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Issue 14 Dec-Jan 99-00

The Red Bopple Nut

Bernard Murawski

The red bopple nut (Hicksbeachia pinnatifolia) is a small, slender rainforest tree that grows to approximately 15 metres in height. It has single or multiple, branched or unbranched stems that arise from ground level, with the leaves being focused at the tip of the stems.

It is a close relative of the macadamia (Macadamia spp.) and is endemic to the subtropical rainforests of south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales. It occurs naturally from Missabotti in the Nambucca Valley, New South Wales, to Tamborine Mountain in south-east Queensland, at altitudes of near sea level to 700 metres.

In north-east New South Wales the main flowering period is traditionally between September to October but the plant may also flower outside of these times. Some plants will flower over a six-month period while others flower continually throughout the year. The flowers are borne mostly on the mature wood of the trunk, where they may even appear at ground level, and older branches. The flowers are self-compatible and so do not require cross-pollination.

The fruit of the red bopple nut ripens approximately 3 months after pollination, as opposed to the usual 12 months for many rainforest plants. The scarlet coloured fruit varies in size from approximately 2-5 cm long and 1.5-3 cm wide with a 5x3 cm fruit weighing approximately 20 grams and its nut around 5 grams. The nut is easily released by cutting through the outer rind with a knife. If the outer rind is bitten into a numbing of the mouth may occur that has been likened to an injection of cocaine.

It is important that the nut is eaten or processed when fresh and this factor will decide the taste of the nut. A stale nut will have an insipid taste. Once out of the shell the nut will oxidise rapidly with a deterioration in the taste, and a drying out of the nut. The nut has a texture similar to coconut flesh and tastes like a cross between a macadamia and a coconut. It has a low fat (3%) content and the taste improves with roasting.

The usual method of propagation is by sowing the seed. It is important to use fresh seed, as stale seed will give low and unpredictable levels of germination. The nut germinates readily, usually taking up to 60 days, with the plant being easy to grow in the nursery.

A common problem with the red bopple nut is that it tends to be difficult to establish in the field, with many plants dying within a relatively short (5-7 years) period of time. This trait is also exhibited in some macadamia species. Sowing directly into the ground may help to limit this problem as opposed to growing them in pots then transplanting them into the field.

The red bopple nut has evolved in areas that have soils consisting mainly of red podzolics, krasnozems, chocolates, alluvials, and lithosols, though predominantly krasnozems and chocolates. The most suitable soils for the growth of the red bopple nut appears to be red volcanics and soils with a high level of clay that are well drained.

It is not a fast growing tree and is slow in its early stages of growth. The plant should be around 60 cm in height after 12 months and 180 cm after 24 months. It is sensitive to frosts, strong sunlight, and wind when young, though an increase in resistance will become apparent as the plant matures.

Plants growing in the nursery should be watered well once or twice a week while the mature tree is not particular about a watering regime and can tolerate periods of up to one month without being watered.

Slow release (native plant formula) fertilizers have shown to be successful with nursery stock. For more mature plants, growers have used blood-and-bone, an 8:2:16 blend of fertilizer and fertilizers that are low in nitrogen. There is another school of thought that puts forward the idea that by applying additional fertilizer to the plant may be overdoing it, with some growers finding that plants left to their own devices did better than plants that were fussed over.

The red bopple nut will begin to produce nuts after about five to six years of growth with the amount of nuts being produced increasing (up to a natural limit) as the tree ages. Some trees can produce around 70-80 kilograms of fruit, though lesser amounts are usually expected.

At present, there are a number of known pests and diseases of the red bopple nut. The insect pests include the bananaspotting bug, macadamia fruitspotting bug, macadamia leaf miner, nut stemborer, macadamia flower caterpillar, mites, sciarid fly, slugs, and the common garden snail. Diseases comprise of phytophthora root rot and an unidentified fungal disease that affects the leaves of nursery plants and causes black spots to appear, which may eventually kill the plant. Vertebrate pests usually only become a problem when the tree is producing nuts. Cockatoos, possums, feral pigs, black rats, mice, and native rats have all proved a problem by eating the nuts.

Rainforest Liqueurs

Australian Indigenous Indulgences

John R King Ph: 073284 2202 email jrmk@bytesite.co.au

Kandertal Liqueur: made from the Australian Desert Lime native to the Brigalow Belt of Central Queensland to South Australia, a true citrus bite to this liqueur with a distinctive Lime family flavour.

Waffle Liqueur: a not-so-subtle Essence of Flowers with that distinctive Per-fume of Acacia Flowers and a strong Tannin background, very Australiana.

Wild Raspberry Liqueur: the traditional Raspberry flavour comes through in this Liqueur, the bernes grow wild fringing the creeks and rivers of Eastern Australia.

Lilly Pilly Liqueur: made from a fruit of the Eastern Rainforests, a relative of Cloves, and so has a distinctly fruity taste, but with a spice backnote.

Ke-ril Liqueur: made from a rich purple native fig of the Riparian Rainforest, overhanging the rivers and creeks and fruiting in the humid Summer months.

Cooloon Liqueur: an unusual fruit of the rainforest, metallic sky blue in colour, giving a rich dark red Liqueur with a fruity taste and a spice backnote.

Wuiigay Liqueur: a scrambling shrub found in the darkest areas

of the Riparian Rainforest, the fruit take 6 to 9 months to ripen after flowering. Because of scanty fruiting, and the long ripening time this liqueur will always be in small limited blends. A Guava-like note with a peppery background.

Planchonella Liqueur: a fruit of the Central Coastal Rainforests gives a rich ruby red liqueur reminiscent of a rich Port, but with a dry tannin background like a dry red wine, fruity and sweet yet with a dry backnote.

Gidneywallum Liqueur: from the Eastern Rainforests, a strong plum-like taste, out with a resinous background as it is a primitive predecessor of the pine trees.

Midyim Liqueur: a delightful white and purple spotted berry, grows in colonies on and behind the ocean-facing sand dunes, a lot of work to harvest in a wild and delicate place. Will always be in small quantities.

White Aspen Liqueur: an unusual fruit from an aromatic family, a spicy fruit with an almost citrus-like backnote. Trees fruit on the sunny fringes of Riparian Rainforest where it is moist but they can reach out for the sun.

Anisata Liqueur: made from the leaf of the Aniseed Myrtle from the Central Rainforests. A true aniseed flavour but more subtle than the true aniseed.

Myrtifolia Liqueur: made from the leaf of another Myrtle with a subtle spice note, commonly called the cinnamon myrtle, grows fringing the mountain rainforest gullies.

Lemon Wardnee Liqueur: made from the leaf of a Eucalyptus of the tropical monsoon forests, one of the purest sources of lemon oils, without the acid background of true lemon.

Kitcha-kontoo Liqueur: a leaf liqueur with a background of berries and a hint of spice. From a tree that grows in the monsoon swamps of the far north.

Wild Mint Liqueur: made from a true mentha that grows on the drier rain shadow slopes behind the eastern rainforests.

Tasting Event

Just a note to let you know a Bushtucker Tasting Event is being planned to be held Sunday 10th September at the site of Baiame Cave in Milbrodale. This is being organised to bring International Olympic Media from Sydney to the Broke Village Fair and the event on the same day. The general public will be encouraged to attend.

If you would like to particpate in some way please contact Helen Sharrock, Secretary Broke Fordwich Tourism Assoc email:

greengableslodge@bigpond.com or Tel/Fax: 0265791258

A few words on bushfoods

Peter Bindon

Send your comments to: non-wood-News@fao.org

Australia is currently developing a unique cuisine and an alternative pharmacopoeia using indigenous plants. International interest in these aspects of the national flora is rising to an extent that demand far exceeds supply.

Conservation of resources and indigenous people's involvement are two major issues in developing this industry. Examples of the development of small businesses based on seed and fruit collection in the South-west of Western Australia provide an avenue to explore the potential gains to be made by Aboriginal peopaboutle and others.

At present, a dozen plants provide the backbone of what might be seen as the development of "bush tucker" cuisine, but more are used. "Fruits", in the broadest sense, gathered from Acacia, Acronychia, Araucaria, Brachyton, Davidsonia, Ficus, Macadamia, Microcitrus, Santalum, Syzygium and Podocarpus species are used in the preparation of various menu items in restaurants. "Bread" making from Macrozamia communis kernels is once again being undertaken, although as with all the Cycads, leaking of toxins from these foods is of some concern. Flavouring from the leaves or by "greens" from Apium, Backhousia, Portulaca and Tasmannia species add variety and pungency to the meals.

The growth and development of this new plant cuisine has been encouraged by Vic Cherikoff, a food scientist and chemist, who popularized these plant products by recipes for dishes prepared with "bush tucker" ingredients, simultaneously with processed foods. The next stage is to develop the plants to a less "wild" state. Very little scientific work has been done in this regard to increase the economic value of any bush tucker plant, except for Macadamia tetraphylla and M. integrifolia.

Of at least equal importance to the edible qualities of the Australian flora is their potential for the pharmacopoeia.

In most Australian urban centres, there are shops selling blends of aromatic oils and essences with healing properties. Regardless of their medical effectiveness and curative properties, these items offer economic opportunities for people who collect the ingredients and who process the raw material to produce the value-added products such as oils and essences.

In addition to their use in traditional medicine, various plants of the native Australian flora are screened for active compounds to be used in the pharmaceutical formulation of conventional medicine. The Western Australia State Government has passed laws to protect State rights concerning the indigenous flora and to allow it to collect royalties from the developers of successful drugs based on endemic plants. Although so far no practical conclusion has been reached about how and if money will be devolved to Aborigines, it is clear that arrangements must be made; for example the establishment of funds to finance projects for Aboriginal development using this money.

The potential for Aboriginal involvement in bush tucker enterprises is primarily as pickers. Some initiatives have been taken to develop Aboriginal ownership of bush tucker enterprises. Training was provided on how to run a small-scale business and the Western Australia Museum organized seminars in bush locations to identify the species that can actually be collected, since knowledge of species has become somewhat restricted in the Aboriginal communities in the area, due to their "acculturation".

In 1995, the estimated costs to establish an Aboriginal community-based programme, involving supply of bush food and seed, was AUD348 000. Projected income would have balanced the expenditure by the third year. In the fourth year of the project, the income was estimated to level out above AUD300 000, making the project viable.

Other business opportunities are, for example, the collection of seeds of native species for use in gardening, for which there is an increasing emphasis on using native species. Aboriginal people also own and manage several enterprises which introduce tourists to traditional values, foods, and ceremonial activities. Some revegetation schemes exist to replant degraded mining sites with native plant species which produce edible parts. At Pinjarra, just south of Perth, in Western Australia, an Aboriginal community has won a contract to undertake mine-site rehabilitation using species native to the region. The immediate, direct benefit to the people was increased employment.

Social benefits to Aborigines include: increased awareness of the importance of plant resources in their traditional way of life, and a greater appreciation of the ecological value of plants in general, new appreciation of their traditional knowledge, an increased self esteem, and a new sense of community values.

The indiscriminate development of "bush tucker" enterprise could lead to overexploitation of the resources. The conservation of plants in their habitat must be a priority in any developmental scheme. A detailed knowledge of floral resources needs to be amassed, and mechanisms for continuous monitoring of habitat must be established before any of such project is initiated.

(Source: edited from Flavours and favours: bush tucker enterprises and Australian Aboriginal involvement by Peter R. Bindon, Anthropology Department, Western Australia Museum, Perth, Western Australia. Paper presented at the 22nd Annual Congress of the South African Association of Botanists, University of Stellenbosch, 15-20 January 1996)

Quandong workshop

Hi Sammy, the Mudgee Native Food Growers Group is investigating the possibility of hosting a Quandong workshop in this area, possibly in August. The format/cost would depend on the numbers interested. People can contact me, Carol Stephens, on 02 6373 3957, or our secretary Diana Derrick on 02 6373 4251, to express an interest in attending. Thanks, Carol

Book Reviews

Smaller can be better

Pocket Bushtucker

Peter Latz

jukurrpa books/IAD Press

PO Box 2531 Alice Springs

NT 0871

RRP $22.95

I have a cherished and well-thumbed copy of Peter Latz' book `Bushfires and Bushtucker' and was delighted when jukurrpa books brought out `Pocket Bushtucker' - a back-pocket sized version.

The tradition resources of the desert peoples are still available and very much in use today and expert Aboriginal knowledge is the basis for this compact guide to Central Australia plant foods and medicines.

The book features:

* listings for more than 180 plant species

* traditional Aboriginal uses of these species

* plant names in Central Australian Aboriginal languages

It also has both colour photos and line drawings of the species and clear descriptions of both the plants themselves and their habitat. I`ve found the index and cross reference extremely helpful and, if I'm ever able to get to the centre' this book will be the first thing I pack. Highly recommended for those interested in arid zone species.

Small again - but useful

Native Plant Uses of Southern South Australia

Neville Bonney

N. Bonney, Box 37 Tantanoola SA 5280

Once again, a small book just brimming with information. Over 30 species of the area are described - the plant, its distribution and Indigenous use. Each species also has a fabulous line drawing (all by Anne Miles). This is Volume 4 of the series so I will have to chase up Vols 1-3.

Books like this make me envious of those people living in the dryer regions - they've got some great plants to chose from!

Some Aboriginal Names

Acacia fimbriata - Kirrang

Acacia macredenia - Toney

Acacia podalyriaefolia - Currong

Austromyrtus dulcis - Midyim

Brachychiton populneum - Kurrajong

Capparis arborea - Barror

Carissa ovata - Karey

Diploglottis cunninghamii - Toonoum

Elaeagnus latifolia - Millaa millaa

Elaeocarpus grandis - Calhun

Eupomatia laurina - Balwarra

Ficus coronata - Balemo

Hibiscus heterophyllus - Batham

Olea paniculata - Marvey

Piper novae-hollandae - Mao-warrang

Pipturis arengteus - Kongangn

Pleiogynum timorense - Boomarrah

Podocarpus elatus - Goongum

Rubus rosifolius - Neram

Sterculia quadrifida - Calool

Syzygium moorei - Durobbi

Syzygium smithii - Coochin Cochin

Index 14

From the Editor


Bardees, Bogongs and Bees

National Co-operation

A Few Current Prices

When is a plum not a plum?

CSIRO Land and Water ~ and Bushfoods!

Bushfoods and biodiversity - An example of benefit

Earth Alive! Biodiversity Month

A little bit of news....

Billardiera spp

The Australian Native Food Industry is on the rise

Industry survey - responses needed!

Backhousia citriodora

Sell before you sow!

What's the best address on the internet?

A bushtucker eating adventure at White Cliffs

Conference - Griffith University

The Red Bopple Nut

Rainforest Liqueurs

Tasting Event

A few words on bushfoods

Stingless Bees in the Future...

Quandong workshop

Jean-Paul Bruneteau on the Quandong

Book Reviews


Snippets from the discussion group


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