Bush tucker plants are the new vogue in Australian cuisine — a few species have even skyrocketed to worldwide fame. There are possibly thousands of edible plants in Australia and each state and climate zone has its own endemic species.
Here are some of the more popular and accessible of our indigenous edibles and how to grow them in your home garden.
Lemon Scented Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora)
Lemon-scented myrtle (featured above) is one of the most valuable, versatile and loved bush tucker plants in Australia. A native to South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales dry rainforest edges, the lemon myrtle will grow happily and easily in full sun or part shade.
During summer, this large shrub or small tree is adorned with fluffy, cream-coloured flowers. The leaves are the world’s most concentrated, naturally occurring source of citral (a lemon fragrance found in lemongrass and other lemon-scented plants), which gives them their irresistibly delicious, lemony fragrance. Lemon myrtle leaves can be used either fresh or dried in teas, cakes, biscuits, desserts, sauces, savoury dishes, fish dishes and dressings.
Growing to around 6m in full sun and 15m in the rainforest, this attractive tree can be easily grown in a large pot. In cool climates, its growth tends to remain compact. Protect it from frosts.
The lemon myrtle has a couple of close relatives that are also widely sought after for their aromatic and culinary uses; aniseed myrtle (Syzygium anisatum), for its aniseed flavoured foliage and cinnamon myrtle (Backhousia myrtifolia), for its sweet, spicy scented foliage. The leaves of any of these plants can be used fresh or dried. When using them dried, grind them up with a mortar and pestle. This way they can be added to recipes without having to be strained off later. If using them fresh, the foliage releases flavour more readily if infused in hot water first. Lemon myrtle leaves can be picked straight off the bush and put in a cup of boiling water for a refreshing tea. Add a sliced lemon or a teaspoon of honey.
Roseleaf raspberry (Rubus rosiflorus)
There are several species of native raspberries and some are tastier than others. Also known as the Atherton raspberry, I should point out that Rubus rosiflorus should not be expected to carry the same intense flavour of European raspberries. None the less, the roseleaf raspberry is edible and sweet. I have found it is best for making jams. It is a favourite amongst children, especially when fully ripe. Chickens are also partial to the odd raspberry or two.
The Roseleaf raspberry is a suckering shrub up to 1.5m tall. If undisturbed, it will only sucker in its direct location. If the roots are disturbed or dug up anywhere nearby, you may find unwanted plants popping up from root suckers. If this is a concern to you, it will happily grow and fruit in a large tub. Give it full sun to part shade. Native to Australia’s east coast, Rubus rosiflorus has beautiful, delicate white flowers several times per year; the bright red fruit then follows. Other native raspberries of interest are Rubus moorei, Rubus fraxinifolius and Rubus moluccanus.
The seeds of our native floral emblem (the Wattle) can be used in cooking. The flowers can also be added to a pikelet or pancake mixture for a delightful, ‘Australian’ twist.Part 2: Growing Aussie Bush Tucker How to Grow Lemons in Pots RECIPE: Lemon Myrtle Barramundi
A qualified horticulturalist for 20 years, I have and still do work in multiple areas within the industry. The famous Perrott’s Nursery, based in Brisbane was my first horticultural job, from here I then moved into teaching horticulture at Tafe. Over the past few years I have also enjoyed conducting Sustainability Workshops for various BCC libraries and have also started to make public appearances at various garden shows and plant fairs. My other passion in horticulture is writing. I write for various publications: Subtropical gardening magazine, About the Garden, The Local Bulletin (Brisbane west) and Earth Garden special publications such as Backyard Farmer and Chook Wisdom. Follow me on Facebook www.facebook.com/clairebicklegardeningpages.