(Native) Herbs and Spices
Bushfoods - or people’s perceptions of them - seem to be dominated by fruit and nuts. It’s true, we do have some delightful native fruits and seeds and even a sprinkling of green vegetables - but what’s been under utilised to date are some of our condiments.
I am a total pushover for the bush tomato (Solanum centrale or Akadjura). This wrinkly little grape sized fruit is probably the best known and most widely used of our flavourings and the odd thing is - it has a most peculiar smell! Grind up the dried fruits and give your favourite chef a whiff - you’re apt to get a ‘you’ve got to be kidding…’ reaction followed by a thoughtful look as they try to catagorise the very distinctive smell. I actually don’t mind the taste of Akadjura a la naturale but where it comes into its own is in soups, sauces, sprinkles and salad dressings. Bush tomato quiche is quite delightful and my own buttermilk/bush tomato salad dressing is good enough to forget the salad! I sprinkle it on soups, eggs, toasted sandwiches, steamed vegies and just about anything else that takes my fancy.
As for our true herbs and spices - the most widely used is Lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora). The dried and ground leaf of this attractive tree has very strong aroma and taste which is certainly citrusy but quite different from lemon. Its popularity as a bushfood planting should see a plentiful supply available in the near future.
Backhousia anisata is a similar looking tree with a strong aniseed presence and B. myrtifolia has an interesting curry-like flavour.
I have some Native parsley (Apium prostratum) which is doing nicely in a pot. It tastes pretty much exactly like parsley though I am told that there is great variation in both the form of the plant and its flavour. There is also Sea Celery (A. australe) and Island Celery (Apium ??) which both have the distinctive celery/parsley taste. The only problem with these delightful and reasonably easy to grow plants is that they simply don’t have a very unusual taste!
We also have Native thyme Native basil, Native mint, Native pepper and a number of Eucalypt and Melaleuca leafs which almost defy description.
I find almost any of our native peppers (Tasmannia lanceolata, T. insipida and T. stipitata) far superior to the imported black version. I did a quick price comparison and, though they’re not cheap, they are around the same price as green peppercorns. I looked at my 50g container of black pepper which seems to have been on the shelf forever and realised the only problem with our native varieties is that I use lots more because it actually tastes good! The dried berry and leaf both are used and I recently enjoyed some fabulous (but rather fiery!) pepperberries in oil.