From the ANU forestry website
The fruits and seeds of the wattles are generally thought of as being poisonous or inedible, there are, however, a few exceptions. Forty-seven sorts of wattle tree growing in southern Australia produce seeds which are suitable for human food. Some species are also used as stock food, for example, the pods of A. farnesiana (prickly Moses) and A. cambagei (gidyea) are eaten by sheep.
Seeds form a staple food among many indigenous peoples and plants native to Australia are no exception. The aborigines ground the dried wattle seeds between stones to form a flour which was then baked as a damper. These seed grinding practices appear to be a relatively recent technological development. It is thought that Aboriginal people in central Australia have been grinding grass or wattle seed for no more than 4 000 years. Green seeds are also eaten, taken green like peas. It is currently believed that only desert dwellers ate acacia seeds, with the exception of coastal SA and TAS tribes, which roasted the pods and then ate the seeds of Acacia sophorae (Coast Wattle).
Tropical Australian wattle species have been grown for many years in Niger, West Africa. Originally planted there for firewood and sand stabilisation they were found to produce prolific crops of seed even during drought.
While assessing forestry trials in the region Dr Lex Thomson, knowing that Australian aborigines used wattle seed as a food source, encouraged the local people to incorporate the seed into their diet.
Subsequent laboratory testing and human dietary trials on the species grown in Niger have shown that the seed is highly nutritious and safe to eat. Wattle seeds are now a valuable part of the diet of people in that area providing much needed insurance against the recurring threat of famine. http://www.hawkesbury.uws.edu.au/~listerp/wattle.htm)
Wattle seed use in the bush tucker industry
Wattle seed is in high demand for use as a ground product in pastries and breads and also as a flavouring in desserts, especially ice-cream. It is also used to produce a high quality coffee-like beverage. Wattle seed is one bushfood product collected almost exclusively by Aboriginal people from wild populations throughout its natural range. Wattle seed is not yet grown on a commercial scale and the demand far exceeds the supply. Despite this, small quantities of wattle seed are exported to the US, Canada, UK, France, Japan and SE Asia. (http://www.hawkesbury.uws.edu.au/~listerp/wattle.htm)
Mulga: (A. aneura)
The most important edible species, by far, would have to be is Mulga A. aneura. Mulga is the most common tree found in outback Australia. Its seed, gum, honeydew (a sweet liquid which oozes from shiny red lumps caused by the mulga lerp) and apples (sweet edible galls produced by wasp larva) were all important foods for the Aborigines and the wood, which is very strong, was used for tools. "Desert botanist Peter Latz estimates that mulga yields at least a hundred kilograms of seed per hectare. By this reckoning the mulga in the Northern Territory could feed a quarter of a million people."(Low, 1991)
The mulga is a large shrub with greyish foliage, upright branches and cylindrical yellow flowers. The oblong flattened seed pods are 1.5-7cm long and 0.4-1.5cm wide and the seeds themselves are about 5mm long and shiny, black in colour. Mulga tends to grow on red soils in dense, pure stands.
Nutritional Value of Acacia Seeds
Acacia seeds are extremely nutritious, containing several times the protein of wheat. Acacia The fat content is higher than most legumes with the aril providing the bulk of fatty acids present. The mean total carbohydrate content of 55.8 + 13.7% is lower than that of lentils, but higher than that of soybeans while the mean fibre content of 32.3 + 14.3% is higher than that of other legumes such as lentils with a level of 11.7%. The energy content is high in all species tested, averaging 1480+270 kJ per 100g. Wattle seeds are low glycaemic index foods. The starch is digested and absorbed very slowly, producing a small, but sustained rise in blood glucose and so delaying the onset of exhaustion in prolonged exercise (Brand and Maggiore 1992, in http://www.hawkesbury.uws.edu.au/~listerp/wattle.htm
Table 1: Nutritional analysis of two acacias
Wattle* = Acacia dictyophleba Source: (Low, 89)
Wattle seed recipes
Note that because many acacias are not suitable for food, care needs to be taken in the choice of species when harvesting seed for food. Many coastal and some arid species contain toxic compounds.
Skinned & Boned Flat Head Fillet in Paperbark
2 x 200g skinned & boned flat head fillet
1 tbspn of akudjura (ground bush tomato)
1 tbspn of wattle seed
2 tsp of ground mountain pepper
Wattle Seed ice-cream
Prep. time 5 minutes
2-4 litres of good quality vanilla ice-cream
5g of premium wattle seed
Cribb, A. B. & J. W., 1974. Wild Food in Australia. Book Club Associates, Sydney.
Low, P., 1989. Bush Tucker: Australia's wild food harvest. Angus & Robertson, Sydney
Low, P., 1991. Wild Food Plants of Australia. Angus & Robertson, Sydney.
Copyright 1998 The Australian National University
Author: Michelle Corcoran.