Back in April, I had the chance to attend a Bush Foods workshop run by Graeme White from Witjuti Grub Bushfood Nursery. It was a most informative and interesting morning – and I wanted to share my experience with you!
Graeme had mentioned that he had been involved in developing a bush foods flavour wheel with the Qld Govt. A lot of the samples of the bush foods they had to try were dry and powdered. According to Graeme, the difference between this version and what you would get fresh from your backyard is like chalk and cheese.
So this is why he suggests that to experience the true flavour of bush foods, you grow your own so you can pick fresh when required.
The first bush food we were introduced to was one that many of us are familiar with. This was the lemon myrtle tree. We passed some branches around the room and were each instructed to pick up a leaf with just one hand (you will hear the reasoning for this later). Then we had to scrunch the leaf with our hand and hold it up near our noses so we could enjoy in the zesty smell that was released.
If you use lemon myrtle leaves in your cooking, you need to put them into the dish at the end of the cooking stage so they can infuse the dish. If you add the leaves into the dish early on, the volatile oil will be evaporated by the cooking process and the flavour will be lost.
Now why exactly were we instructed to only use one hand for the lemon myrtle?
Because we needed our other hand for the next experiment!
Up next, the branches from an aniseed myrtle tree were passed around the room. With the hand we didn’t use for the lemon myrtle, we repeated the same process of scrunching and sniffing. To me there was a subtle scent of aniseed. It didn’t seem too overpowering, which is what I was expecting.
The same rule applies when cooking with aniseed myrtle (or any myrtle). There is also cinnamon and curry myrtle, which you should always infuse and never boil!
Davidson’s plums may also be another bush food that is familiar. Many years ago I used to buy macadamia nut butter with Davidson’s plum jam swirled through it…delicious! So it was interesting to hear (then actually taste) that the plum is quite sour and that you wouldn’t eat it raw. I only tasted a little piece and although I could cope with that, I couldn’t imagine eating a whole plum.
There is the NSW Davidson’s Plum and the QLD Davidson’s Plum. The way that these fruit is different from each other is that the NSW variety fruits on the trunk whereas the QLD variety fruits in bunches like grapes. They also fruit at different times of the year.
Uses for cooking would be in sauces and jams and they are high in vitamin C.
There were two types of limes that were spoken about during the Bush Foods workshop. One was Finger limes, which I have seen before at the local growers market. Because my expectation of a lime is green and round, when I first saw them, I thought “huh?”.’ But having now tried them (they do suit the description at the growers market of ‘citrus caviar’), I can see how they would be a great addition to your meals.
I had them mixed with some haloumi and salad. I just mixed through the little bubbles from the finger lime and it tasted amazing. They are tart but matched the meal perfectly.
What was even more of a surprise was my 5 year old wolfing down the bubbles as they were and asking for more!
Now I would be tempted to grow these. They are a shrub that can get 2 – 3m however when I heard that the shrub is spiky, I rethought my plan. We have a kaffir lime tree that we put in the ground and it has grown to about 3 m high. The thorns on this tree are sharp! And becoming a bit of an issue with the kids as their play castle is next to this tree.
However Graeme did say they grow quite well in a pot and in this way you restrict their growth.
The other lime that was mentioned was the Round (Gympie) lime or Dooja. So this looks more like my ‘expectation’ of a lime. The skin breaks down in cooking so can be used whole. The Dooja tree is also spiky. It has bigger thorns but less of them than the finger lime shrub so if you were looking to plant a protective border around your garden these would be perfect!
Wow, there was so much more interesting information that was given….stay tuned for part 2 of Bush Foods in the Backyard for more!
What are your experiences with Bush Food plants? We would love to hear them, so please share below in the Comments sections!