Many of our local bushfoods are either ignored or underutilised. The humble Lilly pilly is one of these. Here is a species (Syzygium) which grows like a rocket and (usually) bears fruit quite prolifically. It needs very little in the way of attention once it’s established and makes a handsome, ornamental addition to gardens of almost any size. Historically, it was one of the first fruit eaten by European settlers and, as with many bushfoods, had a resurgence of popularity during the depression.
The fruit may be a little tart for our sugar-saturated tastes but this is exactly the quality which makes Lilly pillies such an excellent basis for jam. You may want to add extra sugar to the conventional jam recipe when working with the pilly and you will find you need less pectin as the fruit’s high acid content gives it higher setting qualities than, say, the strawberry.
I personally love the tartness of the fruit and have even had success substituting honey for sugar. Lilly pilly/apple is one combination which particularly struck my fancy though you can add Lilly pillies to almost any mixed jam you make.
Seedless varieties are now being sold (Syz. leuhmanni is the only one to my knowledge) but you’ll likely be working with a seeded fruit. You will need to boil the fruit and put it through a coarse sieve before processing to remove the seed.
If you have a surplus of fruit, freeze the pulp and put it to other uses. Juleigh Robins, in her recipe book ‘Wild Lime’, suggests that the fruit can be used in such diverse dishes as ‘Slow Cooked Pork Casserole’, ‘Lilly Pilly Chutney’, ‘Crayfish, Riberry and Mango Salad’ and (for the adventurous) ‘Boned Quail with Riberry Glace’. If you still have fruit to spare, make up a simple Riberry vinegar.
Please contact me if you’d like these recipes - and more. Whatever you do - don’t let your Lilly pilly fruit become compost.