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Issue 4, Oct-Nov 1997
Noosa National Park (Headland section) sits amidst some of the most expensive real estate on the Sunshine Coast and, outside of Sydney, quite possibly some of the priciest land in Australia. The park covers 454 hectares sloping back up from the beachfront. Though I live quite close by.
I have never taken the time to walk through this coastal refuge of Pandanus, Melaleuca, Acacia and Blechnum. I am pleased that my first walk was in the company of Ken Markwell. Ken is an employee of the Queens- land National Parks & Wildlife Service and a member of the Mununjali clan, hailing from the Beaudesert region. His rather daunting job description includes Interpretation of cultural values and protection and management of areas of cultural significance (physical and spiritual)'.
His 'office' is even more impressive - Ken's territory cover parks from the Glasshouse Mountains west to Conondale, all along the Blackall Range and of course the coast itself (see map). I turned up for our interview. pad. pen- cil and camera bundled into a cumbersome bag and we headed off up the fire-break track through the bush. Though he's doubtless done 'the walk' dozens of times before, his ability to bring the park to life was untarnished. During the holidays, he takes literally hundreds of tourists through what he likes to call the 'Cultural Trail'. pointing out the plants. the animals, the signs and the unseen. To the left of the firebreak was over- grown scrub. To the right was more open vegetation, cleared by a fire 2- 3 years before.
"Look - the Lomandra's all fresh and lovely this side - just like when we sent the fires through - uphill, there's been no fire through for a couple of years and it's all pretty tough and stringy. Look down there - my favourite - blechnum fern - lots and lots where the fire's been but nothing but bracken on the other side."
"We're surrounded by food here. Not just animal but seed and root and fruit. Every season has its best foods - its good foods. Everything's linked together when you know how to look. When a certain tree's flowering the fish will he plentiful and sweet. When another fruit's ripe, honey will be good."
"I don't just talk about the food - that's like someone explaining their whole society by talking about what they eat. I like to talk about our culture and our spirituality as well." We came to a Soap tree with a small plaque giving its name (Alphitonia excelsa) and its track number.
"You chew the young leaves for tummy problems. We used it for toothache and as a liniment. It can also be used for headache and as an eye- wash - crushed leaves were used to I The editor joins Ken Markwell of Queens- land National Parks & Wildlife Service kill fish - and of course you can wash with it! Most people are interested in bush tucker, but that's just a part of the scrub. This was our whole world. I say to them - we fellas can find tucker anywhere. Under that tree there - or maybe down near the water - or up in the scrub - sometimes I plant things - like a meat pie or some- thing - and then I 'discover it' for them - we fellas can find food any- where!" I stopped in surprise - a meat pie?? Under the Melaleucas? Ken was laughing.
"It gets a point across - I don't give people an easy walk - I want them to ~ think and try to understand. See'? How do you find tucker'? Take the Koala. Nice cuddly animal but the fact is he doesn't move when he wees so he starts to smell pretty soon. I can smell Koala a long ways off. The plants are different. There's my favourite - Blechnum fern. We don't see it like you see a vegetable on the supermarket shelf. Blechnum is processed all year round and that's unusual because most of our food is seasonal. Take the mullet - it's best in the win- ter months when it's plentiful. Everything in its season. Everything in its time and you leave something behind. We have totems. If my totem was the Honey Ant, I wouldn't eat the honey from the Honey Ant. Same as some- one with the Wallaby totem wouldn't eat Wallaby. Maybe that way we al- ways kept a balance. I've had people tell me that we were not conservationists - hut we were. We just didn't know the word - we just managed what we had so there was always sonic- thine left for next season. Simple. eh? And there was always enough for everyone - not just here on the coast where there's plenty of food but out west where the food's hard to come by and hard work. We had no chemists, no medical centres. If your child was sick, you had to use what you had to hand. We got pretty good at knowing what to use. Our chemists, hospitals and supermarkets are in the lead!" "You're a young person, Ken. Where did you get your knowledge?"
For the first time, I sensed some hesitancy in his answer,
"I talk to my people. I look around. I read a lot - research things, you know?" "Are you worried this knowledge will disappear as the elders and the older people die?"
"Yes, in a way. But the knowledge is there, it can't die. Have a look over there." To our right was a stand of Melaleuca quinquinerva, tall and gnarled and stunning, "I call them the Day & Night Chemist. Hardly a hit of them we can't use for something - the bark as a container, bandage, for wrapping foods, as a small raft and for lighting fires. The leaves crushed for coughs and colds, rubbed on as a liniment or used as an antiseptic.
"Up there - Midyim berry. Down there the Pandandus. There's the soap tree and up behind there's a stand of wattle - we'd roast the seed and make cakes."
"Where are the meat pies, Ken'?"
Now it was his turn to laugh. "Can't you see them'? There's plenty of game - even in a park like this where we get something like 1.5 million people a year traipsing through. Birds - koalas - shellfish - goannas - you hungry?"
"I'm a vegetarian."
"Plenty of Blechnum fern."
I declined politely and Ken disappeared into the hush to return to work. I sat for a moment looking at the Blechnum fern and the Pandanus which surrounded me. An abundance. A supermarket shelf loaded with fresh food guaranteed preservative and chemical additive-free. I found my breath coming back and my spirits rising. The long track hack looked more friendly than before.
SOME SPECIES IN NOOSA NATIONAL PARK:
Acacia sophorae (Coastal wattle. Golden wattle or Boobyalla - one of the 'recognised' commercial species) - seed
Achronychia imperforata (Coast aspen, Logan apple. Beach achronychia) - fruit Aiphitonia excelsa (Soap tree, Foambark) - bark, leaves, root
Austromyrtus dulcis (the splendid Midyim berry) - berry
Banksia integrifolia (Coastal banksia) - flowers, nectar
Blechnum indicum (Bungwali fern) - root (rhizome)
Eucalyptus teriticornis - Blue gum - leaves
Freycinettia scandens (climbing panadanus) - fruit
Lomandra longifolia (Long mat rush) - young leaf base
Melaleuca quinquinerva (Coastal tea tree, Narrow leafed paperbark, 'day and night chemist') - everything used!
Pandanus tectorius (Screw pine, Pandanus) - seed (take care as it is toxic if not handled correctly).
Xanthorrhoea spp (Grass tree) - flowers, leaf base
Note: Ken works as a Ranger for the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. In his job. he works closely with the local people - the Gubbi Gubbi - and other indigenous groups to interpret and manage the physical, cultural and spiritual aspects of the Indigenous people. For further information, phone: 07 5447 3243 Ken Markwell.
There is today a growing level of interest in farm forestry, due to a number of factors - world and domestic demand for timber is growing in response to increasing populations and increasing per capita consumption of wood and paper products, associated with rising living standards, especially in Asia. Decreasing supply of forest resources due to historical non-sustainable harvesting practices, loss of forest resources to agriculture and expansion of human settlement and reduced outputs from native forests as governments attempt attempt to move towards lower, more sustainable forest harvesting levels.
There is also increasing recognition, especially in Australia, that much of our cleared agricultural land needs to be reforested to address worsening problems of soil erosion, salinity and climate change
There is a growing awareness amongst rural landholders that diversifying farms to include timber not only enhances the productivity of existing agricultural enterprises but can also provide a very profitable long-term enterprise in its own right. In fact timber can yield higher profits per hectare than traditional beef and sheep production on many sites.
The National Forest Policy Statement of 1992 and the complementary Plantations for Australia Year 2020 Vision action plan just released, focus on the importance of expanding commercial forestry onto rural lands. Both these key policy documents have been agreed to by the State and Federal Governments.
However, one of the main reasons many farmers remain hesitant about growing forests for timber is not scepticism about the future profitability of the enterprise, but rather the associated cash flow problems. These arise as landholders transfer pieces of their land from income-yielding livestock or cropping production into forest plantation, which in itself costs $2000-$7000/ha during the first five years or so. Apart from limited returns from thinnings, the profits from timber are unlikely to be realised for at least 20 or 30 years.
Farm foresters desperately need to find opportunities to obtain cashflow from their forests in the shorter term. Complementary bushfood production is an exciting possibility.
There are three approaches to integrating bushfood production with farm forestry systems:
1. choose timber species which also produce bushfoods which can be harvested while the tree grows towards its eventual harvestable size. Timber species which also yield good bush tucker include Bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii). Black apple (Planchonella australis), numerous acacia species, Sandalwood (Santalum spp.) and Quandong (Eleocarpis grandis).
2. choose bushfood species that have ancillary timber values. Species in this suite may not be generally regarded as timber species, often because of their relatively small size. However, their wood qualities may in fact be well suited to fine craft works. The macadamia tree (Macadamia spp.) is one example.
Food Bearing Species listed in Trees & Shrubs
Acmena spp. Syzygium spp.
3. Design a planting which incorporates both timber-producing species and bushfood species. In many cases
the larger timber trees may provide a suitable microclimate for the bush-food species. For example, lemon-scented myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) is naturally an understorey species of the rainforest or wet sclerophyll forest;
The farm forester seeking a short term cashflow need not be limited to bushfood species.
There are also plants yielding medicinal or pharmaceutical compounds, eg Black bean (Castanospernumi australae), honey flora (many of the eucalypts for example); special purpose bark (the bark of the paperbark (Melalencu spp.) used to wrap around food; seed (supplies from select families or individuals can fetch high prices); essential industrial oils eg Teatree (Melaleuca alternifolia), cypress pine (Callitris columellaris), and others.
The main problem for farm foresters wishing to avail themselves of these cashflow opportunities relate to design and operational issues. Multi-species systems are inevitably more complex to establish and maintain, especially if one is attempting to optimise yields, a number of different products or services over time. Operational issues typically include: maintaining the right micro-environmental factors over time, as the plant grows. Incident light levels, and competition for soil moisture and nutrients are often important. Maintaining access for tending and harvesting of crops, the impact of timber thinning and felling, operations on bushfood plants, pest, disease and predator interactions within a mixed species plantation.
These design issues are particularly acute at the present time because the field is so new and the range of design options so broad that no-one yet has much idea of what works well and what doesn't.
However, on the positive side, successful integration of timber growing with complementary cropping of native species will not only help farm foresters overcome the cashflow problem, but also provide a more ecologically complex and therefore more ecologically resilient vegetation. This has important benefits for nature conservation and would be permaculture practiced in the truest sense of the term.
DPI Forestry, GPO Box 944 Brisbane 4001, Ph: 07 3234 0591
Gundabluey (Acacia victoriae)
David Phelps, Pasture Agronomist, Longreach
Gundabluey foliage showing dense blue-green
Gundabluey (western type) showing sparse foliage
There are two major types of gundabluey throughout Queensland. The first (Acacia victoriae) is common throughout most of Queensland. It has relatively dense blue-green foliage and can be found growing from as far south and east as Birdsville, Cunnamulla and Condamine, and far north as Normanton. The second type (Acacia victoriae subsp. arida) is more common in drier western areas such as the Simpson desert, Boulia and Poeppel's Corner. Both types of gundabluey have prickles along their branches and can be found in a range of soils, including clays and loamy sands.
Gundabluey is harvested extensively in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia for wattleseed. Wattleseed is currently the major raw product within the bush food industry, with 7.5 to 10 tonnes being used annually. The seed is roasted, then ground, for use as a coffee substitute or as a ncivoured flour in cakes and biscuits
Sorted wattleseed is currently being bought for approximately $5/kg at the farm gate.
Anderson, E.R. (1993). "Plants of Central Queensland, their identification and use". Department of Primary Industries, Queensland.
Cribb, A.B. and Cribb, J.W. (1989). Useful Wild Plants in Australia. Collins, Sydney.
Cribb, A.B. and Cribb, J.W. (1990). Wild Food in Australia. Second Edition. Angus and Robertson, North Ryde.
Cribb, A.B. and Cribb, J.W. (1990). Wild Medicine in Australia. Angus and Robertson, North Ryde.
Cherikoff, V. (1992). Uniquely Australian. Bush Tucker Supply, Boronia Park.
Cherikoff, V. (1993). The Bush Food Handbook. Bush Tucker Supply Australia, Boronia Park.
Dowling, R.M. and McKenzie, R.A. (1993). Poisonous Plants, a field guide. Department of Primary Industries, Queensland.
Golson, J. (1971). Australian Aboriginal food plants. In Aboriginal Man and Environment in Australia. Ed. Mulvaney, D.J. and Golson, J. A.N.U. Press, Canberra.
Isaacs, J. (1989). Bush Food, Aboriginal food and herbal medicine. Weldon Publishing, Sydney.
Jones, G.P. (Ed.) (1985). The Food Potential of Seeds from Australian Native Plants. Deakin University Press, Victoria.
Low, T. (1989). Bush Tucker, Australia's wild food harvest. Angus and Robertson, North Ryde.
Low, T. (1991). Australian Nature Field Guide: wild food plants of Australia. Angus and Robertson, North Ryde.
Ross, J. (1995). A Taste of Australia: authentic Australian cuisine. The Five Mile Press, Noble Park Victoria.
Stewart, D. (Ed). (1988). Burnum Burnum's Aboriginal Australia. Angus and Robertson, North Ryde.
Tindale, N.B. (1974). Aboriginal Tribes of Australia. Their terrain, environmental controls, distribution, limits and proper names. Chapter 7. Tribes and Food. A.N.U. Press, Canberra.
© The State of Queensland, Department of Primary Industries, August 1996 Produced by: DPI West Region ISSN 0155 - 3054
Order No: FN-W 96019002 Replaces: n/a Agdex 304
The Bushfood Handbook, VicCherikoff, Bush Tucker Supply Australia, third reprint 1997. $35.00 + $8 pp
Wattles offer many foods for foragers; particular species have edible seeds, gum or roots. Seeds and roots are usually roasted and gums can be eaten as they are found or made into jelly by soaking or heating in water; you can add a sweetener to the jelly or use one of the species which forms a naturally sweet gum.
Nutritionally, wattles are high in protein but it is not yet known if the protein is as complete as in meat or soybeans. Other major nutrients in the seeds are fat (some of it polyun-saturated), complex carbohydrate, fibre and various trace metals. Wattle gums are nearly 100 per cent soluble fibre and edible roots provide carbohydrates and minerals. Few accounts relate the importance of wattle seeds to particular Aboriginal groups. The Alyawarra people, whose tribal lands are to the north-east of Alice Springs. traditionally used the seeds of at least fifteen species of which several were used as staple food throughout the year. There were Aborigines who described themselves as either shrub seed people or grass seed people, depending upon the importance of their dietary mainstay (to both their nutrition and their Dreaming).
Although it was the Aborigines in dryland regions of Australia who relied most upon wattle seeds as dietary items, others did not ignore them. Six species have been recorded as being used as food and as fish poisons by Aborigines of the Beecroft Peninsula south of Sydney. The Mayali people of Western Arnhem Land ate the seeds of two wattle species while an additional fifteen species were part of their material culture. In the Kalumburu area of the northern Kimberley the seeds of only a single species were eaten.
The Aborigines in and around Sydney used the seeds of at least three species (A. longifolia, A. sophorae and A. suaveolens).
These were eaten green after steaming rather than milled into a flour. Unlike dryland people, the Sydney Aborigines did not have damper as a staple dish. The Sydney golden wattle (A. long/folia) was also used in the local bush calendar since its flowering signalled the time to fish for mullet. The use of wattle seeds as food was possible due to local abundance of one or several species. Mulga (A. aneura) is still a feature of large areas of arid and semi-arid Australia and witjuti bush (A. kempeana) is also common.
Several food products can be obtained from the seeds of many species, particularly from those with persistent arils. These arils are very oily and contribute significantly to the total fat content of the seeds.
Many arillate seeds were traditionally collected into a coolamon filled with water. The seeds were then worked between the hands, detaching the arils and flavouring the water with the taste of the oils. The resulting drink was not only more interesting than plain water, it provided energy as well. The part-processed seeds could still be recovered and prepared into damper.
The following description of seed processing for green wattle seeds can be applied to seeds from any edible wattle. Generally, seeds eaten green were large (e.g. A. coriacea, A. farnesiana) or from those species setting many pods with medium-sized seeds (e.g. A. aneura, A. longifolia, A. suaveolens, A. sophorae).
1. Harvest green seeds by picking the whole immature legume.
2. Set a fast-burning twig fire or use hot ash.
3. Cook the pods until it is estimated that the seeds will have steamed.
4. Split open the pods and strip out the seeds.
5. Eat the seeds as they are or use them as you would English garden peas. Include any coloured aril attached to the seed.
Steaming the green pods reduces the anti-nutritional activity of enzyme inhibitors present. The treatment also reduces the astringency of the sap and increases the ease of seed removal. Seeds collected from the dried woody pods or from the ground are prepared for milling in the following way:
1. The hard coated seeds are placed in a dish.
2. Live coals are added and stirred. This light roasting or parching will crack some of the black seed coat.
3. Remove all of the ash, coals and fractured seed coat by yandying. This clean-up prior to milling reduces the contribution of the seed coat to dietary fibre.
4. Mill the remaining seeds.
5. The parched, cleaned and milled seeds can then be made into a damper with water and cooked in hot ash.
Extracts from 'The Bushfoods Handbook' - Vic Cherikoff
Notes: Acacia - John Mason
Bunyas and the whole farm plan - John King