Learn How to Use Bush Tucker
Tuck in to Bush Tucker
Imagine growing and eating your own bush tucker produce ... or finding it in the bush.
The only Bush Tucker course offered by distance education - Learn about identifying, growing and using 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.
This fascinating course examines growing and harvesting many 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)
Wattle seeds ground to produce ‘flour’
Plant roots ground to produce a paste or flour.
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Gathering Bush Foods
There are ethical and also legal issues associated with gathering plants from the wild (for use as food or for any other purpose). Anyone interested in bush tucker should be aware of these issues and restrictions. Following are some of these issues briefly outlined:
1. Gathering seeds, roots, tubers and bulbs indiscriminately could lower the species count in that area. Slow growing species with low fertility are at greatest risk of extinction from over-harvesting.
2. Some species (such as edible orchids for example) may be rare or endangered; the impact of indiscriminate gathering could mean extinction for that species.
3. Using off-road vehicles or even just walking through the bush can also damage non-target species and have a physical impact on the environment such as the creation of tracks. And damage to the soil structure.
4. The introduction of pathogens and weeds (on the wheels of cars, on boots, from plant material carried into the area from another area).
5. The impact on fauna populations relying on food from the same source
6. You can gather bush tucker from private properties with the permission of the owner, but the same issues outlined above will still apply.
7. Unless your culture depends on it, or your survival would be threatened without it; it is illegal for most people to remove plant material from national parks. In some cases it may be possible to obtain a licence for the commercial gathering of certain species; restrictions would apply to how, when, how often, and how much is gathered.
8. Removal of large amounts of seeds, roots, tubers and bulbs lowers biodiversity and could mean that future generation will not be able to enjoy the bush in the same way as we now do.
BEING CAREFUL WHEN FORAGING
It is always best to err on the side of caution when collecting from the wild. Plants can sometimes be identified incorrectly, and even edible plants can sometimes be contaminated
- Seed heads can sometimes be contaminated by a black fungus
- Edible tubers whould be plump and crisp (dark, shrivelled tubers may be contaminated).
- Seeds in fruit should not be swallowed if bitter or large –just because fruit is edible does not mean seeds are).
- Sometimes fruit may be edible, and skin is inedible –so taste skin and fruit flesh separately
Bush Foods as a Commercial Venture
Over the last decade the bush-food industry has had small but significant growth, with interest both domestically and internationally for our unique species and the foods that they can produce. The bush tucker industry is currently estimated to be around $14million per annum (excluding macadamia production which is worth $120million on its own).
Aboriginal communities and licensed collectors harvest directly from the wild. As demand increases, the pressure to supply also increases. This has an enormous impact on sustainability of collecting wild species and the future health of the natural environment. For efficient and cost effective wild harvesting that produces quality bush food, collectors must harvest material to an agreed standard. This can be problematic as quality varies from season to season and from collector to collector.
There is some evidence to suggest that wild-harvesting can be sustainable and ecologically sound if certain guidelines are followed. Some of these include:
a) Harvesting from species that are abundant in an area. Search for areas that are producing abundant crops from an abundant amount of plants – heavily producing plants also produce better quality and more viable seed.
b) Harvesting only seeds and fruits – not an entire plant; leaving enough seed for the plant to reproduce.
c) The amount that is harvested should be relative to the production of each species.
d) Harvest only a small percentage of a crop from any one area – to maximise sustainability.
However an obvious direction in the production of bush foods is commercial farming. This has the opportunity to create expansion in commercial bush-food production and see the development of more specialised farms.
Appropriate species selection for farming has been aided through research studies and the significant input of Botanical Gardens; their major role being the provision of educational resources on plants and their uses, and to encourage sustainable collection or production.
Farming of bush tucker species offers many benefits; it reduces risk of failed and or poor quality produce that can be ssociated with wild harvests. It cuts back the labour intensive high cost of wild collection and is not dependant on the unreliability of wild plant production. With restrictions to the access of wild sources in the near future (through government intervention), access will be limited. It is currently estimated that about 80% of bush food is wild collected. This figure will be greatly reduced over the coming decade; almost all bush-food will be produced on commercial farms in the near future.
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