5 Australian bush foods and where to try them in Queensland
While celebrated chefs such as Noma’s Rene Redzipi and Attica’s Ben Shewry may have revived the concept of foraging in recent years, bush foods have been on the menu for Indigenous Australians for hundreds of thousands of years.
Here are 5 essential Australian native foods and where to try them in Queensland.
Try: Lilly Pilly
Join Indigenous co-founder of Tribal Link, Kerry Neill, on a ‘touch, taste and feel’ bush tucker tour on Jinibara Country in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. You’ll sample everything from the roasted nuts that fall from the towering bunya pines to edible native violets and the fruit of the lilly pilly tree.
Neill says the bright pink fruit can be used in sauces, jams, chutneys, cordials and cakes. “The flesh is tart and crisp with a hint of cinnamon,” he says. Lilly pilly is grown around the property, which is in full expansion mode and set to include a 120-seat theatre restaurant where Songs and Stories of the People will premiere in August 2019.
Bush food will feature in the three-course dinner of local native cuisine to be cooked over an open fire and served during the performance.
Where: Tribal Link Cultural Activity Centre, 70 Obi Obi Road, Mapleton
Try: Davidson’s Plum
While sustainable eating might seem like it’s suddenly in vogue, Veronica Cougan and Graeme White created Witjuti Grub Nursery in 1996 to tapped into the knowledge of ancient wisdom of Indigenous elders and cultivate food plants such as Queensland’s Davidson’s Plum, wild tamarind, pink-fruited lime berry and sweet native raspberries.
Sample some Davidson’s Plum jam as part of a Live It Tours experience where Cougan talks to visitors about the high antioxidant properties of the fruit during a bush tucker morning tea. “The Davidson’s Plum is delicious and lends itself to sweet jams and savoury sauces to accompany meat,” explains Cougan, who is one of many great local producers on the Sunshine Coast.
Where: Witjuti Grub Bushfood Nursery, 84 Falls Creek Road, Obi Obi
Try: Mud mussels
Join Juan Walker, a descendant of the Kuku Yalanji people – otherwise known as ‘rainforest people’ – on his Walkabout Cultural Adventures Cultural Tour where you’ll plod along silky mudflats on the fringes of Cooya Beach, prising mussels from the mangroves.
The tour includes a stint spear-fishing where, if you’re lucky, you can spear a large mud crab and cook and eat it alongside the mangrove mussels, with some beach lettuce and bush damper on the side.
The mangrove roots provide support for filter-feeders such as the mussels, which play an important role in keeping the water clear. One of the joys of eating mud or mangrove mussels is that you must squish down into the mud with your hands or feet to find them.
This cultural tour is one of many must-do Indigenous tours around Cairns.
Where: Walkabout Cultural Adventures, Tropical North Queensland
Try: Native green ants
Native green ants definitely add a bit of bite to the antipasto tasting platter at Ochre Restaurant in Cairns. This trailblazing restaurant has been celebrating bush food for more than two decades with everything from kangaroo to Kakadu plum, emu wontons and smoked crocodile on the menu.
Chef and owner Craig Squire pushes the boundaries when it comes to celebrating ingredients such as green ants, which he scatters onto salmon gravlax, and serves with pepperleaf goat’s cheese on the side. Naturally, the restaurant also serves Australian Green Ant Gin from the Adelaide Hills.
Green ants are high in protein and still widely used by indigenous Australians to combat coughs and colds. If your tastes lean towards the adventurous, a visit to Ochre restaurant is somewhat compulsory.
Where: Ochre Restaurant, Shop 6, Marlin Parade, Cairns
Yes we know the emu is on the Australian coat of arms. But if you want to really embrace paddock-to-plate dining in Australia, then you need to visit Homage Restaurant at Spicers’ Hidden Vale – located in the midst of one of Australia’s largest food bowls.
Here, chef Ash Martin makes the lean meat from the fast-running flightless bird perfectly palatable by cooking it gently over an open fire and serving it with whey butter, house curd and native pepper. The meat from the emu is a healthy alternative to beef says Martin, who also features kangaroo sausage, lightly pickled Murray cod and warrigal greens on the award-winning menu.
You can also sample highly nutritious emu eggs in a desert of chocolate, macadamia and rosella.
Where: Homage Restaurant, Spicers Hidden Vale, Grandchester, Queensland
Have you tried any bush foods?
Looking for more Indigenous experiences in Queensland? Check out our eBook: Connect with culture.