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Issue 17, Autumn 2001

Brown Pine

by John Wrench, (taken from his notes on 'Bushfood and Walkabout' for the Brisbane Institute of TAFE, Ithaca Campus)

Podocarpus elatus

Brown Pine. Plum pine, Illawarra plum Family Podocarpaceae.

A gymnosperm, a conifer, one of our earliest large plants, in a family present since before the Gondwana break-up in the Miocene period, perhaps for 150 million years.

In recent times it has been a member of rainforest communities at both low and higher levels along the eastern coast, between Nowra and the Queensland border highlands, with pockets in the Moreton area, the Mary Valley and others further north. So, Illawarra Plum is somewhat apt as a vernacular name.

Being a gymnosperm, this plant does not produce fruit as modern plants do, but does develop a fleshy swelling of the stalk immediately behind the small cone, resembling a small, dark, plum in shape, colour and waxy bloom. The generic name `Podocarpus 'is derived from two Greek words pons (podos) a foot and 'carpos' a fruit, alluding to the fleshy foot-stalk of the cone. The flesh has a mucilaginous texture and a resinous or piny flavour, without much obvious sugar or any acid.

Although this non-fruit has obviously no seeds, the firm tissues of the stem (e.g.. the vascular bundles) remain through the axis, and provide a slightly fibrous residue when the flesh is processed. When processed in either a blender or a food processor, the fruit develops the consistency of a flummery. However used, the colour is striking - purple-blue when raw, more reddish when cooked with acid e.g., in making sauces or jam.

The mucilaginous flesh probably contains some pectin-like substances, suggesting a suitability for making jams or jelly, with the addition of acid (e.g.. citric or tartaric, up to 5% w/w) and an equal weight of sugar. For such preparations. Begin with minced or blended pulp, but in jam include a few whole fruit or larger pieces for a surprise.

Possible uses

1. Eat raw, fresh (be adventurous)

2. Freeze for use out of season

3. Make jam. Try a combination with Riberry or other rainforest fruits.

4. Sauces, with the addition of acidic juices or fruits, native if possible. e. g.. Riberry. Davidson's Plum, Burdekin Plum, various native limes, etc.

5. Drinks, either alone, with the addition of acid and sweetening (any way' you choose) or (better) by admixture with other rainforest fruits etc.

6. In cakes and puddings with or without other rainforest fruits. Rich plum cake is magnificent.

7. Sorbets, with other rainforest fruits, especially riberry and native limes. (Refer to the article in Australian Bushfoods Magazine No.3, 'Dinner at 14 Ennerdale Street'.)

Illawarra or Brown Plum
(Podocarpus elatus)

8. All the other exciting things suggested by Vic Cherikoff Refer:

Cherikoff, V. Uniquely Australian. A Wild Food Cookbook Bush Tucker Supply Australia 1994

Cherikoff, V. & Isaacs, J. The Bush Food Handbook, Ti Tree Press