size also varies between the different ecotypes with a general trend for larger seed to be produced in cooler, less arid areas. There is considerable scope for selection and breeding of superior genotypes.

In a series of edibility tests, the roasted sandalwood kernel was considered to have a good to very good flavour when consumed as a snack by a quarter of the respondents. Flanagan & Barrett (1993) indicate that it was suggested by respondents that the rather subtle flavour of sandalwood nuts could be improved by curing e.g. adding spices, coating in honey or by smoking, by further preparation such as roasting then salting or by devilling. Many people showed an interest in consuming a local nut. This initial positive response and interest is encouraging

Conclusions

The use of sandalwood as an ingredient, a local alternative to more traditional nuts in cooking, is presently limited by the availability of sufficient quantities of nuts. This suggests that gourmet products will be first up. Trials with sandalwood kernels in cooking have presented few problems. Sandalwood can replace equal quantities of peanuts with little, if any, discernible alteration of flavour or nuttiness. The advantages with sandalwood lie in its uniqueness, historical connections and that it is a local, natural product. The rather mild taste of the sandalwood kernel may require subtlety in preparation for the kernel flavour to be discerned. There are opportunities for people to develop packaged products similar to a range of other "bush tucker" fruits already available to tourists.

Further Information

thanks to Ben Lethbridge, Yearbook, WA Nut & Tree Crops Assn. 1997.

Sandalwood attracted attention because of the frangrance of its yellow brown wood and because the heartwood is capable of resisting the dreaded white ants of the tropics. The material is so hard and close grained that it resembles ivory and ebony in its ability to be worked to a fine finish and has much value in the ornamental woodworking trade. The oil is reputed to have antibacterial properties and is used in modern soap making and it is an essential ingredient in the perfume industry. The fragrance is extremely smooth and sweet.

Sandalwood kernel composition (values per 100 g) compared with other nuts (Flanagan & Barrett 1993)

Nut

Moisture(g)
Protein(g)
Fat(g)
Ash(g)
Carbohydrate(g)
Calcium(mg)
Potassium mg)
Sodium(mg)
Kilojoules
Sandalwood
3.50
17.70
60.70
1.70
16.40
36.00
309.00
10.00
2945.00
Walnut
4.10
14.80
63.70
0.00
14.90
84.00
491.00
3.00
2713.00
Pinenut
4.30
22.00
53.90
0.00
16.00
12.00
0.00
0.00
2491.00
Peanut
5.40
26.50
47.90
0.00
17.50
57.00
700.00
4.00
2374.00
Brazil
6.60
14.00
64.50
0.00
11.10
181.00
697.00
1.00
2663.00
Almond
4.80
19.50
53.80
0.00
18.90
245.00
773.00
4.00
2504.00
Macadamia
1.90
9.00
70.50
1.50
17.20
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00

Data for other nuts are taken from Thomas and Corden (1977) and departmental research analyses, Home and Consumer Studies, Curtin University. Macadamia results are not strictly comparable as the nuts were commercially prepared by frying in fat.


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Provisional Fruit Standards

Taken from the Australian Quandong Industry Association Inc. Provisional Standards

AQIA: PO Box 236 Upper Sturt

SA 5156

A valuable set of guidelines from AQIA.

7.1 SCOPE

QUANDONG fruit occurs in a variety of qualities .It is important that the customers receives what they pay for and are totally satisfied with the quality and continue to buy. The Producers must also be aware of their responsibility to supply quality fruit, as their actions will affect not only their future but that of the whole QUANDONG Industry. Fruit that is mouldy, grub infested, dirty or contains pesticide residue must be rejected by the producer, and never offered to the buyer All other grades of fruit are saleable. It is the purpose of this article to suggest a method of Product Description that will assist both the Producer and Buyer.

7.2 DISCLAIMER The Australian Quandong Industry Association Inc. accepts no responsibility for the correctness of the information in this Information Sheet. The information is based on current Industry knowledge and practice. This Information is a Provisional Standard and we welcome input from Producers and Buyers to improve the Standard. It is based on present knowledge and will possible change as more becomes known about QUANDONGS.

7.3 Quandong descriptive Language (QDL)

The objects of the QDL are-7.3.1 To formulate a system that will enable the Producer to clearly define their products in such a manner that the Buyer will clearly understand what is being offered. 7.3.2 To encourage Quality Assurance within the Quandong Industry.

73.3 To standardise quality in the Quandong Industry

734 Allow Buyers to purchase QUANDONGS unsighted with reasonable confidence.

7.4 Definitions

A. Flesh type Describes the colour of the fresh fruit flesh.

B. Skin colour The outer QUANDONG fresh fruit skin colour.

C. Bloom The natural shine of the fresh fruit skin due to the colour and smoothness of the skin

D. Maturity Related to the ripeness of the fresh fruit. Ripe fruit is normally soft to the touch, and the flesh has separated from the stone.

E. Size Symbol <means "less than". Symbol > means' greater than".

F. Shape Defines the shape of the QUANDONG Calyx is the hard woods' remnant material of the flower

G. Defects All fruit must be free of dirt, grit and foreign material. Grub infested or moulds fruit must not be sold. Minor defects include damaged skin caused by rubbing, sunburn, healed insect damaged, slight scratching, leaf shadow etc. which do not affect the life or appearance of the fruit These defects should affect < 5°% of the surface area. Major defects include internal damage caused by grub, and external surface damage that affects >5% of the surface. H. Extent of defects Used to refer to the extent of defects in the pack. If more than one defect is present then the extent of defects % should be in the same order as the defects.

I. Pulp temperature, i.e. Fresh fruit temperature. QUANDONG fruit deteriorates very quickly after picking or falling from the tree. The cooler the storage temperature [above freezing) the better to maintain the fresh characteristics.

J. Treatment

Refers to the treatment soon after picking. Note: Fruit should not be allowed to come in contact with water or ice. Fresh Seeded - Fresh fruit cut in halves in any direction, Probably machine cut. Hand Cut -fruit cut in halves through stem and calyx. Calyx Removed - Calyx removed prior to cutting in halves. Dried - The final weight after drying will not be greater than 33% of the fresh weight. The fruit must be protected from contamination during drying. Note the fruit must be sterilised by evenly heating to 60 C for 20 minutes and cooled prior to sealing in plastic bag or container.

K. Handling

Refers to the handling of QUANDONGS directly after harvest. Keep in clean containers and protected from contamination, dust and dirt prior to treatment Chilling or drying should commence as soon as possible after picking Umtised refers to QUANDONGS of a uniform style in separate packs.

L. Presentation Single Layer -Packed in a single layer Clear Sealed - Pack covered in clear plastic. Vacuum Packed - Vacuum Pack covered in plastic or poly and used in conjunction with temperature control to maximise shelflife. Stickered PLU - Labelled with a price lookup number [PLU)

M. Packaging

Ideally, packs should be of a single style of fruit.

N. Others

Quality Assured. - Subject to internal Quality Control SQF2000 or equivalent. External Q.A. - Subject to external inspection for Quality Control.

Organic - Quandongs produced without the use of artificial chemicals approved as "Organic" by one of the recognised bodies. IPM - Integrated Pest Management, with mechanical, chemical and biological control. If chemicals are used they must be covered by an Off Label Permit. - Refer Information Sheet 6.3.2.2 SPRAYING

O. Transport

Defines type of transport system.

P. Sweetness/acidity Sweetness - Measurement of total soluble salts [TSS] using a refractometer. Sample obtained from grinding fruit flesh in muslin pouch using a mortar and pestle and squeezing two drops of juice onto the refractory screen. The reading to be taken at 20 C.

Acidity - the pH is measured by using Acidity test papers calibrated from 0-6 units. Each test paper is moistened when compared with the supplied colour card gices the PH.

Q. Flesh %

2 x average Flesh thickness X 100

Fresh fruit dia

= Flesh %

(Dia measured midway between stem and calyx)

7.5 Storage

Optimum storage for fresh fruit pulp is a temperature of 0°C. Optimum relative humidity is above 90%. Optimum storage frozen fruit temperature is below 18° C.

7.6 Handling

All fruit packs should be of uniform type, colour, shape and maturity. Avoid fruit with rot, mould or severe grub damage Handle very carefully. Level of rot increases with bruising.. Minimise formation of condensation or ice on QUANDONGS. Cool fruit quickly after harvest to slow down ripening and decay. Forced Air cooling can be up to 6 times faster than coolroom cooled fruit 7.7 HOW TO USE QDL to desribe your fruit

7.4.1 Select a blank Quandong Product Number Profoma sheet (either number box or number electronic) whichever suits you.

7 4 1 With the QDL sheet in front of you for reference start with 'A' and select those numbers 1-7 that define your QUANDONGS You may select more than one number if appropriate. Enter the selected number or numbers on your Quandong Product Number sheet

7.4.2 Continue down the list filling in the appropriate numbers.

7.4.3 If no number is appropriate for a line then put a 'O"

7.4.4 The Quandong Product Number sheet is only completed when all boxes have a number 0-7 in each.

These descriptions categorise an ideal QUANDONG that has been dried and packed in 5Kg clear sealed bags. The fruit is very sweet and low in acid with medium flesh thickness. This fruit would be excellent after reconstitution for use as a topping for ice cream.

Example using the product number box proforma-fax

QDL ABCDE F GHI J KL MNOPQ

13 122 16220 1712 334 353

Example using the product number electronic format

Al B3 C1 D2 E2 FU G2 a2 IO 517 Kl L2 M3 N3 04 P35 03

Australian Quandong Industry Association, PO Box 236 Upper Sturt SA 5156

You can download their Quandong Descriptive Language spreadsheet (Excel) here. (.xlsx)

 

TOP

The Quandong

From the Editor

Letters

News

The Lilly Pilly

The Sandalwood Nut

Gourmet Stomachs

The Bunya Consortium

Bringing Native Bees back to suburbia

What is a bushfood?

Profile: jean Paul Bruneteau

A total bushfood dinner

Provisional Fruit Standards - AQIA

Essential Oil news

Recipes

Nurseries

Book reviews

From the papers

Cornucopia Nursery

Research Request

Society for Growing Australian Plants

New Native Plant Database

Native Plant Seedbank and Database

Groups

Resources

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