Home ||  Back Issue Contents  || Search ||

Issue 3 , Aug- Sept 1997


Issue 3: Aug-Sept 1997


Jenny Allen

Erika Birmingham

Bradley Field

Larry Geno

Colleen Keena

John King

Dennis Millett

David and Wendy Phelps

S. R. Sykes

Jim Talladira

John Wrench

This magazine is dedicated to those who knew these foods long before we were here.

Cover scan:

Microcitrus australis

My thanks to those who have helped produce this third issue:

Larry Geno

Colleen Keena


Jan Tilden

John Wrench

and of course the advertisers and contributors.

edFrom the Editor

Interest in the bushfood industry is growing. The Olympics, the trend towards organic and natural and the very deep-seated cultural changes which are presently occuring can only add impetus to this. That's the good news. However, most of us would like to see this interest turned into a long-term, viable industry and this won't happen until a lot of very pragmatic people have become involved and have plants in the ground and fruit/seed/oils going to market. The industry also needs very pragmatic people in the market place doing the deals, distributing, selling, promoting and generally whipping up demand. In a strange way, today's producer or would-be producer shouldn't worry about this side of things too much -these people (the marketers and the deal-doers) will appear out of the woodwork when the product is flowing.

Anyone thinking about putting plants in the ground should realise that bushfoods are not simply another crop - they are part of a new movement which may well see our methods of primary production change over the next decade or two.

Australia has resources and riches which cannot be measured by cows in the paddock or ore in the ground. Some of these are visual, some historic, others aromatic, edible or simply intangible. Bushfoods offer us all (black, white, new Australian and old) a common and very basic pleasure and a way of being more Australian, not just in name but in endeavour. We sent the Macadamia to Hawaii and look what happened. Let's not allow that to happen with our Lemon Scented Myrtle, our Muntaris nor our delightful Native Lime.

My own acre-and-a-half of diverse and mainly unimproved species will never be commercial but it will always be a source of pleasure and culinary delight to me. I have entered an industry in its infancy. I certainly suggest that you do the same.



Dear Sammy,

I was delighted to see the transcript of my interview with Ethel Richard in your last issue. Her wisdom and strength are a continuing delight. However, I must apologise - her surname is Richards (not Richardson) and Peter Nixon of the Mulliginny tribe is most definitely not her father, who was of the Butchella. I look forward to introducing you to Ethel in person.


Barbara Carseldine

Oops Box

Plagued by zeros...

In the 'On the Ground' article, Issue 2, I had Elizabeth Blakeman setting aside a 100 acre paddock for bushfood plantings - this should have read 10. I also reduced their 770 mm annual rainfall to 77mm - thank heavans I didn't mention her age...

Two Surveys...Mixed Results.

In two seperate 'mini surveys', Bushfoods magazine investigated:

- the retail sector's attitude towards bushfoods (Survey 1) and - the sorts of things people should look at before deciding to grow bushfoods (Survey 2).

For the first survey (retail), six large retail chains or stores were approached by phone and this was followed up by a questionnaire. Of the six, two actually responded -one to say oops, they don't respond to questionnaires and the other (Woolworths) with some actual input (see opposite). Thanks, Woollies!

The second survey was more satisfying - perhaps this was because I aimed it at people in the industry. It was reasonably simple - I asked each respondant, "If you could give five bits of advice to anyone anywhere in Australia thinking about getting into bushfoods, what would those five things be?"

For a ranking of their advice, see below.

Survey 1. The Bushfood Industry and the Retail Sector (Sent to major chains and foodstores: response from Woolworths):

1. How familiar are you withbushfood items? Only vaguely

2. Does your firm stock any bushfood items? No

3. How would you rate customer awareness? Hardly known by purchasers

4. What are some of the obstacles to greater acceptance of bushfood products?

- Lack of public education/promotion

- Hard to find product - Fear of unknown - Worries over toxicity - Lack of knowledge on how to use

5. Have you been approached by processors with product? - Yes

6. Did you purchase any? - No

7. Major reason for not stocking? Not a popular seller (comes through lack of consumer education and DEMAND.

8. If you were to have two things to say to the bushfood industry about improving their retail prospects, what would they be?

Consumer interest, usage and benefit to consumer Authorisation (rangingI lead varieties in retailers

9. Do you believe bushfoods have the potential to become a real growth area? Maybe

10. Have you had a bad experience with bushfood product? No

11. Would you like to continue receiving information about bushfood products? Yes

12. Any other coments? / appreciate you asking for advice/ ideas - anytime, just call Wayne Bunting, (Woolworths NSW). Also - please send more sample and info.

2. Industry Survey (listed in order of response)

Number of responses to questions

1. Find your market, determine its size and where it might be in 3-5 years' time: 8

2. Do an honest budget. Don't cut corners: 4

3. Get advice from as many people as possible. Join an Assoc: 4

4. Find plants that are suitable for your area, soils, rainfall & resources: 5. Start small: 2

6. Network: 2

7. Investigate potential for value adding: 2

8. Buy only good clonal stock (certified): no more than 10% experimental: 1

9. Keep your day job while Planting: 1

10. Think about buy-back - investigate carefully: 1

11. What transport is available? (Refrigerated? Distance?: 1

Draft R&D Plan from RIRDCRIRDC

The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) has released a draft R&D plan for the bushfoods industry and called for comment from as many people as possible prior to implementation. The following is an extract from the draft.

Size and nature of the industry

The bushfood industry is small, fragmented and frequently undercapitalised. Bush harvesting is the dominant means of production but cultivation is expanding. Some participants favour the production of bushfood by mainstream agricultural and horticultural methods whereas others prefer alternative approaches that are perceived to be more environmentally friendly than conventional methods. Bushfoods comprise only a part of the overall business activity for many of those involved in the industry.

The farmgate equivalent gross value of the industry was estimated to be $ 10-12 million in 95/96. However, average returns across the industry are reputedly low.

Participation and structures

There are some 200 active participants in the industry scattered across all states, with NSW having the largest number of people involved. There is significant aboriginal involvement in the industry. The industry comprises: wild harvesters, hospitality providers, nursery operators, retailers, commercial producers of raw produce, food service operators, processors of raw produce and tourism operators.

They operate as single-purpose enterprises, networks, vertically integrated operations and wholesale/merchandising enterprises. The most significant crops and end-uses.

In terms of market demand, the most commercially significant foods are:

bush tomato, muntries/muntharies, Davidson's plum, riberries, lemon aspen, quandong, lemon myrtle, warrigal greens, mountain pepper and wattleseed.

Except for a small amount of fresh produce going to restaurants, the bulk of the domestic produce is dried, frozen or further processed, often in combination with non bushfood ingredients, into a wide range of value-added goods. Gift and speciality shops are important outlets in this sector of the market. The food service sector is becoming increasingly involved but uptake by processors servicing the larger retail and wholesale food market is currently limited.

There is significant interest from export markets in Europe and North America. This interest is fostered by the success overseas of Australian wines, meats and seafood. The formation of industry associations (see Groups, P. 34) are welcome signs of the increasing maturity and professionalism of the industry at national and regional levels. This is also true for the excellent newsletters being produced by some Associations.

Key Issues for the Industry

A SWOT analysis (Table i) indicates that to prosper and be sustainable, in the broadest sense, the industry must address the following key issues or result areas:

Market focus

As with many young industries, understanding of existing and potential markets for bushfood and the forces that drive these markets is often poor. This situation can lead to participants not focusing their energies and scarce resources on the potentially most rewarding sectors of the market. This issue is particularly important now that the potential supply of some foods is thought to outstrip likely demand.

Safety and food standards There is an increasing trend for both domestic and export markets to seek suppliers who consistently provide safe and good quality food. Environmental concerns are also of increasing importance as consumers expect to buy food that \sclean and green. To maximise its market advantage, the bushfoods industry must be in a position to assure buyers and consumers that it recognises such values and does indeed provide produce that is safe, of good quality and produced in an environmentally responsible manner.

Profitable and sustainable production systems

In the long term, there is a need to devise and adopt production systems that are both profitable and ecologically sustainable. The responsible management of bush resources and the domestication, improvement and cultivation of "wild" species and forms are important facets of this issue as is the proper use of water, soils, and agricultural chemicals.

Information and communication In spite of valiant efforts by the industry associations and government bodies, such as RIRDC, there is a paucity of information of all sorts about the industry and within the industry. What information there is often unevenly distributed. This situation must be rectified if industry participants and would-be entrants are to be enabled to make informed business decisions. Tackling this problem will require the generation of new knowledge, the analysis and more critical use of existing knowledge, the establishment of a database, and improved communication via networks, newsletters, research reports, and training courses for the Bushfoods Industry.

SWOT analysis for the bushfood industry Strengths


unique product tastes/flavours/intensities; clean and green production environment, generally with abundant land and water; broad biodiversity and species-base to draw on; aboriginal knowledge and involvement; strongly committed industry participants with diverse skills.


fragmentation and lack of collaboration within industry; undercapitalisation + communication mechanisms rudimentary and planning often poor; generic market information scarce or lacking; potential imbalances between supply and demand; variations in product supply and quality; comprehensive agronomic information unavailable; lack of information on and understanding of food safety issues (toxicology, product handling and food preparation); research-base very small.


create new wealth and employment nationally and regionally; exploit areas where food is not currently produced and establish new cropping industries; combine cropping with environmental remediation and conservation; search for, create and exploit new markets at home and abroad; use the expertise of the established food industry in adding value to bushfoods; interact positively with and strengthen other Australian industries, such as tourism; foster an interest in Australian tradition and culture.


lack of species-specific safety data, fact sheets and standards acceptable to end-users and regulators; lack of promotion and training (from grower through to consumer); inappropriate price structures and opportunity hunters; under investment arising from lack of recognition of the industry as a sound and professional business activity; restriction of access to and use of genetic resources and bush supplies.

Footnote to table

The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the bushfood industry have been analysed several times. This distillation is provided as a means of identifying the key issues facing the industry in 1997. The R&D Program for 1997-2001: The program addresses the key industry issues of:

  • Market focus
  • Safety and food standards
  • Profitable and sustainable production
  • Information and communication
  • Funding priorities

Consultation with the industry has identified x, y and z as priorities for R&D over the lifespan of this plan (see attached questionnaire).

It is built around the conceptual model of the value adding chain running from the market place, through the product and its production to the

people within the industry.

Objective and strategies

The program will support R&D aimed at:

  • Understanding, strengthening and developing markets
  • Improving existing products and developing new ones
  • Enhancing the ability of the industry to meet appropriate safety and food standards
  • Improving production efficiency
  • Enhancing the human capital of the industry
  • Industry Input

Copies of the Draft R&D plan and a questionnaire can be obtained from: RIRDC, Lvl 1, 47 Macquarie St, Barton, ACT 2600

or by phoning Rachel Gare on: (06) 272 4029, Fax: (06) 272 5877.

Responses are wanted by September 30th so ask for your copy now.

This is an important and formative time for the industry and your input is valuable.

The Finger Lime - a Fingerprint of the Rainforestlimes

Erika Birmingham Byron Bay Native Produce

The Finger Lime (Microcitrus australasica) is an Australian True Citrus fruit tree and is unique to the sub-tropical coastal region of north-eastern Australia. It is in the sub-tribal group Citrinae, in the Rutaceae family. There are seven known species in the genus Microcitrus, five of which occur in Australia (1). The two Microcitrus species better known in the bushfood industry, are the Microcitrus australasica (Finger Lime) and the Microcitrus australis (Round Lime or Dooja) from south-eastern Queensland. The habitat of the Finger Lime occurs in a range of forest types. It is found growing from the littoral rainforest near sea-level at Wardell (2) and tall wet sclerophyll forests west of Lismore, in northern NSW, to the sub-tropical rainforests at 560 metres above sea-level on Mt Tambourine, in south-eastern Queensland. Rainfall for this region ranges from approximately 1300mm to 1700mm.

The Finger Lime grows on a range of acid soil types: from the deep red volcanic clay loams of the "Big Scrub" rainforests; to the yellow and grey podzolic soils of wet sclerophyll forests (low in nutrients); and the basaltic-derived alluvial soils of river flats. In its natural habitat, the Finger Lime grows as an understorey shrub or small tree below the canopy. It has a tall, narrow, spindly form, axillary thorns and angular branches (3). Although it has a maximum height o! 10 metres and a trunk diameter ol up to 10 centimetres in width. (2) it is generally 6 metres in height.

Because much of the original habitat of this tree has been cleared, the Finger Lime is also found as a remnant tree in open paddocks, where it forms a thick, dense shrub with foliage to around level. One of the most interesting features of the Finger Lime is its wide genetic diversity when grown from seed. Each tree has qualities almost as individual as the human fingerprint...in fact, the limes are like a "fingerprint from the forest"!

There is a wide variation in leaf shape, with the margins of the leaves either wavy or bluntly toothed, with a notched apex. Leaf size varies from 1.2cm x 1cm to 4cm x 2.6cm and thorns are from 0.5cm to 3.5cm long. Flowers are small, white and fragrant, appearing in Spring and Summer, but the fruit varies in shape, size, skin colour, pulp colour and flavour. The shape of the fruit is cylindric-fusiform or "finger-shaped" and is unique in the Orange subfamily (4). However, shapes vary considerably from cylindrical, to slightly curved fruit which resembles a miniature banana. Some fruit is ribbed, giving the cross-section of the fruit a "star" shape.

Fruit size ranges from a small "cocktail-sized" fruit of 6.3 x 1.2cm, weighing only 7g. to a large fruit of 12.8cm x 2.4cm. weighing 42g, with obvious advantages for processing. The mature skin colour of the Finger Lime ranees from black, purple, dark green, lime green, yellow to blood red and crimson. The pulp colour is green when ripe, as for exotic limes, but there is also a true variety of Finger Lime, called the Red-Pulp Finger Lime (Microcitrus australasica var sanguineai) which is found growing Irom Terania Creek in NSW. to Mti Tambourine in Qld. The Red-pulp Finger Lime also has a range of skin colours, but the pulp colours vary from pale pink, through to a dark crimson!

The trees bear fruit from February to May. Seedling trees in the wild tend to be alternate bearing, i.e. with a heavy crop of fruit in one season and little fruit the next season. There are also reports of a variety which bears twice per annum (5). The Finger Lime will fruit heavily in full shade, but in general, produces a more prolific crop in full sun. The fruit drops from the tree when fully ripe (as for exotic limes) and may be harvested by shaking the trunk, wearing thick leather gloves to avoid the thorns!


The Finger Limes may be propagated from seed, although germination from seed is erratic (2).

Due to their wide genetic diversity, seed from a single parent tree may produce trees which bear fruit with a wide range of colour, size, shape and flavour characteristics (6).

Seedlings may take from 5 to 17 years to bear fruit (7) and their growth is Irustralingly slow (X). Cuttings arc slow to strike, taking up to 6 months on a heat bed. w ith a 50 percent sirike rate. The Finger Lime is compatible with Citrus (1) and varieties have been selected for budding onto rootstocks, as for all other varieties of Citrus. This process of propagation ensures that superior varieties of Finger Lime are bred consistently for such qualities as fruit colour, size and flavour, low thorn, annual bearing and high fruit yield. Budded (grafted) Finger Limes also have the advantage of bearing fruit in their first or second year (although fruit from first and second year trees should be removed, as for other cirrus, to prevent inhibiting the growth of the tree (9), allowing for an earlier return on investment, than for seedling varieties. Rootstocks are selected for such qualities as rate of vigour and suitability to environmental conditions, such as soil type or climate. Root-stocks should only be raised from seed from a reliable source, to ensure uniformity, trueness to type and absence of disease (10).

Root-stocks selected lor growing where Citrus Root and Collar Rot (Phytopthera citrophothora and P. nicotiana var. parasitica) are a major fungal disease (e.g. in coastal areas of Queensland and NSW and southern Victoria) should be resistant to these diseases (9). Budwood (propagating material) should be selected from parent trees of known performance to maintain quality. Budwood should also be tested for citrus viruses, such as Scalybutt (Exorcortis), which is transmitted vegetatively or mechanically (e.g. by transfer of budwood or unsteri-lised secateurs) and Quick Decline or Stem Pit (Tristeza), which is spread by the common Black Citrus Aphid (Toxoptera citricidus).

These diseases may cause damage, such as tree decline or early death, reduced vigour and production, tree stunting and malformation of fruit. These viruses may be present in trees without showing visible symptoms and are known as latent viruses. All of these diseases can be readily spread by the use of infected budwood (11).

The Finger Lime, grown in cultivation, is susceptible to similar pests and diseases as for other Citrus species and should be managed accordingly. Pests such as Black Citrus Aphids (Toxoptera citricidus and Toxoptera aurantii). Citrus Leafminer (Phyllocnistis citrella), Citrus Butterflies (Papilio spp.), Bronze Orange Bug (Musgraveia sulciventris) and Black Scale (Saissetia oleae) have been observed on trees in Summer and Autumn and should be treated. Citrus Longicorn Beetle (Skeletodes tetrops) can kill the tree if not treated. However, Citrus Gall Wasp (Briithophagus fellis), Queensland Fruit Fly (Dacus tryoni) and birds have not been observed as major pests in the wild.

Some diseases such as Sooty Mould (Capnodiiun spp.) occur where Black Scale and Black Citrus Aphids are present and Melanose (Diaporthe citri) may affect fruit quality, but both are easily treated. Growth of trees should be encouraged in Spring, not Autumn, by regular applications of fertiliser in late Winter and Spring, to minimise insect pest predation.

Organic fertilisers are suitable, but use caution when applying chemical citrus fertilisers to prevent burning the roots. Irrigation is essential, especially from late Winter to Summer, during growth flush, flowering and fruit set.

For the tree to maintain good growth rate and fruit set, a minimum of two thirds of the root zone must be wet thoroughly when water is applied. The rate should be adjusted to suit soil type (9). Prune tree to shape, only in initial growth stages.

Trees prefer free-draining soils and choice of rootstocks enables the trees to be grown on a range of soils, but they will not tolerate prolonged water-logging. Trees are generally hardy in full sun or shade (8). Finger Limes in the wild appear to have some tolerance to frost. This frost-tolerance can be increased by budding onto cold-hardy citrus rootstocks.

fingerlimeCulinary Use:

The Finger Lime is also unusual within the sub-tribe Citrinae, in having separate stalked pulp-vesicles. These separate pulp-vesicles are a feature which makes the Finger Lime distinct, even from other species of Australian native limes. (4) Each fruit contains from five to seven cells (1). The cells contain the loosely grouped, rounded pulp-vesicles, which resemble caviar, or "pearls" (12). These "pearls" are compressed within the skin and limes are sliced open.

Each "pearl" contains an acidic juice (similar to the flavour of exotic limes, or grapefruit) and has been rated from pleasantly sour to very sour. The fruit also contain 82mg per 100gm edible portion of Vitamin C(13). The unique quality of these "pearls" for culinary use, is their ability to be easily removed from the skin. This is done by splitting the fruit length-wise and scooping the "pearls" out with a teaspoon. The seeds are then removed and the "pearls" can be used as a flavouring and colouring additive in a multitude of ways. The can be used as a garnish on hors d'oeuvres or perhaps served with caviar on smoked salmon, with a sour cream dressing. They can be blended into chilled desserts, such as a Wild Lime Mousse, Souffle or Bavarois, where they complement the flavours of eggs or they can be mixed whole through a fruit salad, added to salad dressings, drinks, or sauces as a flavouring and (in the case of the red-pulped juice vesicles) a colouring ingredient. They add an exciting burst of flavour to main recipes and the red coloured 'pearls' add a bright splash of colour. The red 'pearls', added to a cold sparkling beverage, such as a mineral water or lemonade, make an refreshing drink for summer. Mix through white nee and served hot as an accompaniment to fish, to add an accent of colour and flavour.

The limes could be moulded into jellies (14) or used in lime cream filling fora wild lime flan. The pulp, skin and leaves of the Finger Lime contains oil glands, which yield an essential oil and give the fruit a strongly aromatic flavour (4). The skin is edible and can be grated for culi-narv use. The fruit can be used for slicing horizontally as a garnish for, say, a soup or cocktail, or as a decoration on cakes and desserts, where the slices resemble small cartwheels. The flavour of the limes marries well with fish or chicken and is an excellent addition to Asian cuisine, e g. a Thai soup or Japanese Sushi (15).

The whole Finger Lime could be served as a garnish with fish - imagine a different coloured lime on each plate as a feature! Or they could be brandied whole to keep for a special occasion. They can also be used for processing whole where a strong flavour is required, e.g. a wild lime pickle. Because of its highly ornamental qualities, the Finger Lime seems destined for use as a fresh fruit.

Other species of Australian native citrus, such as the Desert Lime (Eremocitrus glauca) from the arid interior, or the Round Lime (Microcitrus australis) which don't have the ornamental qualities of the Finger Lime, would be better used for value-adding where only flavour, not presentation, is of greater importance. However, the Finger Lime will make an attractive marmalade, reducing the amount of water required for that of other marmalades, as it is lower in pectin (16).

The fruit has a shelf-life of up to two weeks, under refrigeration (without treatment). They freeze well, retaining their skin and pulp colour (with the exception of the blood-red skin, which tends to lose some colour). The pulp-vesicles remain separate after freezing and can still be removed as a flavour and colour additive.

Knowledge of Aboriginal usage of rainforest fruits in the Sub-tropics, such as the Finger Lime, is incomplete (17). Records exist of the traditional use of the fruit by early settlers for juicing, cordials and marmalades. Colonial Botanists advised, as early as 1889. that the Australian native citrus were "well worthy of cultivation" (16).

A report by the Australian Native Bush-food Industry Committee, in 19%. lists Micmcitrus species in the top 11 "core" species which "...identify the likely "best bets" for anyone contemplating entering the (Bushfood) industry..." Yet. it is only heading towards the Year 2000 and the Sydney Olympics, that the commercialisation of this only heading towards the Year 2000 and the Sydney Olympics, that the commercialisation of this unique Australian native citrus is finally being pioneered.


The Finger Lime is suited to cultivation by the home grower or commercial grower. It makes a highly decorative ornamental and because of its size, could be grown as a pot specimen on a terrace, or in a small garden. It also has a strong commercial viability and the fruit currently sells at the farm gate for $6.00 per kilo (18). A variety of the Red-pulp Finger Lime, var. 'Rainforest Pink Pearl' PBR will soon be commercially available.

Grafted trees can be ordered from the following wholesale citrus nursery: A.T. Eyles & Sons Pty. Ltd. 199 Pitt Town Road, Kenthurst NSW 2156 Telephone: (02) 9654 9227. Fax: (02) 9654 9601 and Birdwood Nursery, 71-83 Blackall Range Rd, Nambour, QLD 4560. Ph:(07)5442 1611. Fax (07) 5442 1053


1. Alexander, D.McE. (1983)Some Citrus Species and Varieties in Australia. CSIRO.

2. Floyd, A.G. (1989) Rainforest Trees of Mainland South-eastern Australia. Forestry Commission of N.S.W.

3. Beadle, N.C.W. (1980) Students Flora of North Eastern New South Wales. University of New England, Armidale, NSW.

4. Swingle W.T. and Reece P.T. (1967). The botany of Citrus and its wild relatives. The Citrus Industry Vol. 1. University of California, Division of Agricultural Science. USA pp 190-430.

5. Murray, A. 1996 (pers. comm)

6. Armstrong. J. 1997 (pers. comm)

7. Sykes, Dr S. CSIRO 1997 (pers. comm.)

8. Nicholson, Nan and Hugh. (1985-9) Australian Rainforest Plants. Volumes 1-4. Hugh and Nan Nicholson, The Channon, NSW

9. Godden, Geoff. (1988) Growing Citrus Trees. Lothian Publishing Company P/L, Melbourne.

10. Forsythe. J.B. (1990) Handling Citrus Rootstock Seed. Agdex 220/30. NSW Department of Agriculture.

11. Forsythe, J.B. (1985) Citrus Budwood Scheme. Agfact H2.2.1. NSW Department of Agriculture.

12. Bruneteau, Jean-Paul 1997. (pers. co mm.)

13. Brand Miller, J., James, K.W., Maggiore, P.M.A. Tables of Composition of Australian Aboriginal Foods. Aboriginal Studies Press. 1993.

14. Ringer, S. 1997 (pers. comm.)

15. Ward. P. (pers. comm)

16. Cribb. A.B. & J.W.( 1990) Wild Food in Australia. Second Edition. Angus and Robertson. North Ryde.

17. Low, Tim. (1989)Bush Tucker, Australia's Wild Food Harvest. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

18. Cherikoff, V., 1997 (pers. comm.)

© Erika Birmingham 1997

Eat Your Garden

Sea Almond Jenny Allen's garden in Maleny, Qld, is an abundant food forest. She runs bushfoods workshops and advises people on how to spice up their gardens with bushfoods.

sealmondTerminulia catappa

Due to limited time today, I had to decide between cracking open a bowlful of sea almonds or writing this article - needless to say, I chose the latter due to its comparative ease. Like the bunya nuts, the sea almond tree can proffer a relatively rich, bountiful food source, yet the bount is tied up in a coat that makes the security around Alcatraz prison look fragile. That's why they can sit under the trees for years - wearing out the incisors of many a hopeful rat.

Woodchopping attire usually does the job - and if you get a rhythm going you can release a healthy amount of nuts. Unlike the starchi-ness of bunyas the Sea almond is mainly protein and oils. They taste very similar to exotic almonds - albeit about one-third the size - and they are very popular with aborigines. Recently, we had an especially tasty dish of warm broccoli and fetta cheese dressed up with roasted sea almonds. In fact, you can use the Sea almond just as you would the exotic variety. The stately tree is found naturally in Far North Queensland and the Northern Territory - as it is so handsome it is now used in many parks and gardens in the tropics. It must annoy the average lawn abiding citizen as the hard, woody stones last a long time and are so prolific. We harvested a medium-sized box of nuts from just 3 trees.

Rainforest Spinach spinach

(Elatostema reticulatus)

On a recent trek in the Conondale Ranges our food supply dwindled down to the last squished foodstuffs - the type of mush that gives you a keener eye for bushfoods.

Fortunately we came across masses of rainforest spinach lining the river. Tasting similar to a lettuce/spinach mix -it added a bit of freshness to our lunch and us. Easy to grow from division, it enjoys a moist semi-shaded spot in the garden or on the edge of a stream. Like the other spinach - Warrigal greens -it's recommended that you blanch this vegetable before eating.

violetNative Violet

Viola hederacea

The flowers are a beautiful, delicate garnish - adding a splash of purple and white to the plate. You could also try selling the flowers to restaurants, although it is pretty labour intensive as they don't grow very thickly. Also, try freezing the flowers in ice cubes, giving your guests a pleasant surprise in their drink (we used to do the same with plastic flies).

Although some people feel it can he like a weed, I find it is a great groundeover in moist, shady areas. It recovers well from dry periods, and as it remains low it doesn't need management. What more could you want!

It is very special as a pot plant as it cascades over the edge - sometimes up to a metre.

Davidson's Plum

Davidsonia puriens

davoThis plum is very tart - being three times the acidity of a blood plum. This tartness needs to be worked with carefully to highlight its unique flavour in a pleasant way. It goes particularly well in sauces, jams and wine.

The tree is quite rare in its natural habitat, mainly growing in rainforests just north of Mullumbimby. It grows to about 5m with a stunning leaf formation. It is so stunning you may feel like caressing it - but watch out - the leaves have irritating hairs (hence its Latin name "pruriens" meaning itchy). The fruits are cauliferous - meaning they grow directly on the stems and/or branches. They range from about 3-5cm.

I have some growing in dappled shade down below my balcony, where I can look out at its magnificent pattern. It responds well to moisture with delightful new pink growth. This also makes it a beautiful pot plant

Creek Sandpaper Figficus

Ficus coronata

As with the Davidson's plum, this is also cauliferous - yet the purplish fruits are often much smaller. The fruit makes a bright red jam - helping bring out its flavour which ranges from tasteless to tasty. The colour is so stunning I found it difficult to finish off my last jarful. Its a great tree to fill up your moist spots, and as it is a rainforest pioneer species it also establishes in your difficult spaces. As it is a fig. its large root structure helps fix erosion problems.

The density and flavour of the fruits vary widely on seedling trees, so select a variety that has a fruitful parent. If it doesn't turn out to be fruitful, you can use the sandpapery leaves to file your nails.

From The Bookshop

"Essential Oils of Asteromyrtus, Callistemon and Melaleuca Species" Brophy, J.J. and Doran, J.C. 1996. ACIAR monograph

Although several melaleucas already provide the basis of major industries, this is the first comprehensive study of the oils of the entire suite of tropical melaleucas and selected close relatives. The study set out to determine which species contained new or interesting oils that might have commercial potential. The book details this study with clarity and detail. Order through this magazine, $49.00 + postage and handling.

Bush Heritage -Second Edition

The second Edition of Pat & Sim Symons' gloriously information-packed book is now available. In it, find ihe historical use of bush foods, plant notes and more on the Brisbane and Sunshine Coast areas. Order through this magazine or direct from Pat & Sim: Ph: 07 5441 102

Australian native limes (Eremocitrus and Microcitrus)

S.R Sykes CSIRO Plant Industry PMB, PO Merbein, VIC 3500

glaucaEremocitrus glauca and Microcitrus are true members of the citrus family and should not be confused with other Australian plants that have, at various times, been named after members of the citrus family, eg native scrub-lime (Carisxa ovata), native orange (Capparis Mitchelli) and wild orange (Canthium latifolium) - see Maiden (1889). In terms of common names, Eremocitrus glauca is known as the desert lime, desert lemon or desert kumquat, while the different species of Microcitrus are known by a range of names including native lime, native orange, Russell River lime (M. inodora), Australian round lime or Dooja (M. australis), Garroway's finger lime (M. Garroway)] and Australian finger lime (M. australasica).

Both genera have captured the interests of citrus researchers and breeders worldwide. They have been considered as potential citrus rootstocks (Bitters et. al., 1964) and as sources of valuable genetic characteristics (eg Barrett, 1990). At CSIRO, we have been interested in these plants primarily for the latter reason. More recently, however, with the expansion of the Australian native foods industry, our interest has been sidetracked to a degree away from their roles in contributing to the genetic improvement of mainstream citrus. In recent years, with assistance from various people involved with the native foods industry, we have been attracted to their (and their hybrids') potential as new cultivated fruit trees.

The aim of this paper is to provide a general overview of the two genera, to explain how we have been using them in our citrus breeding research, and how we have become involved in helping to develop these plants as crops for the native food industry.

The two genera

Following Swingle and Reece (1967), Eremocitrus and Microcitrus belong to the group of plants that bear the true citrus fruits. They are members of the sub-tribe Citrinae of the tribe Citreae within the sub-family Aurantiodeae of the family Rutaceae. Eremocitrus is monotypic and the genus Microcitrus is represented by 7 species plus a hybrid between M. australis x M. australasica that has been given species status (M.virgata; the Sydney hybrid) by some authors (eg Hume, 1957). Eremocitrus and Microcitrus, along with Fortunella Poncirus. Clymenia and Citrus are, out of the 33 genera listed in the Aurantiodeae by Swingle and Reece (1967), considered the true citrus fruit trees.

Eremocitrus glauca (Lindle.) Swing.glauca2

Although classified historically as Atlantia glauca (eg Maiden, 1889) and later as Triphasia glauca, Swingle (1914) proposed the genus name Eremocitrus. This was due to a closer similarity with Citrus than either Atalantia or Triphasia.

Eremocitrus is distributed in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. A stand has been located at Farmcote Station midway between Broken Hill and Menindee in western NSW and we have received material from the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, and from Moranbah in northern Queensland.

The desert lime is the most pronounced xerophyte in the Aurantiodeae and can withstand severe droughts and hot dry winds. As a reflection of its xerophytic nature, following germination and emergence, seedlings of the desert lime develop extensive root systems before much shoot growth occurs. Whilst its xerophytic nature enables the desert lime to withstand extreme dry heat, when dormant it can survive temperatures as low as -14" (Young et. al., 1983). It transmits this cold hardiness to its sexual progeny (Yelonsky, 1978). It is considered less susceptible to salt and boron than other related genera (Swingle and Reece, 1967; Bitters et. al., 1964). Goell (1969) reported that lemon scions grafted to E. glauca seedlings displayed few symptoms of salt damage, although they had high leaf chloride concentrations. The desert lime can be grafted to citrus and vice versa, although graft incompatibilities have been reported (Bitters et.al., 1964). It has been reported as highly resistant to Phytophthora root rot (Hearn et. al., 1974). With its fruits maturing quickly and dropping from the tree 10-12 weeks after flowering, it has one of the shortest fruit maturity periods of all the citrus trees. Barrett (1981) reported that this characteristic was transmitted to its hybrids.

This fruit abscission characteristic suggests it may be useful in breeding varieties predisposed to mechanised harvesting. Desert lime fruits are acid yet pleasantly flavoured and are less bitter than many other high acid citrus relatives. Microcitrus species Until Swingle (1915) argued for their separation from Cirrus and created a new genus, Microcitrus species were classified in the genus Citrus (see Maiden, 1889). The seven species of Microcitrus are confined generally to rainforest habitats in Australia and south eastern New Guinea (Armstrong, 1975).

Five species occur in Australia and are distributed from Cape York in far north Queensland to the coastal regions of south eastern Queensland and northern NSW.

Two of the Australian species, M. maideniana and M. garrowayi, have a very narrow habitat range whereas M. australis and M. australasica are more widely distributed (Armstrong, 1975). A pigmented form of the finger lime (M. australasica (var. sanguinea) is found in SE Queensland. M. warburgiana is found in New Guinea (Swingle and Reece, 1967) and M. papuana, which is possibly a variant of M. warburgiana, was described by Winters (1976). M. papuana is of interest to citrus breeders because of its short juvenile period which may be transmitted to hybrids (Barrett, 1983).

Microcitrus grafts readily with Citrus, generally resulting in smooth unions (Bitters et. al., 1964). Reports in the literature indicate that the genus is a source of drought tolerance, nematode resistance, tolerance of low soil fertility, and Phytophthora root rot resistance (Barrett, 1983, Broadbent, 1969, Bitters et. al., 1964). The dwarf, shrubby habits of Microcitrus trees also suggest that they are potential sources of dwarfing for breeding. Forms with red fruits have attracted breeders' attention for developing new pigmented varieties.

Breeding with Eremocitrus and Microcitrus

As Swingle (1914, 1915) pointed out, the characteristics exhibited by these plants suggest that they need to be afforded careful attention as parents in breeding new types of citrus. Indeed, Bailey (1895) noted in discussing Eremocitrus that "By careful selection and cross-fertilization from this might be obtained varieties worthy of cultivation for the sake of their own fruit." This potential of native limes has been recognised at Merbein for breeding both citrus scions and root-stocks.

We have been interested in the dwarfing nature and the pigmented fruits of Microcitrus, and the salt tolerance and early maturity of Eremocitrus fruits. Thus, we have crossed Eremocitrus glauca and some of the Microcitrus trees in our arboretum with Citrus and also Poncirus trifoliata. In addition to hybrids from planned crosses, open-pollinated Citrus seedlings with obvious Microcitrus characteristics have been retained for evaluation. Whilst this research has not been the major focus of our citrus breeding program, we now have a range of hybrids from first generation crosses with both genera and also from second generation crosses involving Citrus x (Citrus x Microcitrus) parents. In conducting our crosses we have had greater success with Microcittsu than with Eremocitrus.

It has only been in recent years that we have obtained hybrids using the desert lime as both a male and a female parent. One of the main problems in breeding with Eremocitrus has been maintaining hybrid seedlings on their own root systems. With desert lime hybrids it has often been necessary to graft them to rootstocks in order to maintain them beyond the young seedling stage.

In addition to producing our own hybrids of Microcitrus and Eremocitrus with either Citrus or Poncirus, we have also introduced hybrids from overseas. Seeds of the Eremolemon (Swingle and Reece, 1967) as well as the bigeneric (Faustrime) and trigeneric (Faustrimedin) hybrids of Microcitrus (Swingle and Reece, 1967) were introduced from the University of California to Merbein in the 1960s and '70s. Seeds from other Eremocitrus hybrids were introduced from the United States Department of Agriculture, Florida in the 1980s.

In addition to producing intergeneric hybrids with the native limes, we have also collected and maintained arboretum trees of the various species. These have been collected from various sources including other research stations both in Australia and overseas, botanic gardens and from trees in natural stands.

Development of native limes and their hybrids as new crops for the native foods industry

The plants discussed in the previous section all represent a genetic resource held specifically for citrus genetic improvement. In fact, crosses between the native limes and Citrus have usually involved Citrus types that are easy to use as parents. In this respect, one aim has been for hybrids to act as genetic bridges between the two genera. This was the approach and purpose of crosses until the late '80s early '90s.

At or around this time, the native food industry was starting to gain momentum and we decided to look at the native limes and their hybrids in our arboretum in their own right. Initially we made marmalades from fruits of the various clones of Eremocitrus glauca, the different species of Microcitrus and some of the open-pollinated hybrids. We also observed and recorded tree habit, yield and a range of fruit quality attributes. It is well known that the early European settlers in Australia used native limes for the production of cordials, marmalades and desserts. Swingle (1914) provides examples drawn from the notes of some of the explorers of the nineteenth century. Another example is provided in "The Letters of Rachel Henning" (Adams, 1963) in which an account is given about collecting native limes for preparing jams during the mid-nineteenth century. Thus, it is clear that what we set out to achieve was not novel.

However, we have investigated the possibility of selecting clones or hybrids that have potential to be propagated for cultivation as new horticultural crops. The work conducted with Eremocitrus glauca provides an example of the processes employed.

During the mid-1970s, a collection of Eremocitrus glauca was established at Merbein. Trees were collected as budwood from a range of habitats, brought or sent to Merbein, grafted to citrus root-stocks (mostly to Carrizo citrange or sweet orange) and rowed out in the arboretum. Some of these thrived and eventually produced fruit. Others survived but have never fruited while others declined. By 1988 it was clear that some of the accessions of desert lime in the arboretum were producing reasonable quantities of fruit and so we started to harvest and analyse their fruits.

Initial fruit yields from the trees ranged from 300g to over 4.0kg. Fruit size ranged from less than 1g up to 3g and shape varied from elongate ellipsoid through obovoid to ovoid. Juice characteristics also varied with sugar levels of 4-to-12 (Brix with citric acid concentrations up to 6.5%). The better tasting fruits that also made superior marmalades had juice (Brix:acid ratios of around 2.0.) Growth habit amongst these trees varied from very upright to spreading and their degree of thorniness ranged from a complete absence to branches with large stout thorns up to 50mm long. One characteristic shared by all accessions evaluated, and which has been mentioned already, was their ability to be harvested mechanically.

In all cases, fruits were harvested by shaking limbs to dislodge fruits which dropped and collected on sheets spread on the ground. This ability for shaking fruits from trees is attractive to industry since it will help keep production costs down which hopefully will flow on to consumers.

Harvesting occurred during December, approximately 12 weeks after flowering.

Data were collected over several seasons and the marmalades produced were offered to manufacturers for assessment. As a result, two Eremocitrus accessions were selected, propagated by grafting to rootstocks and entered into a trial to produce larger quantities of fruit for larger scale manu-facturing. These trees were planted as hedgerows spaced at' 1.5m within and 5.0m between rows respectively. We anticipate that the first significant harvest of these trees will occur this year (1997).

This research subsequently attracted attention from Australian Native Produce Industries (ANPI) at Renmark in South Australia. As a result, CSIRO has released to ANPI two selections of desert lime, as well as two open-pollinated seedling selections, one of which is a natural hybrid between a zygotic seedling of Rangpur lime and a seedling of Microcitrus australasica var sanguined, and the other an open-pollinated seedling of the Faustrimedin [Microcitrus australasica x (Fortunella sp. x Citrus reticulata).

These latter two selections have been called the Blood and Sunrise Limes respectively. ANPI grows and markets a number of native or'bush' foods. Through our collaboration with ANPI, further development of these native citrus selections is planned. ANPI believe that these new varieties have potential as orchard trees to produce fruits for processing as jams and chutneys, as well for fresh produce. The Blood lime with its highly coloured fruits is also thought to have potential as an ornamental.

In the meantime, we are continuing with our main research focus of breeding new citrus varieties and rootstocks for the Australian Citrus Industry. In so doing, we are crossing the Blood lime and some of its siblings with citrus to transmit some of their characteristics. The Blood lime is being used as a parent because of its pigmented rind and flesh.

Currently we are trying to produce hybrids between it and pummeloes to generate hybrids with increased fruit size.


Mr. Don Alexander, who retired from CSIRO in 1985, was instrumental in collecting most of the native citrus germplasm held in CSIRO's arboretum at Merbein. Don also identified and saved a number of the open-pollinated Microcitrus seedling hybrids referred to in the text. Mr. Bill Lewis provided expert technical assistance to Don Alexander and continues to do so for the author. His skills and contribution to the research are hereby acknowledged. The enthusiasm of Mr Andrew Beal of Australian Native Produce Industries for the products of this research and his initiative in establishing a collaborative role in further developing the selections are very much appreciated by the author.


Adams D. (ed) (1969) The letters of Rachel Henning. Penguin, Australia.

Armstrong, J. (1975) The current status of the sub-family Aurantioideae.

Australian Plants, 8, 226-31.

Bailey, P.M. (1895) Peculiarities of the Queensland flora. Queensland Dept Ag. Bot. Build. 12, 11-26. Barrett, H.C. (1981)

Breeding cold-hardy citrus scion cultivars. Proc. Int. Soc. Citriculture, 1981, 1,61-6.

Barrett, H.C. (1983) Hybridisation of Citrus and related genera. Fruit Var. J., 39(2), 11-16.

Barrett, H.C. (1990) An intergeneric hybrid of Microcitrus papuana and Citrus medica. Fruit Var. J., 44(3), 113-7.

Bitters, W.P, Brusca, J.A. and Cole, D.A. (1964) The search for new citrus rootstocks. Calif. Citrograph, 49,443-8. Broadbent, P. (1969) Observations on the mode of infection of Phytophthora citrophthora in resistant and susceptible roots. Proc 1st. Int. Citrus Symp., 3, 1207-10. Goell, A. (1969) Salinity effects on citrus trees. Proc 1st. Int. Citrus Symp., 3, 1819-24. Hearne, C.J., Hutchinson, D.J. and Barrett, H.C. (1974) Breeding citrus rootstocks. HortScience, 9, 357-8.

Hume, H.H. (1957) Citrus fruits. The MacMillan Co. New York. Maiden J.H. (1889) The useful native plants of Australia (including Tasmania). Facsimile edition reproduced and published by Compendium Pty. Ltd., Melbourne (1975).

Swingle W.T. (1914) Eremocitrus, a new genus of hardy, drought-resistant citrous fruits from Australia. J.Agric. Res. 2, 85-100.

Swingle, W.T. (1915)Microcitrus, a new genus of Australian citrus fruits. J. Wash. Acad. Sci., 5, 569-78.

Swingle, W.T. and Reece P.C. (1967) The botany of Citrus and its wild relatives. In: Reuther, W., Webber, HJ and Batchelor, L.D. (eds.) The Citrus Industry Vol. I, 190-430. (Univ. Calif. Press, Berkeley).

Winters H.F. (1976) Microcitrus papuana, a new species from Papua New Guinea (Rutaceae). Baileya,20(l), 19-24. Yelonsky, G., Barrett, H. and Young, R. (1978) Cold hardiness of \oung hvbrid trees of Eremocitrus glauca (Lindl.) Swing. HortScience, 13,257-8. Young, R., Barrett, H.C., Hearne, C.J. and Hutchison, D.J. (1983) New sources of cold hardiness for citrus breeding. HortScience, 17,866.

limeDesert Lime

Wendy and David Phelps Longreach Bush Tucker

Eremocitrus glauca

Other Names: Limebush, Desert lemon, Native kumquat


The desert lime is a multi stemmed, spiny shrub 2-3 m high up to a 12m tree with a dense pendulous canopy. The tree has a defined trunk and spines are often reduced or absent (Anon c 1982; Cunningham et al 1981). The long oblong-linear leaves are alternate, well spaced or absent, grey-green and leathery (Cunningham et al 1981; Webber & Batchelor 1943). The flowers are small and white, borne singly or in clusters on short stalks in the leaf axils (Cunningham et al 1981). Flowering occurs in spring, with the fruit round to oblate (occasionally pyriform), l-2cm long, with light yellow-green almost translucent skin and numerous oil glands (Anon c 1982; Cunningham et al 1981). Fruit has a sour juicy flesh less bitter then most citrus and is often seedless, though when present there are 2-4 small, plump, yellowish-grey seeds with a wrinkled seed coat (Anon c 1982; Cunningham et al 1981). Seed isn't always viable, often being parasitised by gall wasps (Anon c 1982; Webber & Batchelor 1943). Fruits ripen in about 8 weeks over Summer, this being the shortest time from flowering to maturity of any citrus (Anon c 1982; Riley 1983). Distribution: Eremocitrus glauca occurs in semi-arid inland areas of South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland (Map i) south of the 220S latitude (Anderson 1993). It occurs within brigalow and dry shrublands, on sandstone outcrops within popular box woodlands and cleared gidyea (Acacia cambagei) country (Low 1988; Phelps & Phelps 1994). It is found growing in black soils, heavy brown clays, desert loams or red earths (Cunningham et al 1981; Low 1988).

Map i. The distribution of Eremocitrus glauca (information courtesy of Queensland Herbarium and Queensland Department of Primary Industries).


Other features:

Eremocitrus glauca is the only pronounced xerophytic citrus (Webber & Batchelor 1943). Many varieties of Eremocitrus glauca are able to withstand severe drought and hot dry winds (45"C) through the loss of leaves (Riley 1983; Webber & Batchelor 1943). Winter dormancy allows it to withstand cold temperatures to -240C (Anon c 1982). It can endure a high concentration of salts, soils of low nutrient status and is less susceptible to boron poisoning than other citrus (Webber & Batchelor 1943). Due to its regeneration in large numbers and the forming of spiny thickets, it is regarded as a woody weed by graziers (Low 1988; Phelps & Phelps 1994). The foliage is moderately palatable to stock but of no benefit during drought as leaves are dropped as a means of withstanding the conditions (Cunningham et al 1981; Riley 1983). The fruit were used by aborigines and colonialists (Leichhardt used the fruit on his overland journey) and are popular in the bush-food industry (Cribb 1975; Graham &Hart 1997).

Eremocitrus glauca has shown a great potential for providing germplasm for use by citrus breeders for genetic improvement of cultivars and rootstocks (Sykes 1997).

Use in the Bushfood Industry:

Eremocitrus glaucu is used in the bushfood industry for processing and fresh product (Graham & Hart 1997). There are approximately 500 native citrus plants (mostly Microcitrus spp.) commercially grown in Australia (Graham. & Hart 1997), while wild harvest and some water augmentation has pro-* vided all Eremocitrus glauca fruit prior to 1996 (Phelps & Phelps 1996). There is an estimated 100,000 hectares of wild Eremocitrus glauca in Queensland (Phelps 1997). The demand for fruit has increased since the first harvest in 1993-94 (Phelps & Phelps 1996).

CSIRO has developed four native citrus selections, two being Eremocitrus glauca selections. This native has great potential as a substitute for limes or lemons. Except for the seeds {if present), 100% of the fruit is used, while commercial limes have a rind that often isn't used. Steve Sykes of CSIRO(perscomm 1996) has conducted taste tests with a range of lime-based jams and marmalades. Eremocitrus glauca marmalade was consistently favoured. With the exception of Roma. Eremocitrus glauca grows naturally in very different areas to current citrus production. The potential exists to develop a new citrus industry in inland Queensland. The Roma district may be ideally positioned to develop an Eremocitrus industry, as it has an established citrus industry and natural stands ot Eremocitrus glauca ideal for root stock and scion material. Other districts of inland Queensland may also be well suited but do not have the established infrastructure and linkages to the mainstream horticultural industry.


Anderson, E. 1993. Plants of Central Queensland - (heir identification and uses. Department of Primary Industries. Queensland Government Printers, Brisbane.

Anon c 1982. Some Citrus Species and Varieties in Australia. CSIRO, Australia. Cribb, A.B. & J.W. 1975. Wild Food in Australia, Angus & Robertson.

Cunningham, G.M., Mulham, W.E., Milthorpe, P.L. & Leigh, J.H. 1981. Plants of Western New South Wales. Government Printer, Australia.

Graham, C. and Hart, D. 1997. Prospects for the Australian

Native Bushfood Industry. RIRDC.

Low, T. 1988. Wild Food Plants. Angus & Robertson. Phelps, D.G. 1997. Feasibility of a Sustainable Bush Food Industry in Western Queensland'. RIRDC

Phelps, D.G. and Phelps, W.J. 1994. Economic food plants of western Queensland. The Australian Rangeland Society 8th Biennial Conference , Papers, S.A.pp 116-117. RileyJ.M. 1983. Wild fruits of Australia. Rileyifornia Rare Fruit Growers.

SyJces,S. 1997. CSIRO Division of Horticulture. Crop Improvement Projects. CSIRO, Australia. web@adl.hort.csiro.au Webber, H.J. & Batchelor, L.D. (editors) 1943. The Citrus Industry. History, Botany & Breeding. Ed 1, Vol 1 University of Rileyifornia Press.


by Bradley Field, Bush Tucker Supply Australia Pty Ltd.

Harvesting and post harvest handling methods vary depending on the crop, site layout, micro-climate, possible sources of contamination, workforce constraints, standard of mechanisation/collection tools and transport methods available to mention a few.

This article will focus on the simple issues that often cause the most problems and we will leave the finer points (plant physiology, micro-organism analysis, chemical reactions, environment technologies, smart packaging etc) for your own research. Further information is available from our internet site at www.bushtucker.com.au/ The following areas will be covered here: Farming, Harvest, Packing and Storage.

1. Farming

The first issue to determine the quality of the harvested product is the quality and health of the base stock. The key areas being: choose the right cultivars, those with a proven track record that reach a very high quality and proven standard for growth, flavour, appearance and resilience to pests and disease.

Use minimal fertiliser and then only organic. Remember though that even some organic fertilisers, particularly those made with animal manure can harbour E-coli bacteria and Salmonella. These fertilisers should be dug in to avoid the possibility of them blowing around your property onto fruit and leaves and into sheds and packaging material transferring undesirable bacteria to food. Warm moist environments can then cause higher than acceptable bacterial counts. None of us want to suffer the fate of poisoning people like the Garibaldi meats or peanut butter industry scares of late so be aware of the products you use. We recommend that microbiological specification sheets be obtained from fertiliser suppliers and you exercise the appropriate care in use. Pests, weeds and diseases. Be mindful on how you treat these problems in regards to the end product. Talk to other growers, subscribe to the Limpinwood newsletter, ARBIA newsletter, 'Australian Bushfoods' magazine or read the materials available from RIRDC, Dept. of Agriculture, libraries and the internet. Look at all the alternatives including the use of attractant and sacrificial plants, live biological solutions (predators), mixed planting techniques, boiling water/steam or fire weed eradication and organic herbicides/ repellents.

Irrigation. Be mindful as well of the quality of the water you use, particularly after floods. Eutrophication of waterways can potentate fungal growth and irrigation water may need purification before use on new plantings.

2. Harvesting

Physical Collection. Techniques for collection vary with your site, staff and equipment.

Handling. Minimal handling is of prime importance for both of us in terms of minimising costs, labour needs and damage to the goods. Strive to find improved ways of minimising handling and damage. Fruits are particularly sensitive to bruising and rough handling can affect quality. Look for gentler handl ing methods and of course monitor staff handling whenever feasible. Collection tubs should not be overly deep to avoid crushing fruit. Blowers are a tool which can help in the cleaning process and minimise handling and cleaning time. Hygiene. This is a critical area ! Bacteria grow best in warm, moist climates and we have had already seen one situation with a high bacterial load which necessitated product sterilisation adding extra cost, time and chemicals to the product. Once a regime is organised, make sure it is communicated to staff and strictly adhered to. The attached , 'Hygienic handling of Bush Food fruits and herbs', gives you a rundown on some basic ideas and provides a tool for you to place in your picking or cleaning area.

Timing. Heat and transport delays are the key problems to be avoided here. Avoid picking fruits or leaves where they cannot be kept refrigerated or at least cool duriniz tirad-ing, cleaning or transporting. Once ripe fruits are picked they need to be frozen within 24 hours and less for delicate fruits like riberries. Leaves also are susceptible to wilting and early composting, particularly if wet.

3. Cleaning

Fruit products need to be free from dirt, sticks and other foreign objects. Minimise the bruising and discard undersize. under ripe, over ripe and heavily marked fruit. In some cases the size of the fruit will also be specified. Leaf products must also be clean from dirt and foreign object and while leaf only is preferred we have been able to use leaf and some small green stem to date. Experience has shown immature, soft, new growth tips are best removed from lemon myrtle as well as they start composting very quickly and then start browning other leaves.

4. Packing and storage

Fruits are generally packed into 1 kg food grade zip bags which BTSAust. supply. Sometimes BTSAust. orders bulk product of mixed grades for manufacturing use, these can then be packed into large food grade plastic bags within foam boxes (eskies). Where possible, freeze the fruits in layers to speed freezing and create individu-ally quick frozen (1QF) fruits. These can then be bagged and sealed to the specified weight making sure they are over weight than under. The fine for incorrectly weighted product is $5,000. We also have desired packing quantities of bags per carton and would prefer these to be adhered to wherever possible. Storage is then in a free/.erawailing dispatch. Remember also thai loam eskie> insulate aiiainsl heal and cold. Do not bag fresh fruit and place in eskies for freezing as they take 2-3 times longer to freeze and some fruit quality deterioration may occur. Either individually freeze the fruit or bag into kilos and then freeze flat.

Leaves are generally packed directly into eskies as soon as possible after harvest and grading and then placed into a coolroom with the lid off. When cooled down they can then be sealed and taken to the final transport depot for dispatch {preferably in coolroom storage and transport). We ran a trial program for 5 months on different packaging systems with lernon myrtle leaf and found the best to be broccoli boxes with a single sheet of butcher's paper lining the bottom and sides. This combination out-performed non-lined broccoli boxes and cardboard boxes in terms of retaining freshness and minimising temperature increase in transit.

BTSAust develops supply lines, tests products, develops standards, creates markets and educates customers with entirely new and innovative products. BTSAust is a partnership between Vic Cherikoff and Bradley Field.

Next Issue:

Transport, Receipt into BTSAust store and the Paperwork

Bush Tucker...The Great Australian Bite

Dennis Millett

Walk into Flamin 'Bull Bush Tucker Restaurant in Warragul and you are surrounded hy colonial Australia in the year 1890. Sitting at a table by the window, you would not he surprised to see a team of bullocks rumble by, hauling timber or supplies on a slow trip to some other part of rural Victoria.

The Fliamin' Bull is no ordinary, run of the mill restaurant. The decor and ambience is old colonial, and the food is unlike that of any other restaurant you may have visited, yet it is totally Australian. The menu invites you to try Crocodile, Emu, Yabbies and many other delights, in sauces made from the Quandong, Lilly-pilly, Illawarra plums and a variety of herbs and fruits of the Australian bush. These are some of the foods which have fed the Australian Aboriginal people for thousands of years. They have always been available to those who knew about them but now, the process of promoting their wider use is gathering momentum. Coles Supermarkets have customer-tested various bush tucker foods, and because of the favourable response they plan to stock them in some of their stores.

In 1990, brothers Rodney and Darren Short bought antique farm shed standing in Tynong, and after dismantling it, they used the materials to create (he building which now houses the restaurant in Mason St. Warragul, Victoria. The interior is furnished in the style of colonial Australia and much use has been made of vintage farm equipment and saddlery items to provide atmosphere. The chair backs are covered with hessian bags, the rest rooms are indoor "outhouses" and Australian music provides a fitting background.

A huge fireplace built from old hand-made bricks is a prominent feature and, on a cold night in Warragul, this becomes the warm focus point of this remarkable building. Now run hy Rodney and Mathilda Short and their partner Daryl Hughes, the restaurant employs 17 people. The management is keen to show indigenous and non-indigenous people working together, promoting both the Koorie culture and the unique Australian cuisine.

If you arrive at the restaurant on a Friday night you will be entertained by a group of young Koories. They will show you some of their dances, explaining as they go along what the dance depicts. It may be about Emus feeding, with the dancers imitating the bird's movements, and in the dimmed light the likeness is uncanny.

A skilled story-teller will entertain you with legends of Aboriginal folklore, and his people's perspective of the natural elements: the sky, the moon and the stars is presented with an intensity that is natural and thought provoking. The entertainers, a group of young people coached by their elders, give an enthusiastic performance, and have a lot of fun in the process.

On New Year's Eve, we visited the Flamin" Bull for a special New Year party and had the opportunity to try a special menu prepared for the night. We began with Bush Herb Damper, small bread rolls served with eucalyptus butter, then an entree of Emu Medallions with a delicious Quandong and Orange Port Sauce. The Emu was quite chewy, with a subtle flavour hinting of game. My main course was crocodile, and it was the highlight of the night for me. I've never wanted to be quite this close to a crocodile before, but it was an enjoyable experience. The meat was whiter than I expected, more the colour of chicken than beef, and (he sauce, a clever marriage of the flavours of wattleseed and macadumia nuts, was just perfect. My wife decided to try the Kangaroo Medallions with Lilly-pilly and Illawarra Plum Sauce, served on a bed of Strezlecki damper. She declared it to be very tasty and may find it hard to watch Skippy again, if ever he returns to the box in the lounge room.

For dessert, we decided on the Apple and Wild RoseHa-Flower Pie, with a liberal scoop of Wattleseed Ice Cream, and it was a good choice. The Watlleseed addition to the ice cream presents a flavour as near to coffee as you could imagine, and the mixture of Apple and Rosella-Flowers, a tart rhubarb-like tang against the sweet crispness of the apple, was wonderful.

Having tried Bush Tucker food for the first time, I am sure that it will become popular when the word spreads, and when people are able to buy the goods which are becoming available. It is an interesting alternative to restaurant menus which have theirorigins in Europe. Soon we will have the chance to try the foods at home, and there will be pleasant surprises in store for those willing to experiment. This is Bush Tucker. It's ours, and it's been around Tor thousands of years. Fet'sget familiar with it. and by the year 2000 we could all enjoy showing visitors an authentic cuisine w Inch can stand on Us own, a cuisine which is totally Australian.

From the Menu...

Gayrick akudjura (NT)

Koonwarra - Bush Tomato Oysters: Fresh

Kamabaran (Qld) - Croc Pot

Quah Quah'lak Dyibun Nongia Barlan - Vegetables baked in paperbark

Gayrick Kuaat Nunduk - Bush tucker platter


Index - Issue 3
From the Editor
Two Surveys Mixed results
R & D From RIRDC Draft Plan
The Finger Lime Erika Birmingam
Eat Your Garden Permaculture and bushfoods
From the Bookshop
Australian Native Limes Steven Sykes of CSIRO
The Desert Lime Wendy and David Phelps
Harvest and Post Harvest
Flamin' Bull Bushfoods Restaurant
Wallaby The Veal of Kangaroo
Profile: Erika Birmingham Second in our Series
Eating out at Home A dinner party
DPI Notes Desert lime
Thoughts on the Bunya John King
Bushfoods and Bioregionalism Larry Geno
CD Review - Australian Tropical Plants
Native Bees and Good Leaves
My Favourite Bushfoods - Colleen Keena

Get up-to-date info at Bushfoods magazine online