Back Issue Home || Kit Home || Search
From the Editor
The Passive Voice
In my time with bushfoods, I have not learned patience. I have harvested under hot sun and cleaned till the wee hours, conversed with experts and imbeciles and touched (too seldom) the pulse of the bush and the things which grow there. I have dabbled disastrously in politics and raised my voice now and then on matters I felt important. Then, occasionally, lowered it again.
At the end of the day, there seems little to show and less gained for 6 years of total involvement in our native foods. There seems...and yet - I and the magazine are still here. The phone still rings at odd hours with people who want to know more about our native foods. Emails stream in each day like ticker tape and the `discussion group' still amazes me with its ability to answer (almost) any question.
Contributors to the magazine give freely of their time and knowledge, total strangers call to thank me for the latest issue, new businesses pop up out of nowhere with fabulous bushfood products and bodies like RIRDC fund research which will give all of us a greater base on which we might build an industry.
In between all of this there is the day to day of figures, phone calls, deadlines, GST, weeding, watering, planning, promoting, explaining, apologising, cataloguing, updating, revising, editing, scheduling, cajoling, haggling and ...wonderment.
1.5 kilometres from my house the most glorious Native tamarind is in fruit. On a brief trip to a friend's place, a Riberry tree appears, laden to ridiculous lengths with plump, ripe fruit. The owner comes out to hold the ladder as I `street harvest' the pink berries. We swap jam recipes. He declines an invitation to taste the fruit from his own tree.
This is a rich, bewildering but (ultimately) satisfying world we live in.
I have 35 kilograms of unsorted Riberries scattered round my small but functional living space, waiting to be cleaned, bagged and labelled.
I have a good collection of Joni Mitchell and Santana tapes. This could be a lovely evening. It may take patience.
I'm willing to find it.
This issue, I'd like to bring you something sent to me by my dearly beloved grandfather:
Count your blessings instead of your crosses
Count your gains instead of your losses
Count your joys instead of your woes
Count your friends instead of your foes
Count your smiles instead of your tears
Count your courage instead of your fears
Count your full years instead of your lean
Count your kind deeds instead of your mean
Count your health instead of your wealth
Count on God instead of yourself.
The `Oops'Box has graduated to an `Oops Column'
is this progress??
Cane toads, Bumble Bees and Apples
I am going to stick my (unscientific) neck out here and comment on a trend which I find worrying and insidious.
Amongst the many press releases I receive, a series from Biosecurity Australia has been particularly disturbing. The `discussion' over the importation of New Zealand apples is, to me, symptomatic of the sort of `community consultation' governments indulge in when they have made a decision and want a rubber stamp.
I have no idea whether there is sound (scientific) evidence to ban the importation of NZ apples and their alleged potential for the introduction of fire blight. Is it a marginal risk? A very small risk? An unknown risk?
What worries me is the response of the (highly qualified?) government officials to obvious industry distress and worry over the proposed importation and the sort of language government is now using to assure us all that `everything is under stringent scientific control and thus all right.'
I will quote from the press releases (all italics my own):
"Key stakeholders...have provided very detailed and substantive comment on the science underpinning this draft IRA (Import Risk Analysis)."
"A final IRA, incorporating the technical comments from stakeholders, will then be published." (and what of the non-technical objections?)
According to Michael Taylor, Secretary of the Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Australia, it is critical that the final analysis is based on best science available. (From whom? Scientists or farmers?) Mr Taylor stated that the process is "about achieving the most scientifically rigorous outcome possible.
We will continue this process (of examining submissions) to avoid unnecessary delay." (delay to whom, Mr Taylor - are the apples anxious?)
Mr Taylor also said that Biosecurity Australia will not be making public comment on any individual submission until such time as issues raised had been worked through and appropriately addressed...he does not say by whom.
In the bad old days, new drugs and wonder predators (such as the cane toad) were introduced with little or no community consultation. We relied on the `scientists'. In many instances (no doubt driven by economic imperatives), they let us down.
If a particular sector of the community wants to import something into the country for commercial gain, they have every right to ask permission. Whether it's a widget or a bumble bee or an apple.
If this importation poses even the slightest threat to our environment, those scientists and public servants who have been given the power to protect us should show honesty and humility in the face of the unknown and err on the side of caution. What we don't know could certainly hurt us and I doubt that the key stakeholders will have the `significant body of relevant scientific or technical information' that Biosecurity Australia are asking for to prevent what appears to be a decision to import the apples.
I should probably not get so upset - Australia has a fine tradition of willingly importing breath-takingly noxious species. Lantana for the garden, cane toads for the cane fields, rabbits for the back yard, prickly pear for the...
we are part of he 5C Kirwan Primary School Bush Tucker team. We are planting an area of 190 square metres with native bushfood plants to replace many cut down through development. Some of the 24 plants are macadamia nut, candlenut, scrub cherry, lilli pilli, bunya pine, Davidson plum, lemon myrtle, quandongs, Burdekin plum, sea almond, honey grevillea, and many, many more.
During this project we have learnt many things, including:
by Phil Stanley
Santalum lanceolatum - Wild plum. From `Bushfires and Bushtucker' (Latz)
Whilst it may still be a bit premature to refer to a bushfood industry in the Goldfields; present indications are that it may soon be a valid description. There has recently been a ground swell of interest throughout the region. In the past 12 months I have had discussions with no fewer than 15 different groups regarding the possibilities and opportunities available to them to participate in this exciting new industry and am aware of at least eight others who are considering becoming involved.
Local shire councils, government departments, indigenous groups, educational institutions, pastoralists, landcare groups and individuals have all expressed interest.
The necessary elements seem to be falling into place rapidly.
The demand is here. 1996 estimates put the retail value of the bushfood industry in Australia at 14 million dollars and expect it to climb to 100 million dollars within 5 years. (Econsult 1996)
The resource is here. Initially in the form of huge areas supporting a great diversity of plants available for wild harvesting and in the future, available for commercial production. In a 1993 paper by John Considine and Julie Plummer from UWA entitled "The Western Australian Flora: Biodiversity and Economic implications", they posed, then answered the following questions that are relevant here:
1. What is the probability of new crops from the Australian Flora?
The world has roughly a quarter of a million higher plant species and Australia has about a tenth of these. The world ratio for economic (using existing definitions) to non-economic species is about 1:50. So following this ratio we should have 500 economic species in Australia. In fact, we have over 1000 such species if we include known food, timber and ornamental species (but excluding medicinal plants). In food species alone, the world ratio would indicate 12 but we have over 200 species of edible plants.
2. What is the potential food genetic resource from Australian species?
The vast majority of world agriculture depends on less than 100 species. As a reflection of the diversity here, aboriginals consumed over 200 species of plants. A largely untapped resource for new crops.
The market is here (primarily via the Internet) to international customers, but also in the domestic market, interstate and locally, as well as to tourists.
From a marketing perspective, organic foods and novel foods command premium prices. Foods that are both organic and novel will find a niche at the top of the marketing ladder.
Most bushfoods are used as flavourings and essences rather than as main ingredients. Adding value to products that are already widely accepted by the addition of bushfoods can further widen the range of possibilities. Wattle seed bread, biscuits and ice cream are already being produced. In fact, a large bakery chain in the U.S. is looking to secure contracts with suppliers of wattle seed. Quandong and Olive Pickle, Kalkurla and Carob Conserve, Hopbush Aromatherapy Oil are all possibilities. The range is limited only by our imagination.
While there are many plant species indigenous to the arid zone yet to be introduced to the market, we are not restricted to growing just arid zone plants. The Lilly Pilly tree of Eastern Australia for example, could produce a base for a jam flavoured with our indigenous plants.
At a talk delivered recently in Kalgoorlie by Professor Yosef Mizrahi from Ben Gurion University on new plant products being developed in Israel's Negev desert region, examples included the fruit from species of cacti known to thrive here. As they flower mainly at night when pollinating insects are not active, techniques have been developed to hand pollinate the flowers to produce the fruit which are then attractively boxed and marketed as an exotic new fruit in Europe. This is a good example of necessity driving innovation to produce a beneficial outcome.
Presentation in marketing is of prime importance also. Labels carrying Aboriginal patterns and motifs would add a distinctive touch to a range of products on the shelves. Red Bush Tea (Rooibos) is attractively packaged and presented in Australia. It is grown and processed in South Africa and manufactured in New Zealand. Although used by the San tribesmen for thousands of years it is a new industry in South Africa. The plant,(Aspalathus linearus) is grown in the Cederburg region near Capetown and in 1998, $62.5 million worth of the tea was sold.
One can only wonder at the potential of our own plants. Flowers from a shrub that grows at Warburton, traditionally called Pukara (Thryptomene mesoneuvii) has been used for generations to prepare a drink.
Does it have medicinal properties? Why was it used?
We have many plants with such potential on which insufficient research has been carried out. We also have plants occurring here, although not recorded here which do have medicinal properties.
A recent edition of ' Australian Plants' published by the Society for Growing Australian Plants stated that Bursaria spinosa, which is harvested for the medicinal drug aesculin occurs in all mainland states except WA and the Northern Territory. Yet it grows in abundance between Menzies and Leonora.
Pending a successful funding application, the North Eastern Goldfields Rangeways Strategy Group will undertake a study of the Aboriginal Knowledge Base of the region. In adopting this as its first major projects before others short-listed for consideration, the group recognised the importance of collating this information before more is lost. This study will include traditional botanical knowledge and undoubtedly reveal more plant species once widely used, which can gain acceptance into the bushfood industry.
Apart from the food plants traditionally considered in the bushfood industry, other opportunities exist. Foods not directly derived from plant sources: Honey Ants and Witchety grubs for example. The latter retail for $2-3 each plus packaging and postage
Schoenia filifolia - Wiry everlasting. Photo by Eddy Wajon
Dyes, fibres, craftgoods, specialty timbers and products for the flora culture industry. Pearly Bluebush (Mariana sedifolia) is exported to the Dutch flower Markets from Israel and South Africa. Mulla Mulla (Ptilotus exaltatus) has received high acclaim as a potted plant in Europe.
In land restoration programs, attention should be given to growing a suite of plants biased towards providing financial benefits in the form of seed collection, stock foods and carbon credits as well as improving biodiversity and rehabilitation of degraded lands.
The volume of product required by the major players in the global economy coupled with meeting continuity of supply can present a daunting picture for individual companies.
Not everybody in the industry will be a producer. Greater degrees of specialisation will evolve; much the same way as the Nursery industry has evolved in the last 30 years: From a grower supplying the consumer, to specialist growers and propagators supplying wholesalers who use specialist transporters to deliver the product to garden centres who sell it to the consumer along with gift lines and morning teas and a host of other add - ons.
Cooperation between participants on a regional scale must ultimately be the way forward to fully develop the potential of this emerging industry.
At the Sept Davidsonia Industry Association meeting Maria Matthes from the NSW NPWS brought us up to date with licensing for the collection of NSW Davidsonia species from the wild. A draft plan has been put together with guidelines for collection. This document comprises a set of guidelines which, if followed during wild harvest, will minimise (and monitor) the impact of this action so as to not significantly affect the threatened species. Since the meeting, the guidelines have been reviewed and the final draft will be available very soon. These guidelines will be attached to a section 91 License application and referred to throughout the application. A Section 95 certificate will be issued rather than a Section 91 License. The licensing for wild plums is seen as an interim measure and will only be available for the next 3-5 years by which time it is expected that there will be enough cultivated plants in production to meet the markets needs. Any complaints made to NPWS must be followed up. If a person is found wild harvesting Davidson Plums and has no coverage in the form of a section 95 certificate then they will be prosecuted under the threatened species conservation act. Current schedules to the threatened species conservation act are available in PDF form at http://www.npws.nsw.gov.au/wildlife/tscs00.htm Licenses will also be required for people wishing to collect material from any of the listed plants on the schedule. Diploglottis campbellii - small leaved tamarind is included. Maria is now working on guidelines for the collection of propagation material from the scheduled species occurring in Northern NSW which will also be available soon. If you have any enquiries or require a license contact Maria Matthes, NPWS Locked bag 914, Coffs Harbour 2450 or email email@example.com
Deb Wood (Davidsonia Ind Ass)
There has been some fairly lively discussion recently about the sorts of prices being asked for/paid for bushfoods. I thought it might be an interesting exercise to look at other foodstuffs and the prices we seem to be willing to pay for them.
I have attempted to compare apples with apples but this has not always been possible so bear with me in the extrapolations I have made. The prices for the non-bushfood items below were gathered in a `once off' survey at a local IGA - they may vary.
What can be learned from this? Quite frankly, I leave it to you.
|Bunya nut, fresh, sliced||$10.00|
|Native pepper, dried, whole||$24.00|
|Black pepper, dried, whole||$28.00|
|Wattle seed, whole||$9.00-$25.00|
|Wattle seed, roasted and ground||$65.00-$111.00|
|Sun dried tomatoes||$21.00-$35.00|
|Bush tomato, whole||$25.00-$40.00|
|Bush tomato, ground (90gm pack)||$72.00|
|Jam, pure fruit (strawberry)||$19.80|
|Jam, pure bushfood (this is an average!)||$56.00|
|Riberry, fresh or frozen||$8.00-$11.00|
A new project is being launched in the Native Food Industry by Queensland Department of Primary Industries this week. The goal is to bring together interested people and assist them to undertake their own research on areas of the Australian native food industry. The project will seek to identify opportunities for local development and manufacture industries by bringing together motivated groups with similar interests on the Darling Downs. The Australian native food industry was estimated to be worth approximately $10 to $16 million per annum in May 2000. Production within the industry has steadily grown over the last five years. However, a broad range of Australian native food plants that have not been investigated fully, show potential for commercial development. The Department has employed researcher Gillian Turnbull to work with interested people and assist them research product or production concepts. Group participation and discussion will be encouraged to discover new opportunities for local production. `It is a wonderful opportunity for local people to look at developing community projects or ideas for extra income for their farms' Ms Turnbull said yesterday. This linking of opportunity and motivation is expected to lead to exciting new opportunities for many local people. If you are interested in researching new business opportunities or linking with other interested people in the bushfood or Australian native food industry please contact Gillian Turnbull on telephone number 07 46370183 oremail:
Plant Hardiness Zones for Australia
by Iain Dawson (Horticultural Research Unit, ANBG)
Plant hardiness maps allow producers to label their plants as being suitable for particular areas, and, in theory at least, this results in happy customers who can confidently buy plants that will survive in their locality. I have created 7 zones to fit our climatic range, and used metric units.
As might be expected, the main factors determining average minimum temperature are altitude, latitude and proximity to the coast.
Zone 1 covers the alpine areas of south eastern Australia.
Zone 2 the tablelands of south east Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, and the uplands of central Tasmania.
Zone 3 includes much of the southern half of the continent, except for localities on or near the coast. Many of our weather stations are on the coast or on off-shore islands (some of them are lighthouses) and these are often a zone or two higher than adjacent mainland stations because of the warming effects of the ocean in winter.
Zone 4, because of this warming effect, covers a broad area from coastal Queensland across the continent to Shark Bay and Geraldton in the west, also includes the Mornington Peninsula, areas adjacent to Spencer Gulf and Adelaide, the south western coastal zone, Sydney and the north coast of NSW, along with a number of localities dotted all around the southern coast of the continent.
Zone 5 covers, some of the Queensland coast, Western Australia north of Shark Bay and across the top end.
Zone 6 includes the Queensland coast north of Cairns, Cape York Peninsula and the coast of the Northern Territory.
Zone 7 is mainly restricted to islands off the north coast.
There are many problems with maps of this type. For example, the spread of weather stations is insufficient to give good resolution of the zones and too many places with different climates are lumped together.
Even worse are the problems of local factors such as aspect, altitude, proximity to the sea and so forth. Everyone is aware that different locations in the area are suitable for different plants but it is hard to quantify these differences and even harder to draw a meaningful map.
Plant hardiness refers to their ability to survive the conditions of a particular location, including tolerance of heat, soil moisture, humidity and so on. This map is based only on how well they survive low temperatures in winter. Even that is a gross oversimplification. For example, are plants affected more by a single extremely low temperature night, or is the number of days of frost (the duration of winter) more important? In fact both are important, but the statistic for the map only relates directly to the former. Another limitation is that often plants will survive in an area for some time, but every now and then there will be a catastrophic cold snap that will kill them. Some risk evaluation - the probability of getting a particularly severe low temperature - often would be more useful for each locality rather than the average conditions.
Low temperature is not the only determinant of plant survival. Other environmental factors such as high summer temperature, humidity, soil temperature, etc. may be equally important. Also, many plants will survive in a locality but won't flower if the daylength is inappropriate or if they require vernalisation (a particular duration of low temperature). The low temperature statistic is only appropriate for woody perennial species, and even then its use is limited. With annuals the time of planting can often be adjusted to allow growth beyond their normal geographical range.
The map is thus only useful as a very broad guide. It needs interpretation that takes into account factors other than low temperature that limit plant growth as well as local knowledge.
As might be expected, the main factors determining average minimum temperature are altitude, latitude and proximity to the coast.
Even worse are the problems of local factors such as aspect, altitude, proximity to the sea and so forth.
An alternative system for describing plant hardiness is to use indicator plants. Common plants with known limits to their range are generally used for this purpose. For example, many people will know whether lemons will grow in their locality. If you then say Geraldton Wax will grow more or less where lemons will grow you have defined the range of Geralton Wax with some accuracy (whether or not it will flower is another problem). Unfortunately no two plant species seem to have exactly the same requirements and even within a species there are differences. 'Meyer' lemons, for example, are more cold tolerant than 'Eureka'.
You can really only define core areas and they are often very arbitrary.
At some time in the future I think we will probably get around the problems associated with plant/climate maps with much more sophisticated database systems that combine complex climate statistics and advanced plant growth models. There are already software packages available to help you select landscaping plants. Two that I have seen are the 'Grow What Where' computer version, published by The Australian Plant Study Group, and 'Plantguide' from Arbordata. However, these have limited climatic inputs. You are asked, for example, to select between fairly vague zones such as 'warm temperate' or 'eastern tablelands'. Climatic data bases that allow you to assess the chances of particular climatic events taking into account some local factors (eg. what are the chances of getting more than five consecutive nights with temperatures lower than -10°C on a south facing slope in Canberra?) combined with data bases containing detailed knowledge of plant responses to their environment (eg. how many nights of frost can Pandorea jasminoides survive?) will go a long way towards answering the question of what grows where.
This article was originally published in 'Australian Horticulture' 90 (8) 37-39, 1991, when the author was employed by CSIRO Plant Industry.
Mi lgate (one) `l'
In the article on Dorrigo pepper (Tasmannia stipitata), Issue 15, I spelled Brian Milgate with two l's - it may seem logical but it is not correct. Milgate of course has one l.
The lost (and found) Diploglottis...
in last issue�s excellent article from Kris Kupsch, I managed to lose one of the species - luckily, I was able to find it - sorry Kris!
Babinda tamarind Diploglottis harpullioides
Distribution: occurs in very wet rainforest, often along creek banks. Found below 400m between Innesfail and Cooktown, with patchy occurrence.
Tree habit: a small understory tree attaining a height of 10m in the forest. Trees are often poorly formed. Leave sare smooth and can resemble a large D. campbellii leaf without the serrations. Stem often covered in lichen. Can be multi-trunked.
Fruit: a large fruit being green with a red aril covering the seed Often only two celled per fruit, ripening in March. Most of the fruit is made up of seed.
Cultivation notes: Trees in Burringbar (N.E. NSW) are growing well although slowly. Does best with partial shade or full shade and heaps of water. Fertiliser has helped. Slow to establish.
Growth records: Dec 1995 - 50cm Aug 2000 2m.
Roll Credits (but not off the page!)
Unforgiveably, a feature in Issue 15 lost its credit line. This was the excellent article on Backhousia anisata by Peter Triglone. My apologies to Peter.
Peter Triglone and Kirsty Cockburn have the scope to assist with product development and have significant links to assist with marketing via television, print, radio and the internet.
In the near future they will be launching a web site - aniseedmyrtle.com - specifically targeting promotion of the aniseed myrtle industry and its products.
Contact Peter Triglone on firstname.lastname@example.org or Kirsty Cockburn - email@example.com.