Home ||  Back Issue Contents  || Search ||

Issue 14 - Dec-Jan 99-00

When is a plum not a plum?

When it's an Illawarra plum, of course!

Erika Birmingham

This tall elegant conifer (Podocarpus elatus) is native to rainforests along the eastern seaboard of Australia. The tree was extensively cleared by early settlers as a cabinet timber, but it is also valued for its edible fruit.

The fruit resembles a purplish-black plum with a waxy bloom. However, apart from its shape and colour, the fruit is really nothing like a plum at all.

Restaurateur Glen Beaver, of `Wild About Food' Restaurant, in Bangalow, describes the Illawarra Plum: "In its raw form, it comes across as a piney-flavoured grape. On its own, it is not a flavour sensation, like chewing into a nectarine that you can say "Wow".

It is subtle and picks up the flavours of other ingredients that are blended with it, like ginger or chilli."

Beaver was first introduced to the Illawarra Plum by Byron Bay Native Produce, a local innovative Australian native foods business. The owner, Erika Birmingham, specialises in the wholesale supply of quality regional produce unique to our subtropical rainforests.

According to Birmingham it is only recently that the value of the Illawarra Plum as an Australian native food has been recognised in this area.

"The Illawarra Plum bears fruit in autumn. Yet, until now, many chefs couldn't access a regular supply of plums in this area", she said.

"When I first started in the industry, very few people had even heard of our local bushfoods. I


Podocarpus elatus - from Tim Low's book `Wild Food Plants'

have always seen the big potential of the Illawarra plum as a commercial crop, because it is so versatile in cooking."

Erika is a former chef herself and understands that creative chefs are always searching for new products.

"Now, I can offer chefs the opportunity to play with new ingredients and put some very exciting dishes on the menu," she said.

These include dishes like deepfried garfish with an Illawarra plum salsa, as featured on the menu at Wild About Food.

According to Glen Beaver, the Illawarra plum salsa certainly gets the thumbs up from his customers.

"We just started using it with the deepfried garfish, because we had a good run of fresh garfish. I would like to have it fixed on the menu as a salsa, for serving with dishes

that are a bit more meaty, such as octopus, " he said.

"We can use the plums as an ingredient that adds colour and texture to a dish. We would also like to take them into the sweet area, by sweetening them to the point where people say, "That's unusual and interesting".

When asked how customers were responding to the Illawarra Plum, Beaver said: "Most people are just fascinated by them. My customers say "Is it a plum?"

"Poor labelling and naming of bushfoods confuses customers because they have an expectation of the European ingredient on their minds," he said. "We would like to say to our customers, "Don't expect something that's going to be really familiar to you."

CSIRO Land and Water ~ and Bushfoods!


csiroCSIRO has announced a four-year trial to find out how to increase production of Australia's native plants.

CSIRO scientist Maarten Ryder says we need to find out how to better commercially farm native foods, before other countries grow them overseas and sell the produce back to us and other export markets.

"This scientific research will gather comprehensive information to evaluate conditions for native plants cultivation," says Dr Ryder.

"Countries like Israel or the US would love to get their hands on these native plants, so we owe it to ourselves to learn how to better cultivate and grow them on a commercial basis. We know Israel is already conducting preliminary trials with quandong and is looking for stocks of native citrus to grow."

"We are in danger of losing our competitive advantage unless we protect our position."

The study's results will be shared with the Australian native foods industry, who will play an active role in the trials. Australian Native Produce Industries Pty Ltd of Renmark, SA, is the main industry cooperator, and Primary Industries and Resources SA is also involved.

The research will focus on quandongs, mountain pepper, bush tomatoes, muntries, riberries, two native citrus and acacias, from which wattle seeds are harvested.

Dr Ryder says the fledgling native foods industry is worth an estimated $14 million annually but its export potential is yet to be realised because it can't guarantee regular supplies of high quality produce.

He says the industry is hampered from further growth because it has little knowledge about optimal commercial farming conditions, in some cases harvesting products from the wild.

The study will gather world-first data on how native foods grow in different climatic environments, with mini-orchards established at five sites in SA and one in Victoria. It will investigate how to best grow and harvest native foods in order to lower production costs and increase product quality. It will also investigate susceptibility to pests and fungal diseases. "Longer term the CSIRO trials hope to provide knowledge that leads to sustainability," says Dr Ryder.

The project also incorporates an Aboriginal traineeship, to ensure Western-style research into native foods is shared with the Aboriginal community.

The project is sponsored by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and the Aboriginal Education Employment Development Branch (SA Department of Education Training and Employment).

More information:

Dr Maarten Ryder CSIRO Land and Water 08 8 303 85 34.

Bushfoods and biodiversity - An example of benefit

Larry Geno

A number of Bushfood plants of potential value are rare or endangered, having been reduced by past land use practices before their value was recognised. In northern NSW, an interesting species of high valve is being regenerated to address both production and biodiversity needs. Native to the northern rivers, the Small leaf Tamarind (Diploglottis cambellii) is nearly extinct, with less than 100 known specimens in the wild. Its tasty large fruit has been used historically for a wide variety of foods where its tart, potent flavor is desired. Because of the limited number of trees remaining, it has rarely been present in the industry from wild harvesting in the last two decades of industry growth.

A plantation in northern NSW, Northern Rivers Native Fruit owned by Larry and Barbara Geno, has hundreds of trees coming into bearing. Because of an unusual past problem this year, much of the fruit was unusable for sale and was processed for seed to grow nursery stock. Even in a good year for fruit quality, there is always cull fruit for seed and good fruit can be processed without damaging seed viability - essentially yielding two products. As a result, this plantation/nursery has over 10,000 Small Leaf Tamarind trees available, probably the largest number of this tree since the rain forest was cleared. Not only is this of value to plantation and hobby plantings for fruit production, but they can also now be reintroduced to the wild to regenerate this endangered part of the regional ecosystem.

Revegetation projects like the camphor laurel replacement program under the Far North Country Council have already expressed interest and those establishing plantations have, at last, a sustainably produced, parks or wildlife approved, source of plants previously unavailable in quantity. This could be a good example of the beneficial interaction between biodiversity and bushfood production that deserves repetition with other species.

Earth Alive! Biodiversity Month

how can you get involved?

Earth Alive! Biodiversity Month 2000 is on again in September. Biodiversity Month provides a national focus to celebrate and promote your local biodiversity and increase your community's understanding and involvement in biodiversity conservation projects in your region.

This year there are five simple action themes:

1. Create a Habitat Garden

2. Help Save Fish Habitat and When Fishing Take Only What You Need

3. Save and Create Habitat for Native Birds

4. Save and Create Habitat for Frogs

5. Care for Your Pets to Conserve Native Animals

Actions to reduce the road kill of native animals will also be focussed upon.

In addition to well known Australian celebrities playing a part in the promotion of these simple actions, many environmental groups and organisations from around Australia will soon be organising events aimed at educating and involving anyone willing to learn about our precious biodiversity. In 1999 Earth Alive! Biodiversity Month saw over 120 events in schools, botanical gardens, National Parks, local Councils, shopping centres, spring fairs and many, many more.

For more information contact the Community Biodiversity Network. Ph: (02) 9380 7629, Email: earthalive@cbn.org.au or browse `Earth Alive!' at http://www.cbn.org.au/projects/earthalive/2000.html

A little bit of news....can go a long way.

Generally, this has been a reasonably good period for bushfoods in the media, with articles of one sort or another appearing in both national and subsurban papers.

Media exposure generates interest and interest generates a larger, more broad based industry.

Why not pen a story for your local paper? It doesn't have to be earth-shattering news though you should find some `news' angle (`bushfoods generating greater interest" is a good standby!) Add some human interest, a recipe or two and some photos and send it in. No news is not good news.

Billardiera spp

Chris Jones

Most of the Billardiera spp. can be grown from seed or cuttings, and autumn appears to be the best time of year to obtian cuttings. Billardiera seed often takes considerable time to germinate. B.scandens 8-10 weeks, although others may take up to 12 months. All species are endemic to Australia, however B.cymosa has been grown abroad for the past 50+ years. There would seem to be no reason why it would not grow in America, and particularly California. Most plants require a well drained soil and B.longifolia is known to do well as a greenhouse pot plant.

Billardiera belong to the Family Pittosporaceae, and are a genus of climbing plants limited to Australia. They were named after Jacques de Labillardiere a French botanist who visited Australia.

Billardiera cymosa

Common Name:

Sweet Apple berry Normal Distribution:

SA and Vic.

The sweet apple berry is a small, wiry, light climbing plant with narrow to oblong pointed leaves and attractive cream to pink, to mauve to bluish white tubular flowers with flared tips borne in clusters. The fruits are green to blackish , sometimes reddish, and when mature are known to be edible. As a bush food species it is gaining popularity, and as a native species is quite easy to propagate. It has an aniseed like flavour, although over ripe fruit are said to be sweet. Indigenous use of this bush tucker was once the fruit were ripe and had fallen to the ground.

The plant requires a host to climb and twine through, although it grows well on a trellis. It prefers well drained soils, and is quite hardy surviving anywhere from 300mm to 850mm rainfall.

As a bushfood crop the quantity


Billardiera longiflora - from Rainforest Plants IV - Nan and Hugh Nicholson

in colour when ripe. It has numerous small seeds embedded in its sweet edible pulp.

As a bush food crop it grows well on trellises, or as a matted ground cover. The mature fruit are juicy, and have a flavour similar to stewed apples hence its name by the early settlers as the apple dumpling berry. The fleshy fruits weigh about 2 grams each and like the sweet apple berry the quantity produced is small. Over-ripe fruit are sweet tasting. Indigenous use of the plant as bush tucker was generally once the fruits were ripe and had dropped to the ground.

Seed and cuttings are often difficult to establish, however once germinated will grow rapidly, and may produce fruit in the first year. Honeyeaters and other birds will be attracted to the tubular flowers.

As a bushfood, the appleberry can be added to fresh fruit salads, and can be used in pies and

of fruits produced are miniscule. However it is an adaptable plant, which benefits from light applications of slow release fertiliser and drip irrigation during drier periods.

Billardiera scandens

Common Names:

Appleberry, Apple dumpling, apple dumpling plant, potato apple, and Tasmanian blueberry Normal distribution:

Eastern and South eastern Australia from Queensland to Tasmania.

The appleberry is also a slender, twining creeper, found naturally in moist eucalypt forests and heaths. It is quite a hardy plant and grows well in full sun and on well drained soils. It has toothed or wavy edged, furry sometimes silky, yellow-green leaves which tend to turn purple with age. The pendular tubular to bell shaped flowers are creamy to yellow green and sometimes purple. The fruits are small, yellow to olive green berries, although may be purple to red

yeast bakery products. Their flavour is enhanced in pies when used with apples.

Billardiera longifolia

Common Name:

Purple berry or climbing blue berry.

It is also a slender, twining creeper which thrives in semi-shade and cooler and moister areas. It has narrow dark green leaves and pale green tubular flowers , and oval shaped shiny purple berries which hang like drupules from the twiggy stems.

This is a little harder to propagate as seeds may not germinate for many months, however it does strike well from cuttings. It is also used as a bush food but is not as yet as popular as the sweet appleberry.


Australian Bush Products (1997) Climbers and Creepers species list and general information. ABP.

Bonney, N.(1997) Economic Native Trees and Shrubs for South Australia. GASA.

Cribb, AB & JW. (1974) Wild Food in Australia . Collins.

Isaacs, J. (1991) Bushfood. Ure Smith.

Smith, K.& I.(1999) Grow Your Own Bushfoods. New Holland Publishers.

The Australian Native Food Industry is on the rise;

at an estimated worth of $16 million per year it is no longer the `bush' roots business it was; rather a modern, sophisticated industry on the brink of exploding onto the world's market. Pioneer of the industry, Vic Cherikoff, a visionary who anticipated the potential for native flavours two decades ago, is now stamping his name on this market with the rebranding of his company, Cherikoff Pty Ltd — The Rare Spice Company. Formerly Bush Tucker Supply Australia and Australian Native Fine Foods, the name change heralds a new era for Australian Native foods, an era where the authentic flavours of our nation will become a regular feature within the restaurants, supermarkets, households and cosmetic products of the world.

Cherikoff will continue to revolutionise this growing industry in the new century by expanding markets and bringing a wider choice of flavours to our tables. What began in the early eighties as an unyielding fascination for a (then) untapped industry has led to Chefs all over the world now

fusing native flavours with more traditional European and Asian dishes. The flow-on effect was inevitable, producing a growing retail market with supermarkets now stocking everything from game meats to spices such as Lemon Myrtle, Bush Tomato and Mountain Pepper. Commercial companies like George Weston Foods are also using native flavours with their parbake breads encompassing wattle seed and lemon myrtle.

The evolution of native cuisine away from the bush tucker image reflects the recent decision of Vic Cherikoff to streamline his company name to the simple yet modern, Cherikoff. Behind the name are new strategies to promote native foods as exciting and different but also readily available for chefs and easy to use. The focus is still on food service with a few retail products filtering through. A natural progession for this booming industry as it enters its new age, with Cherikoff firmly at the helm.

Cherikoff Pty Ltd

The Rare Spice Company

30 Gordon Street, Rozelle

NSW 2039

Ph: 02 98182800

Industry survey - responses needed!

Narendra Nand of Griffith University is undertaking postgraduate research into the potential application of plant biotechnology for the Davidson plum.

At present, he has a survey which forms an important part of his research. Your assistance with this survey would be very much appreciated - if you can help, please contact Narendra on 07 3841 0773. If you're on the net, watch the magazine's home page as we will be posting their survey their for easy response.

Survey for "Best- Bet" Plant Products from Arnhem Land and other Indigenous Communities in the Northern Territory.

*This survey will be used to assist in identifying the feasibility of small scale, commercial native plant harvests for remote indigenous communities of the Northern Territory. The information that you supply will be treated in confidence. We would like to acknowledge you for your participation.

- Thank you!

Please answer the following questions:

Name & Position:

Name of business/Type of business:

Please list five native/naturalized plant products from the Northern Territory that you can recommend as currently having a market demand and/or potential market demand.

1) Reason for selection:

2) Reason for selection:

3) Reason for selection:

4) Reason for selection:

5) Reason for selection:

* The following questions pertain to any of the above selected plant products that your business utilizes currently or in the near future.

Name of product:

Description of product:

What will you use the product for?

What amount in kilograms have you purchased in the last two years?(over supplied/under supplied)

1998 - 1999-

What is the estimated amount in kilograms to be purchased over this year and the following year?

2000- 2001-

In which months of the year do you purchase the product?

What amount do you require for an average order -min & max?

How many suppliers do you currently have for this product?

Are there any current unmet needs in the supply of this product?

In what form do you require the product (i.e. raw/processed/frozen/etc.)?

What type of quality/taste/texture/color/ is required?

How might our product (harvested in pristine areas by aboriginal communities) be different from other suppliers of like product - from your point of view?

Do you see the demand for this product increasing/stabilizing/decreasing in the near future?

Average amount in dollars paid for product per unit measurement (i.e. $/kg)?

When does the supplier of product receive payment? (COD/Invoice)

Can amount paid for product fluctuate? Please list all factors that may effect amount paid for product?

Can you be contacted for further information regarding a plant product that you recommended? If 'Yes', please provide contact details.

Suggestions/Comments offered:

for more information please contact: Keith Milliken at the Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management NTU. Casuarina, Darwin. NT. ph 89466713; email<k_milliken@site.ntu.ed.au>

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