Bush Foods

Historically, Aborigines were hunters and gatherers.
Bushfood varies depending on region, climate and season.
Native edible plants include berries, grass seed, plant roots, seeds and flowers from plants such as Acacia species and plant fruit.
When eating bush foods, care must be taken to identify the plant correctly to ensure the plant is indeed edible.
Acacia sophorae
Edible seeds
Syzygium leuhmanni
Edible fruits
Hicksbeachia pinnatifolia
Edible fruits

Flowers and fruits
These are the most interesting.Their function is to attract birds or animals as so their seeds or pollen is dispersed.

Flowers pollinated by birds (Grevilleas, Eucalypts, Melaleucas, Hakea, Lambertia and Waratah) produce the most nectar. The sour buds of the native Rosella (Hibiscus heterophyllus) have been used for jam.

Fruits beckon with dazzling colours and shiny shapes. They are designed to be eaten but not necessarily by humans! Fruits that are attractive to one species are not necessarily tasteful to others and may even be toxic.

Plants protect their seeds wih a hard coat beneath which there is always a supply of nutrition for the emerging plant embryo. Depending on the size of the seed, this may in turn provide nourishment for birds, humans and other mammals. Some of the smaller seeds are edible if ground after the coat has been removed. Most larger seeds which are more usually found in rainforest are nearly always poisonous. The best known edible seed is the Macadamia nut.

Plants draw their energy direct from sunshine, trapping it in their leaves using the green pigment known as 'chlorophyll'. As such leaves are much more vulnerable to plant-eaters than underground parts, woody trunks and hard seeds. There are, however, many ways in which a plant protects its leaves. Some leaves are tough and leathery, others contain toxic and distasteful chemicals and most edible types require cooking. Those that can be eaten raw are mostly produced by quick growing herbs.However, the leaves of Hibiscus make a good spinach subsititue in Greek dishes. Other plants, such as bulrushes, grasstrees and sedges have edible parts at the base of their long parallel veined leaves.

The big leafy fronds of palms, tree ferns and cycads emerge from a woody trunk within which is a
core of starch. This layer provides a very nutritious morsel and was greatly enjoyed by the early people.

Roots absorb water and minerals for the plant and many are used to store food for the plant when the top part dies back. As such there is a further source of food in roots. However, less than 5% of Australian plant species produce such 'tubers'.

It is important to realise that many of our indigenous plants are not edible and may even be poisonous. Careful identification is required before you try out a recipe that involves using bush food. A list of plants of which some parts are edible is provided here.

To view a table of Bush Tucker plants and their uses, click here.


Ceratopetalum gummiferum 'Alberys Red' - NSW Christmas Bush

H: 3-4m

W: 2m

Red bracts at Christmas make this a stand out in the garden. Water and feed well while establishing and prune after flowering to maintain a bushy habit. Mulch well for summer heat.