Fit Native Foods
When we started growing native food plants, we thought these young plants would have similar needs to the others. But it turned out they were more hardy. And best of all, they grew in the shade of the fast growing fruit trees like Mulberry, Jack-fruit, Pear, Mango [and our 100 or so other trees.]
Old-World Exploration Within Modern World
Meet the world of underutilised native foods. These foods are growing in neglected areas out of reach of the suburban lawn-mower. Hidden from the chemical sprays of council workers, and laying low in ditches beside massive fields of cereal crops.
Native foods are resilient to their hometown soil and micro-climate. Some have fallen extinct, some have a precarious existence, but many native foods have enjoyed a renaissance. Many have been developed and are now commercially propagated and enhanced by programs of natural selection.
Best Reasons to Put Native on Your Plate
1. Culinary Joy
New foods can bring colour into our food pallet. Trying a new food can take us on a culinary adventure. Sadly, many of us walk past a native food without ever tasting it. Chefs all around the world are searching for ingredients that are out of the ordinary.
Worldwide there are more than 50 000 edible plants. Remarkably, three of these plants [rice, maize and wheat] provide 60 percent of the world’s food energy intake. Fresh native foods are rarely on our dinner plate.
2. Super Health Benefits of Eating Native
A lot of native foods are superfoods. They are vibrant in colour and rich in nutrients. Sadly these loud qualities can turn some cooks away. Many chefs are finding ways to capture the vibrancy and strong flavours. Western foods, such as Peas, enjoyed genetic selection and culinary attention for centuries. Native foods need chef-pioneers explore ways to harness the super nutrition and complement the bold flavours.
3. Growing Local Suits Us Locals
The greatest benefit of eating Native food is the boost to the environment. By growing indigenous foods, a farmer won’t need to alter the terrain as much. There is a species for wetland, another for zones that are high and dry. Nor will the farmer need to add chemicals or soil enhancers. The plants that are native don’t need specialist support. They know what they are doing and just need appreciation and room to grow.
The native birds will appreciate the habitat. Sure, they will eat some of the crop (as they already eat the non-native crops), but they will also return fertiliser, pick off insects pests and work to regenerate the land. All these factors build a richer food future.
Our Top Bush Tuckers
- Finger Lime – Many of our friends hunger for this fruit. It performs well on the edge of a forest where it can get a little direct sunlight to form fruits.
- Macadamia – the visiting children have learnt when they are ready to eat. They have a devoted smashing station made with two rocks. They look for slight blemishes on the shells. The pattern is mottled like a leopard skin. This develops when the fruit has fallen away and the nut has matured.
- Native Raspberry – we select to grow the less seedy fruits. They deliciously tart and fruit nearly all year around but most importantly they are fruit over winter.
- Dianella – Wollongong Uni Innovation Campus has the best we have ever tasted. And hardly anyone knows to eat them. These look stunning and taste great.
- Walking-Stick Palm – small but delightful and easy to pick.
- Anniseed Myrtle – Fantastic leaves for herb tea.
- Sandpaper Fig (the skin is tough like a kiwifruit and the flesh is sweet). This grows to be a huge tree – so make sure it is not going to block the sun coming to your home or over your neighbour. It will help to hold the bank of a local creek or an area too steep for other uses.
- Native Rosella – the flowers are like a soft lettuce. This is a short-lived delicate shrub. Shrubs and understorey plants that are edible are hard to find in a permaculture system – so this is a must in our food jungle.
- Davidson Plum – strong bitter flavour, spectacular plant, erect and ferny with fine pastel pink flowers. It is also an understorey plant until it reaches maturity. The fruits fall when they are ready so keep a layer of soft mulch underneath to pillow their fall.
- Sea grape – small fleshy fruits. Commonly grown in large areas like a steep bank.
- Native Orange – the skin is tart but the flesh is perfumed and sweet. There is variation in the fruits on the single tree. This plant deserves to be cultivated and developed.
- Lilly Pilly – The best Lilly Pilly my family has tasted are ones that were growing in the carpark of MacArthur Square Shopping Centre. It grows happily here too. Search for varieties with big purple fruits
- Lemon Myrtle – good for herb tea and as a perfume. We were very happy for years with this Myrtle until we discover the Anniseed Myrtle. (Just personal taste).
- Blueberry Ash – These fruits look pretty but a bit skinny in comparison with Dianella. A bonus is it fruits late in summer when other plants are having a rest.
- Mountain Pepper – delightfully peppery leaves, loves growing here in part shade.
- Native citrus
- Pigface for flowers and edible stems
- Native Leeks
- Kangaroo Grass
- Native Clumping Bamboo – we have successfully overwintered our first native bamboos from far north queensland and hope to support this crop in the solar traps of our food forest.