Bush food

Na­tive tucker on dis­play now

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Tom Zaun­mayr

The Pil­bara may seem a harsh land­scape where not much will grow, but scratch the sur­face and there is a world of tastes and trea­sures hidden in plain sight.

The North West Coastal High­way is a ma­jor route for thou­sands of cars, car­a­vans and trucks, but few think to stop and look around the road­side.

If these driv­ers knew what was out there, they would all be go­ing home with a boot full of fresh food picked straight from the ground — free, healthy, abundant and en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able food.

To most of us, it is known as bush tucker and we may think it only grows in spe­cial places, which for some foods is true, but a lot of the food eaten by tra­di­tional own­ers for thou­sands of years is widely avail­able across the land­scape.

Ngur­rangga Tours owner Clin­ton Walker said the Pil­bara winter was the per­fect time to start head­ing out and look­ing for na­tive foods.

“My peo­ple have been liv­ing here for 50,000 years, so we had to eat some­thing,” he said. “A lot of the fruits and berries and stuff will come out in the cooler months be­cause ... our cooler months are like (the south­ern) spring.

“From a cli­mate point of view, it’s the per­fect weather for grow­ing foods.”

One such food found in abun­dance on a re­cent trip was the bush onion.

To the un­trained eye, these are no more than a mun­dane sin­gle sprout of grass grow­ing on the plains.

Just be­low the sur­face, how­ever, is the prize, and they are sprout­ing up ev­ery­where across the re­cently in­un­dated land­scape at the mo­ment.

Bush co­conuts, ca­per­bush, bush tomato and salt­bush are all read­ily avail­able now, as is the seafood — cock­les, crabs, oys­ters and fish.

One of the more sur­pris­ing foods, and a sta­ple of life for many of the 50,000 years of indige­nous habi­ta­tion in Aus­tralia, is spinifex.

From the seed, which can be found at this time of year, a flour can be made to pro­duce damper, putting indige­nous Aus­tralians among the first bread-mak­ers in the world. Bush tucker has long been viewed as sec­ond-rate by many in Aus­tralia, but chefs are slowly start­ing to re­alise the po­ten­tial of what has been grow­ing un­der our noses since first set­tle­ment.

One such chef is Fer­vor founder Paul Iskov, who said it was com­mon sense for us to start us­ing our lo­cal foods more.

“It would mean we’d have an Aus­tralian cui­sine al­most,” he said.

“If one day peo­ple come here and we’re eat­ing kan­ga­roo, quan­dongs, wat­tle­seed, dif­fer­ent berries ... it sort of rep­re­sents Aus­tralia. “I def­i­nitely see that hap­pen­ing. “I see us eat­ing kan­ga­roo in­stead of beef as a great thing. It is su­per healthy for us and there is no im­pact on the land.”

Mr Iskov said eat­ing bush tucker had sub­stan­tial health and en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits and im­proved our con­nec­tion to coun­try.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

Clin­ton Walker lights a fire un­der­neath an oys­ter stack to pick the oys­ters off.

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