Bush Tucker Plants

Learn about edible Australian native plants: how to identify, grow and use them. Covers a huge range of edibles including roots, berries, nuts, flowers and vegetables.

Course Code: BHT328
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to Identify, Grow and Use Australian Indigenous Plants for Food.

There are many Australian plants that are edible, and even some that are in very high demand as foods throughout the world.  The Aborigines lived off the land before white civilization came to Australia. Plants contributed significantly to their diet. 

There are many different types of bush tucker foods:

  • Nuts and seeds (eg. Acacia, Macadamia, bunya nuts)
  • Drinks (eg. hot teas, infusions of nectar laden flowers, fruit juices)
  • Flavourings (eg. lemon scented myrtle)
  • Berries (eg. Astroloma, some Solanum species)
  • Fruits (eg. quandong, Ficus macrophylla, Syzygium)
  • Vegetables
  • Wattle seeds ground to produce ‘flour’
  • Plant roots ground to produce a paste or flour.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Scope
    • Is it Edible
    • Native Plants to be Cautious with
    • Understanding Plant Toxins
    • Nutritional Value of Bush tucker
    • Plant Identification
    • Naming Plants
    • Hybrids, Varieties and Cultivars
    • Plant Families
    • Pronouncing Plant Names
    • Resources
  2. Growing
    • Understanding Soil
    • Improving Soil
    • Feeding Plants
    • Growing Australian Plants on Low Fertility Soils
    • Planting Procedure
    • Mulching
    • Pruning Australian Plants
    • Propagation
    • Seed
    • Collecting, Storing, Germinating Seed
    • Difficult Seeds
    • Seed Germination Techniques
    • Handling and raising seedlings
    • Asexual Propagation (Cuttings, Division, etc)
  3. Gathering
    • Introduction
    • Ethics
    • Bush Foods as A Commercial Venture
    • Gathering Acacia Seed
    • Developing a Bush Food Garden
    • Designing a Bush Garden
    • Selected Native Trees for a Bush Tucker Garden
    • Selected Shrubs for a Bush Tucker Garden
    • Selected Small Indigenous Australian Plants for a Bush Tucker Garden
    • Rainforest Gardens
    • Desert Gardens
    • Edible Arid Zone Bush Tucker plants
    • Water Management
  4. Nuts and Seeds
    • Macadamia
    • Araucaria
    • Aleurites moluccana
    • Athertonia diversifolia (Atherton Oak)
    • Castanospermum australe
    • Hicksbeachia pinnatifolia
    • Acacias
    • Using Acacias (eg. Wattleseed Essense)
  5. Vegetables
    • Native Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides)
    • Pigface (Carpobrotus sp.)
    • Longleaf Mat Rush (Lomandra longifolia)
    • Solanums (Bush Tomatoes or Kangaroo Apple)
    • Blechnum indicum
    • Apium prostratum (Sea Celery)
    • Native Lilies
    • Microseris lanceolata (Yam Daisy)
    • Dioscorea transversa (Wild Yams)
    • Native ginger Alpinia caerulear
    • Seaweeds
  6. Fruits
    • Astroloma
    • Austromyrtus dulcis (Midgen Berry)
    • Billardiera sp (eg. Appleberry)
    • Davidsonia purescens (Davidson’s Plum)
    • Eugenia spp. and Syzygium spp. (eg. Bush Cherries)
    • Ficus (Native Figs)
    • Planchonella australis (Black Apple)
    • Quandong (Santalum)
    • Rubus sp (Native Raspberry)
    • Other Fruits ...lots more outlined
  7. Flavourings, Teas, Essences
    • Backhousia
    • Curcuma (related to ginger)
    • Eucalyptus
    • Leptospermum
    • Soaked Flowers (eg. Grevillea)
    • Acacia
    • Alpinia caerulea
    • Tasmannia sp
  8. Using Bush Tucker Plants
    • Develop your ability to identify, select, and develop processing procedures, for a range of varieties of bush food plants selected.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Aims

  • Discuss the nature and scope of bush tucker plants.
  • Review the way bush tucker plants are accurately identified.
  • Describe how to cultivate a range of bush tucker plants.
  • Describe how bush foods are harvested from the wild and how to set up a cultivated bush food garden.
  • Outline the cultivation, harvest and use of various bush tucker nuts and seeds.
  • Explain the cultivation, harvest and use of various bush tucker vegetables
  • Explain the cultivation, harvest and use of various bush tucker fruits
  • Explain the cultivation, harvest and use of various bush tucker plants that are used to flavour foods or beverages
  • Describe the preparation of bush tucker.

CREATE A FOOD GARDEN WITH AUSTRALIAN PLANTS

Designing an edible garden is not that different to designing any type of garden; you need to give thought to what will grow in your area and climatic zone, which plants you will incorporate into the garden and how to arrange these plants for aesthetic value. Unlike a ‘normal’ garden however your design will most probably not be cut into sections i.e. vegetable garden, fruit garden and ornamental garden. The edible ornamental bush garden you design can include all those features within it, without separation.  

A natural edible garden need not be boring or look untended. If carefully designed it can incorporate all the normal design elements that make bush gardens interesting and beautiful, the only difference is that you will be consciously choosing plants that can be harvested for their edible produce.
 

Australian Trees that are a Good Food Source

 
Consider these:

Acacia longifolia (Golden Wattle)
A fast growing tree 7-10m tall native to south eastern Australia, lower southeast of  Qld, Eastern NSW, eastern and southern Victoria and south eastern SA. Green wattle seeds are quite similar in composition to cultivated garden peas but are best cooked by lightly baking. Flowers appear in July through to September with seed pods ripening in summer.

Acacia mearnsii
This plant is found in southern Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania as well as the coast and tablelands of New South Wales. Flowering occurs from September to December. Edible gum and seed; bark tea is used for indigestion.  This tree grows to 15m and needs an open, dry, well-drained positioning full sun.

Backhousia citriodora (Lemon Myrtle)
A small, low branching tree, 3m - 8m tall native to Qld and NSW It needs warm, well-drained soil and grows in full sun to part shade; protect from frost. The leaves are intensely lemon flavoured used in teas, as a lemongrass substitute. Wonderful in cheesecakes; dry and grind the leaves for cakes and biscuits.

Brachychiton populneus (Kurrajong)
Large tree to 10m requires a moist, well-drained position; frost tender when young plant in sun to part shade. Nutty flavoured edible seed.

Citrus australasica (Native Finger Lime)
A small tree, 4m - 6m tall native to Qld and NSW that grows in full sun to part shade on moist, fertile, well-drained soil but can also be grown in pots. The finger shaped fruit is filled with edible tiny balls they have a lovely lime taste great in Asian dishes but also suited to cocktails.

Eucalyptus olida (Strawberry Gum)
A medium-sized tree to 20m, restricted to sclerophyll woodlands on the Northern Tableland of NSW; cream flowers are followed by small woody capsules. The juvenile leaves are ovate, dull green and 7cm long. The intensely aromatic adult leaves are to 17cm lanceolate, glossy green and are used as a spice. E.olida is classified as threatened species in the wild, but is becoming more common in cultivation due to its essential oil and spice qualities; suited to larger gardens.

Macadamia integrifolia (Macadamia Nut)
A rounded, slow growing tree 12 - 15m tall; for best results buy a grafted variety (these are readily available in Australia). Best suited to the warmer climates of coastal south Qld and northern NSW. The delicious nuts should be allowed to ripen on the tree. Nuts ripen approx. 7 months after flowers appear in June through to March. Bronze leaves appear opposite in seedings and in whorls of 3 and pale green on mature plants, 10–30 cm long, margins with few or no spines, petioles (leaf stalks are about 1.3 cm long.  Flowers creamy-white, without petals are borne in groups of 3 or 4 along a long axis in racemes, similar to grapes. The fruit consist of a fleshy green husk enclosing a spherical shaped seed the nuts are roundish and 1.3–2.5 cm in diameter. The shell is tough, fibrous and quite difficult to crack; (more on this species in the following lesson).

Syzygium luehmannii (Riberry)
A small bushy tree to 8m needs well drained fertile soil and full sun to semi shade; native to Qld and NSW. A lovely compact, medium tree sized with foliage to ground level. Small white flowers are followed by fleshy red berries. The small, glossy, lance-shaped leaves are pink/red when young. They are opposite, simple, entire, lanceolate to ovate in shape on a 2-3mm leaf stalk; leaves are 4 to 5 cm long with a long prominent point.  Small 2.5cm panicles of white or cream petal flowers (petals appear in 4 s or 5s) form at the ends of branchlets in November or December. Flower stamens are 2 to 5 mm long. Pear shaped 13mm long red berry fruit containing a single seed, matures in December to February. Cuttings of this plant strike easily although seeds can be used but germination is sporadic and unreliable. The sweet purple berries have a tart after-taste and are great in jams, sauces to accompany meat or as cordial. Prune after flowering to maintain compact growth.

 

WHO SHOULD STUDY THIS COURSE

 
This course was designed for both people who might grow and who might use Australian Bush Tucker Plants.
Anyone who works with food -from production and manufacture to selling and cooking, can find value in this course.

You may use this course to explore new and innovative possibilities as a grower or as a cook.

Whatever your purpose in studying Bush Tucker, you will expand your knowledge and awareness of foods that might be exploited as crops, to produce new food products and to create new menu items. 
 

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)

Leading horticultural expert in Australia.
Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (c

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.

Adriana Fraser (Horticulturist)

Over 30 years working in horticulture, as a gardener, propagator, landscape designer
, teacher and consultant. Adriana has spent much of her life living on large properties, developing and maintaining her own gardens, and living a semi self sufficient li





Tutors

Meet some of the tutors that guide the students through this course.

Robert Browne

B.Sc., PhD

Robert’s science employment has included consultancy with biotechnology corporations and in response to the global biodiversity conservation crisis, and has focused on amphibian conservation and sustainability. Working with zoos in Australia, the USA, Europe, and as Research Officer for the IUCN has led Robert to work with collaborative conservation programs in the USA, Peoples Republic of China, Australia, Russian Federation, Islamic Republic of Iran, and Cameroon.

Robert has experience in a wide range of research fields supporting herpetological conservation and environmental sustainability. He has published in the scientific fields of nutrition, pathology, larval growth and development, husbandry, thermo-biology, reproduction technologies, and facility design. In addition to his work in research and other international projects for the conservation of amphibians, other vertebrates, and invertebrates, Robert is establishing a sustainability project with a research facility based in the region of a coastal village in Belize.

Rosemary Davies

B Ed, BSc Hort, Dip Advertising & Marketing

Originally from Melbourne, Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Burnley, a campus of Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (clocking up over 24 years as a presenter of garden talkback programs, initially the only woman presenter on gardening in Victoria) and she simultaneously developed a career as a writer.

She then studied Education and Training, teaching TAFE apprentices and developing curriculum for TAFE, before taking up an offer as a full time columnist with the Herald and Weekly Times and its magazine department after a number of years as columnist with the Age. She has worked for a number of companies in writing and publications, PR community education and management and has led several tours to Europe.

Diana Cole

Diana Cole B.A. (Hons), RHS Diploma in Horticulture, BTEC Higher Diploma in Garden Design, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector), P.D.C.
In addition to the qualifications listed above, Diana holds City & Guild construction qualifications and an NPTC pesticide spraying licence (PA1/PA6). Diana runs her own landscape gardening business (Arbella Gardens). She also has skills gained through leading a group of volunteers renovating a local park on behalf of a local council and has been a volunteer leader with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. She continues to teach the Royal Horticultural Society qualifications (Levels 2 and 3) at her local college. She is a member of The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners Ltd.

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