Ten Most FAQs for the Bushfood Industry
1. What should I grow?
At this stage in the industry’s growth, no one would be so bold as to tell you categorically what to grow - unless they guarantee to buy your harvest! Here are some pointers:
Look for the list of ‘best bet’ species and see:
which are local to your area or are found in similar climatic/soil type areas
which is the species suit your location (sloping block, riparian areas, difficult access etc)
which species suit your resources (harvest, post harvest, marketing etc)
which species appeal to you?
which species have some track record for demand
Go beyond the ‘best bet’ and go with your own inclination - we have literally thousands of great edible natives and no one can say which will become flavour of some future month. Be aware that you will be facing even greater education and marketing challenges if you choose a lesser known species - treat it as a challenge!.
2. Where can I get the plants?
This is difficult as there is no central database of people supplying bushfood plants. However, start with your local nursery (and if they don’t carry bushfood plants - pressure them!) Other good sources:
Society for Growing Australian Plants (Australian Plant Society in some states
The magazine carries a continuing list of nurseries supplying bushfoods and also has a database which is available to subscribers.
3. Are some varieties better than others?
Very few of our native food species have gone through the process of selection. Lemon myrtle, Finger Lime, Riberry, Quandong, Davidson plum and a few others are the exception to this. Thus, you will often find yourself purchasing an unknown factor. If possible (and this is often difficult), find a good plant and take cuttings or graft scion from it (refer to 6 below). If you’re on the net, enter the discussion group and find out if anyone has particularly good plants. You can also write to the magazine and have your enquiry published. If that’s not possible, try to get a good variety of plants from various sources, label them very carefully and wait to see which perform! I also ask the provenance of plants purchased from nurseries - but seldom get an answer!
4. Is there a market for the produce?
See (1 ) above. A market profile is beginning to emerge but it is, not surprisingly, to those species which are becoming available in commercial quantities. Because the bulk of growers are small scale, marketing and education activities are small and usually confined to the local area. I know of no one who had trouble selling their produce once they had introduced it to potential buyers (the usual provisos of quality control, presentation etc apply). If you are looking at serious, commercial quantities, I would really suggest you do your own marketing research and assure yourself that the species you are looking at:
won’t be in oversupply in the future
will maintain a reasonably unique status
has the potential for incorporation into mainstream food production
There is no one answer to this question - the greatest tool we have is our networking.
5. What information is there on plant management?
Cultivation is also a difficult area as many bushfoods haven’t been in cultivation or have been so for only a short time. Notes are available for some species and many people adopt management practices already established for related species.
6. Should I grow from seed, cuttings or grafted?
Obviously, selection from superior plants is the ideal way to go. However, with many of our species, there has been no selection. With each passing month, nurseries and private growers are expanding the list of selected species - once again, network!
7. What harvest and post harvest machinery is available?
Very little - adapt and be creative!
8. Are there any other people in my area growing bushfoods?
I always suggest that people put a small article in their local paper asking this question - you may be amazed at the response you get!
9. Where can I get more information?
See the back of the Bushfood Starter Kit.
What price are bushfoods getting?
This is also difficult as prices do go up and down. At present, there seems to be a gentle downwards trend. The best way to find market prices are:
get onto the discussion group and ask others
speak to distributors and find out what they're paying
check out this web site often!