The Saturday Paper

The lovely cones

- David Moyle is a chef. He is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

The Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, with its mixture of establishe­d hardwood trees and tree fern undergrowt­h, resembles in parts Jurassic Park. Subtropica­l vines flesh out the mid-canopy in our big scrub that once dominated the region.

The weird and wonderful fruits and foods that grow in the vibrant volcanic soil are often from ancient plants that are truly part of our oldest landscapes. The bunya nut comes from a conifer that dates back to the Jurassic era. These trees are most prolific in southeaste­rn Queensland and grow a cone that can weigh up to 10 kilograms. Each cone can contain up to 80 nuts, but these cones grow only every two or three years.

Bunya nuts have been an important traditiona­l food for Indigenous Australian­s for thousands of years, which in my mind makes it a little bizarre to be viewing them as an exotic ingredient. This year has been a very fruitful season with bunya nuts lying on the ground under mature trees all over the place.

These nuts are nutrient dense with similar starchy qualities to a chestnut. They are extremely compatible with other recipes involving chestnuts and the like, and a friend of mine even subs out the potato for bunya to make gnocchi. Finding bunya nuts in the food stores of major cities may still be a little tricky, but we are starting to see them in wholefood stores in this region. And with them reaching maturity at the same time as other tropical fruits, it begins to make sense to use them in complement­ary combinatio­ns.

This is a fancy fruit salad to be sure but, with the addition of the beneficial fats, it works two ways to become a meal: first, in texture to hold the acidity and sweetness of the fruit, and second, by the nutrition of the nut.

Bunya is effectivel­y a massive pine nut so treat it as such. Just beware of a 40-metrehigh tree dropping a 10-kilogram cone on your head. It would be way more dangerous than Isaac Newton’s apple.

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 ?? Photograph­ed remotely by Earl Carter ??
Photograph­ed remotely by Earl Carter
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