Hayden on bush foods


The material below comprises summarised versions of some of the plant descriptions from the Melbourne Bushfood website. Melbourne Bushfood, of which Hayden Marks is the founder, sells a wide range of bush foods (both the foods themselves and the plants) which you can buy either online or at their shop at 49 Sparks Avenue, Fairfield, Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-4pm.

Finger lime (Citrus australasica)

The innards of the finger-shaped finger lime fruit physically resemble caviar and taste not dissimilar to grapefruit or lime (i.e. sour citrus). You can use in sorbets, desserts or any other dish were citrus is needed. The fruit can also be either frozen or dehydrated.

There are lots of varieties, each with a different taste. The green varieties are more acidic and eucalypty, similar to limes, the red varieties are typically lighter in flavour with hints of grapefruit, and the yellow ones are more lemony.

The plant is a small tree growing up to 3 metres tall. Plant in full sun and use citrus fertiliser (rather than native fertiliser). You can also grow it in pots.

Harvest the fruit when mature. Mature finger limes are typically about 5-7cms long and 2cms in diameter. They should be plump, rounded and slightly soft.

Geraldton wax (Chamelaucium uncinatum)

This herb has zesty and uplifting leaves that are used as a garnish to bring a lemony flavour to your dish. Alternatively, blend the leaves with some oil and a pinch of salt to create a green salsa-verde paste. The flowers, whilst not super palatable, are edible in small quantities and can be used to decorate desserts and dishes.

The plant typically grows to around 1 metre high and requires full sun to part shade. It can be grown in the ground or in pots. It is relatively hardly and fairly easy to grow in the Melbourne climate. Endemic to Western Australia, it is adapted to dry lands, so water sparingly and ensure the soil at the base is dry before giving it another drink. The colourful flowers are great for attracting bees to the garden.

Different varieties of Geraldton wax taste different so, before you buy a seedling to plant in your garden, eat one of the leaves to make sure that you like the taste of that particular plant.

Midyim berry (Austromyrtus dulcis)

The midyim berry has numerous, small, sweet berries which are best eat raw. They are one of the tastiest native fruits, with a touch of eucalypt and spice. The berries appear in late autumn.

The plant grows to around 50cm in both height and width. Grow in full sun (or part-shade with less fruiting). Suitable for growing in pots.

One plant can yield over 1kg of berries with correct care, with correct watering, fertilising and pruning key to a large bounty. They are generally drought tolerant but can experience problems with overwatering so water only when the soil becomes dry, and make sure the soil is well-draining. Fertilise with a native fertiliser immediately after harvesting and regularly spray with a seaweed solution. Trim lightly after harvesting to keep the plant bushy and well maintained.

Native thyme (Prostanthera incisa)

A part of the mint family, native thyme holds a deeper flavour than found in other mints, with earthy notes and a slight pepperiness.

To harvest, just pluck fresh leaves off the growing plant or cut off whole stalks. Both leaf and stem may be used – fresh, or chopped and dried for later use. Just remember that the flavour will fade over time after harvesting.

The plant is an evergreen shrub which grows to around 2 metres tall and wide. Alternatively known as cut-leaf mint-bush, it flowers in early spring, with small, bright pink/purple flowers, similar to other mint-bushes. It is fast growing, with annual pruning encouraging new growth. It also grows well in pots, playing a similar role to a rosemary shrub.

Here is a recipe for wattleseed and thyme damper.

Old man’s saltbush (Atriplex nummularia)

The leaves have a rich salty flavour but with low bitterness. Fresh, they can be mixed into a salad or stir fry. Dried, they are an earthy substitute to regular salt and can be used as a seasoning on slow cooked meats, stews, curries and soups or added on to roasted vegetables to give a herby flavour. Traditionally, the dried leaves have been used as a flavouring in bread and sourdough.

Simply pluck off leaves as needed. Make sure to wash before using.

The plant is a hardy shrub with pale-green leaves that can grow to around 2 metres tall and wide. It has a tendency to shoot straight up (like bamboo) and thus benefits from regular pruning. It can be grown in any type of soil and is drought tolerant. It is suitable for growing in pots.

Tasmanian pepperberry or mountain pepper (Tasmannia lanceolata)

Both the leaves and the berries have a strong peppery taste and can be used as a replacement for regular black pepper. As such, when dried they are used as a spice and pair well with curries, cheese, salad dressings and sauces, giving them a spicy flavour. The berries were also used traditionally as medicine to cure skin diseases.

The plant is dioecious (separate male and female plants) so you will need both male and female plants to obtain harvest berries.

The plant is an evergreen shrub which grows up to 3 metres tall. It has yellow/creamy white flowers that turn into red berries that then darken as they ripen. It grows best in part shade and is also suitable for growing in pots.

Melbourne Bushfood sell a variety of pepperberry products including pepperleaf spice, pepperberry spice, pepperberry syrup and pepperberry & strawberry jam.

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