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Feature

Wattles

From the ANU forestry website

The fruits and seeds of the wattles are generally thought of as being poisonous or inedible, there are, however, a few exceptions. Forty-seven sorts of wattle tree growing in southern Australia produce seeds which are suitable for human food. Some species are also used as stock food, for example, the pods of A. farnesiana (prickly Moses) and A. cambagei (gidyea) are eaten by sheep.

Traditional Use

Seeds form a staple food among many indigenous peoples and plants native to Australia are no exception. The aborigines ground the dried wattle seeds between stones to form a flour which was then baked as a damper. These seed grinding practices appear to be a relatively recent technological development. It is thought that Aboriginal people in central Australia have been grinding grass or wattle seed for no more than 4 000 years. Green seeds are also eaten, taken green like peas. It is currently believed that only desert dwellers ate acacia seeds, with the exception of coastal SA and TAS tribes, which roasted the pods and then ate the seeds of Acacia sophorae (Coast Wattle).

Use Overseas

Tropical Australian wattle species have been grown for many years in Niger, West Africa. Originally planted there for firewood and sand stabilisation they were found to produce prolific crops of seed even during drought.

While assessing forestry trials in the region Dr Lex Thomson, knowing that Australian aborigines used wattle seed as a food source, encouraged the local people to incorporate the seed into their diet.

Subsequent laboratory testing and human dietary trials on the species grown in Niger have shown that the seed is highly nutritious and safe to eat. Wattle seeds are now a valuable part of the diet of people in that area providing much needed insurance against the recurring threat of famine. http://www.hawkesbury.uws.edu.au/~listerp/wattle.htm)

Wattle seed use in the bush tucker industry

Wattle seed is in high demand for use as a ground product in pastries and breads and also as a flavouring in desserts, especially ice-cream. It is also used to produce a high quality coffee-like beverage. Wattle seed is one bushfood product collected almost exclusively by Aboriginal people from wild populations throughout its natural range. Wattle seed is not yet grown on a commercial scale and the demand far exceeds the supply. Despite this, small quantities of wattle seed are exported to the US, Canada, UK, France, Japan and SE Asia. (http://www.hawkesbury.uws.edu.au/~listerp/wattle.htm)

Mulga: (A. aneura)

The most important edible species, by far, would have to be is Mulga A. aneura. Mulga is the most common tree found in outback Australia. Its seed, gum, honeydew (a sweet liquid which oozes from shiny red lumps caused by the mulga lerp) and apples (sweet edible galls produced by wasp larva) were all important foods for the Aborigines and the wood, which is very strong, was used for tools. "Desert botanist Peter Latz estimates that mulga yields at least a hundred kilograms of seed per hectare. By this reckoning the mulga in the Northern Territory could feed a quarter of a million people."(Low, 1991) 

The mulga is a large shrub with greyish foliage, upright branches and cylindrical yellow flowers. The oblong flattened seed pods are 1.5-7cm long and 0.4-1.5cm wide and the seeds themselves are about 5mm long and shiny, black in colour. Mulga tends to grow on red soils in dense, pure stands.

Nutritional Value of Acacia Seeds

Acacia seeds are extremely nutritious, containing several times the protein of wheat. Acacia The fat content is higher than most legumes with the aril providing the bulk of fatty acids present. The mean total carbohydrate content of 55.8 + 13.7% is lower than that of lentils, but higher than that of soybeans while the mean fibre content of 32.3 + 14.3% is higher than that of other legumes such as lentils with a level of 11.7%. The energy content is high in all species tested, averaging 1480+270 kJ per 100g. Wattle seeds are low glycaemic index foods. The starch is digested and absorbed very slowly, producing a small, but sustained rise in blood glucose and so delaying the onset of exhaustion in prolonged exercise (Brand and Maggiore 1992, in http://www.hawkesbury.uws.edu.au/~listerp/wattle.htm

Table 1: Nutritional analysis of two acacias

Plant Plant Part Energy (kj) Water (g) Protein (g) Fat (g) Carbo-

hydrate (g)

Na (mg) K (mg) Ca

(mg)

Mulga Seed - 9.1 27.6 5.8 53.8 117.1 316.6 78.0
Wattle* seed 1513 11.2 26.8 6.3 49.0 83.6 220.8 88.3

Wattle* = Acacia dictyophleba Source: (Low, 89)

Wattle seed recipes

Source: (http://www.bushtucker.com.au/Recipes.htm)

Note that because many acacias are not suitable for food, care needs to be taken in the choice of species when harvesting seed for food. Many coastal and some arid species contain toxic compounds.

Skinned & Boned Flat Head Fillet in Paperbark

 2 x 200g skinned & boned flat head fillet

1 tbspn of akudjura (ground bush tomato)

1 tbspn of wattle seed

2 tsp of ground mountain pepper

salt, pepper,

paperbark.

  • Season flathead fillet in the Australian cajun mix of wattle, akudjura, and mountain pepper.
  • Season with salt and pepper and wrap in paperbark, tying with natural fibre string.
  • Cook on hot plate so that the paperbark smokes or until fish is tender (approx. 15 min for fillets).
  • Serve in the bark trimming the ends and folding the charred paperbark in under the fish.

Wattle Seed ice-cream

Prep. time 5 minutes

2-4 litres of good quality vanilla ice-cream

5g of premium wattle seed

  • Add a teaspoon of premium wattle seed into a glass and add just enough water to just cover the grounds plus a tiny bit extra.
  • Heat mixture to the boil in a microwave (or you can do this in a saucepan) so the wattle seed flavour is infused into the water.
  • You can then either use the water (if you don't want any grounds in your ice-cream) or preferably add the whole mixture once cooled down into approx. 2 litres of semi-thawed good quality vanilla ice-cream (you can play around with the quantity ie. 4 litres is OK too.)
  • Mix the wattle seed through the ice-cream and re-freeze and then serve with a light garnish of icing sugar to finish a unique chocolate-coffee-hazelnut flavoured ice-cream.
  • If you make your own ice-cream, add the water / wattle seed mix as flavour.

Book References

Cribb, A. B. & J. W., 1974. Wild Food in Australia. Book Club Associates, Sydney.

Low, P., 1989. Bush Tucker: Australia's wild food harvest. Angus & Robertson, Sydney

Low, P., 1991. Wild Food Plants of Australia. Angus & Robertson, Sydney.

Internet References

http://www.hawkesbury.uws.edu.au/~listerp/wattle.htm

http://www.bushtucker.com.au/Recipes.htm

http://www.csiro.au/news/mediarel/mr1998/mr98213.html

Useful Links

http://users.academy.net.au/~samantha/bushfood.html

http://www.greenwork.org.au/bushfood.htm

Copyright 1998 The Australian National University

Author: Michelle Corcoran.

 

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