Bushfood

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Bushfood (referred to as bush tucker in Australia) traditionally refers to any food native to Australia and used as sustenance by the original inhabitants, the Australian Aborigines, but it can also describe any native fauna/flora used for culinary and/or medicinal purposes, regardless of the continent or culture. Examples of Australian native animal foods (meats) include kangaroo, emu and crocodile. In particular, kangaroo is quite common and can be found in many normal supermarkets, often cheaper than beef. Other animals, for example goanna and witchetty grubs, were eaten by Aboriginal Australians. Fish and shellfish are culinary features of the Australian coastal communities.

Examples of Australian native plant foods include the fruits: quandong, kutjera, muntries, riberry, Davidson's plum, and finger lime. Native spices include lemon myrtle, mountain pepper, and aniseed myrtle. A popular leafy vegetable is warrigal greens. Nuts include bunya nut, and the most identifiable bushfood plant harvested and sold in large scale commercial quantities is the macadamia nut. Knowledge of Aboriginal uses of fungi is meagre but beefsteak fungus and native "bread" (a fungus also), were certainly eaten.

Traditional Aboriginal use[edit]

Australian Aborigines have eaten native animal and plant foods for an estimated 60,000 years of human habitation on the Australian continent (see Indigenous Australian food groups, Australian Aboriginal sweet foods). Various traditional methods of processing and cooking are used. Toxic seeds, such as Cycas media and Moreton Bay chestnut are processed to remove the toxins and render them safe to eat. Many foods are also baked in the hot campfire coals, or baked for several hours in ground ovens. ‘Paperbark’, the bark of Melaleuca species, is widely used for wrapping food placed in ground ovens. Bush bread was made by women using many types of seeds, nuts and corns to process a flour or dough to make bread.

Aboriginal traditional native food use has been severely impacted by non-indigenous immigration since 1788, especially in the more densely colonised areas of south-eastern Australia. There, the introduction of non-native foods to Aborigines has resulted in an almost complete abandonment of native foods by Aborigines. This impact on traditional foods has been further accentuated by the loss of traditional lands which has resulted in reduced access to native foods by Aborigines and destruction of native habitat for agriculture.

The recent recognition of the nutritional and gourmet value of native foods by non-indigenous Australians is introducing native cuisine to many for the first time. However, there are unresolved intellectual property issues associated with the commercialisation of bushfood.[dubious ]

Colonial use[edit]

Bushfoods provided a source of nutrition to the non-indigenous colonial settlers, often supplementing meager rations. However, bushfoods were often considered to be inferior by colonists unfamiliar with the new land's food ingredients, generally preferring familiar foods from the homeland.

In the 19th century English botanist, J.D. Hooker, writing of Australian plants in Flora of Tasmania, remarked although "eatable," are not "fit to eat". In 1889, botanist Joseph Maiden reiterated this sentiment with the comment on native food plants "nothing to boast of as eatables." [1] The first monograph to be published on the flora of Australia reported the lack of edible plants on the first page, where it presented Billardiera scandens as, "... almost the only wild eatable fruit of the country".[2]

This became the accepted view of Australian native food plants until the late 20th Century. It is thought that these early assessments were a result of encountering strong flavours not generally suitable for out-of-hand eating, but these strong flavours are now highly regarded for culinary use.

The only Australian native plant food developed and cropped on a large scale is the macadamia nut, with the first small-scale commercial plantation being planted in Australia in the 1880s. Subsequently, Hawaii was where the macadamia was commercially developed to its greatest extent from stock imported from Australia.

Modern use[edit]

In the 1970s non-indigenous Australians began to recognise the previously overlooked native Australian foods. Textbooks like Wildfoods In Australia by the botanist couple, Cribb & Cribb were popular. In the late 1970s horticulturists started to assess native food-plants for commercial use and cultivation.

In 1980 South Australia legalised the sale of kangaroo meat for human consumption. Analysis showed that a variety of bushfoods were exceptionally nutritious.[3] In the mid-1980s several Sydney restaurants began using native Australian ingredients in recipes more familiar to non-indigenous tastes - providing the first opportunity for bushfoods to be tried by non-indigenous Australians on a serious gourmet level. This led to the realisation that many strongly flavoured native food plants have spice-like qualities.

Following popular TV programs on "bush tucker", a surge in interest in the late 1980s saw the publication of books like Bushfood: Aboriginal Food and Herbal Medicine by Jennifer Isaacs, The Bushfood Handbook and Uniquely Australian by Vic Cherikoff, and Wild Food Plants of Australia by Tim Low.

Bushfood ingredients were initially harvested from the wild, but cultivated sources have become increasingly important to provide sustainable supplies for a growing market, with some Aboriginal communities also involved in the supply chain. However, despite the industry being founded on Aboriginal knowledge of the plants, Aboriginal participation in the commercial sale of bushfood is currently still marginal, and mostly at the supply end of value chains. Organisations are working to increase Aboriginal participation in the bushfood market. Gourmet style processed food and dried food have been developed for the domestic and export markets.

The term "bushfood" is one of several terms describing native Australian food, evolving from the older-style "bush tucker" which was used in the 1970s and 1980s.[citation needed]

Media[edit]

TV shows made use of the bushfood theme. Malcolm Douglas was one of the first presenters to show how to 'live off the land' in the Australian Outback. Major Les Hiddins, a retired Australian Army soldier popularized the idea of bush tucker as an interesting food resource. He presented a hit TV series called The Bush Tucker Man on the ABC TV network in the late 1980s. In the series, Hiddins demonstrated his research for NORFORCE in identifying foods which might sustain or augment army forces in the northern Australian Outback. 'NORFORCE' is a Regional Force Surveillance Unit of the Australian Army Reserve.

In early 2003, the first cooking show featuring authentic Australian foods and called Dining Downunder was produced by Vic Cherikoff and Bailey Park Productions of Toronto, Canada. This was followed by the Special Broadcasting Service(SBS) production of Message Stick with Aboriginal chef, Mark Olive.

Ray Mears recently made a survival television series called Ray Mears Goes Walkabout which focused on the history of survival in Australia, with a focus on bushtucker. In the series, Les Hiddins was a guest in one episode, with the two men sharing their knowledge and discussing various aspects of bushtucker.

In the TV survival series "Survivorman" host and narrator, Les Stroud, spend time in the Australian outback, after successfully finding and eating a witchetty grub raw he found many more and cooked them, stating they were much better cooked. After cooking in hot embers of his fire, he removed the head and the hind of the grub and squeezed out thick yellow liquid before eating.

Native Australian food-plants listed by culinary province and plant part[edit]

Australian bushfood plants can be divided into several distinct and large regional culinary provinces. Please note, some species listed grow across several climatic boundaries.

Top-end[edit]

Monsoonal zone of the Northern Territory, Cape York and North-western Australia.

Fruits[edit]

Adansonia gregorii Boab
Buchanania arborescens Citrus gracilis Kakadu Lime
Eugenia carissoides Cedar Bay Cherry
Ficus racemosa Cluster Fig
Manilkara kaukii Wongi
Melastoma affine Blue Tongue
Mimusops elengi Tanjong
Morinda citrifolia Great Morinda
Physalis minima Native Gooseberry
Terminalia ferdinandiana Kakadu Plum
Syzygium erythrocalyx Johnstone's River Satinash
Syzygium fibrosum Fibrous Satinash
Syzygium suborbiculare Lady Apple

Vegetables[edit]

Dioscorea alata Chinese or winged yam
Dioscorea bulbifera Round Yam
Dioscorea transversa Pencil Yam, Long Yam
Eleocharis spp. Mat-Rush, a traditional staple for Yolngu
Ipomoea aquatica Native Kang Kong
Nelumbo nucifera lotus
Nymphaea macrosperma water lily

Nuts[edit]

Cycas media Cycad palm seeds (Require detoxification: see Bush bread )
Semecarpus australiensis Australian Cashew
Terminalia catappa Sea Almond

Spices[edit]

Eucalyptus staigeriana Lemon Ironbark
Melaleuca leucadendra Weeping Paperbark
Melaleuca viridiflora Kitcha-kontoo
Ocimum tenuiflorum Native Basil

Outback Australia[edit]

Arid and semi-arid zones of the low rainfall interior.

Fruits[edit]

Capparis spp. Native Caper, Caperbush
Capparis mitchelii Wild orange
Capparis spinosa
subsp. nummularia
Wild passionfruit
Carissa lanceolata Bush plum, Conkerberry
Citrus glauca Desert Lime
Enchylaena tomentosa Ruby Saltbush
Ficus platypoda Desert Fig
Marsdenia australis Doubah, Bush Banana
Owenia acidula Emu Apple
Santalum acuminatum Quandong, Desert or Sweet Quandong
Santalum murrayanum Bitter Quandong
Solanum centrale Akudjura, Australian Desert Raisin, Bush tomato
Solanum cleistogarnum Bush tomato
Solanum ellipticum Bush tomato

Vegetables[edit]

Calandrinia balonensis Parakeelya
Ipomoea costata Bush potato
Vigna lanceolata Pencil Yam
Lepidium spp. Peppercresses
Portulaca intraterranea Large Pigweed

Seeds[edit]

Acacia aneura Mulga
Acacia colei
Acacia coriacea Dogwood
Acacia holosericea Strap Wattle
Acacia kempeana Witchetty Bush
Acacia murrayana
Acacia pycnantha
Acacia retinodes
Acacia tetragonophylla Dead finish seed
Acacia victoriae Gundabluey, Prickly wattle
Brachychiton populneus Kurrajong
Panicum decompositum native millet
Portulaca oleracea Pigweed
Triodia spp. commonly known as spinifex

Spices[edit]

Eucalyptus polybractea Blue-leaved Mallee

Insects in gall[edit]

Eastern Australia[edit]

Subtropical rainforests of New South Wales to the wet tropics of Northern Queensland.

Fruit[edit]

Acronychia acidula Lemon Aspen
Acronychia oblongifolia White Aspen
Antidesma bunius Herbet River Cherry
Archirhodomyrtus beckleri Rose Myrtle
Austromyrtus dulcis Midyim
Carpobrotus glaucescens Pigface
Citrus australasica Finger Lime
Citrus australis Dooja
Davidsonia jerseyana New South Wales Davidson's Plum
Davidsonia johnsonii Smooth Davidsonia
Davidsonia pruriens North Queensland Davidson's Plum
Diploglottis campbellii Small-leaf Tamarind
Eupomatia laurina Bolwarra
Ficus coronata Sandpaper Fig
Melodorum leichhardtii Zig Zag Vine
Pleiogynium timorense Burdekin Plum
Podocarpus elatus Illawarra Plum
Planchonella australis Black Apple
Rubus moluccanus Broad-leaf Bramble
Rubus probus Atherton Raspberry
Rubus rosifolius Rose-leaf Bramble
Syzygium australe Brush Cherry
Syzygium luehmannii Riberry
Syzygium paniculatum Magenta Lilly Pilly
Ximenia americana Yellow Plum

Vegetable[edit]

Apium prostratum Sea Celery
Commelina cyanea Scurvy Weed
Geitonoplesium cymosum Scrambling Lily
Tetragonia tetragonoides Warrigal Greens
Trachymene incisa Wild Parsnip
Urtica incisa Scrub Nettle

Spices[edit]

Alpinia caerulea Native Ginger
Backhousia citriodora Lemon Myrtle
Backhousia myrtifolia Cinnamon Myrtle
Leptospermum liversidgei Lemon Tea-tree
Prostanthera incisa Cut-leaf Mintbush
Smilax glyciphylla Sweet Sarsaparilla
Syzygium anisatum Aniseed Myrtle
Tasmannia stipitata Dorrigo pepper (leaf and pepperberry)

Nut[edit]

Araucaria bidwillii Bunya Nut
Athertonia diversifolia Atherton Almond
Macadamia integrifolia Macadamia Nut
Macadamia tetraphylla Bush Nut
Sterculia quadrifida Peanut Tree

Temperate Australia[edit]

Warm and cool temperate zones of southern Australia, including Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria and the highlands of New South Wales.

Fruit[edit]

Acrotriche depressa Native Currant
Billardiera cymosa Sweet Apple-berry
Billardiera longiflora Purple Apple-berry
Billardiera scandens Common Apple-berry
Carpobrotus rossii Karkalla
Exocarpus cupressiformis Native Cherry
Gaultheria hispida Snow Berry
Kunzea pomifera Muntries
Rubus parvifolius Pink-flowered Native Raspberry
Sambucus gaudichaudiana White Elderberry

Seed[edit]

Acacia longifolia Golden Rods
Acacia sophorae Coast Wattle

Spice[edit]

Eucalyptus dives Peppermint Gum
Eucalyptus olida Strawberry Gum
Eucalyptus globulus Tasmanian Blue Gum
Mentha australis River Mint
Prostanthera rotundifolia Native Thyme
Tasmannia lanceolata Mountain pepper
Tasmannia stipitata Dorrigo Pepper

Vegetable[edit]

Apium insulare Flinders Island Celery
Atriplex cinerea Grey Saltbush
Burchardia umbellata Milkmaids
Eustrephus latifolius Wombat berry
Microseris lanceolata Murnong

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Maiden, J.H., The Useful Native Plants of Australia, 1889, p.1
  2. ^ Smith, J E (1793). Spec. Bot. New Holland. James Sowerby. AMID all the beauty and variety which the vegetable productions of New Holland display in such profusion, there has not yet been discovered a proportionable degree of usefulness to mankind, at least with respect to food. 
  3. ^ Low, T., Wild Food Plants of Australia, Angus & Robertson, 1992, pp 199-202 ISBN 0-207-16930-6

Notations[edit]

External links[edit]