Mark Tucek from Tucker Bush™, which specialises in edible Australian native plants, shares some insider tips about growing bush foods at home. Their popularity has soared in recent years, so it's time to join the bush tucker movement and add some tasty local ingredients to your meals.
Midyim berries (Austromyrtus dulcis) - considered among the most delicious of all the bush tucker plants, this evergreen shrub bears small, white purple-speckled berries over late summer and early autumn. The berries are sweet and tangy, with a complex flavour, and can be enjoyed in desserts or preserves. Theplant c an grow up to 2 m tall, but can be trimmed back after fruiting, or grown in a pot, to keep it more compact. It makes a wonderful edible hedge.
Native thyme (Prostanthera incisa) - a type of native mint, it's highly aromatic, rich in essential oils and has a hint of pepper and earthy tones. Perfect for flavouring meat dishes, it does best in a full sun position with well-drained soil. It's a fast-growing, evergreen shrub, growing up to 2 m tall, with pretty purple flowers in spring. For maximum mintiness, harvest leaves just before you need them.
Sea parsley (Apium prostratum var. prostratum) - a close relative of European parsley, it carries hints of the ocean in its unique flavour. It can be used as a herb or vegetable to add a peppery zing to soups, salads and meat dishes. Growing happily in either full sun or part shade, it's important to keep the soil moist as dry conditions can lead to it bolting to seed. The leaves start out light green, darkening as they mature, and you can pick individual outer stems as you need them or harvest the entire plant.
Tucker Bush Cherry - lilly pillies (Syzygium australe) are popular evergreen shrubs that are not used enough for their edible fruit. Appearing during autumn, the prolific bright pink berries have an apple-like texture with a mild astringent sweetness. They can be enjoyed fresh or used in jams, jellies, muffins, pickles and wine. The 'Tucker Bush Cherry' is a psyllid-resistant variety of lilly pilly, its leaves starting out bronze and turning a deep green as they mature. Its full height is 4m, however can be trimmed to a 1 m tall edible hedge. Pruning regularly will help encourage new growth and maintain a bushier appearance. Although lilly pillies are rainforest plants, they will tolerate drier conditions once established.
Other bush foods to try in the Tucker Bush range:
Fruit and nuts - finger limes, which are prized for their citrusy caviar-like pulp, warmth loving wild currants, anti-oxidant rich Davidson plums, delectable white native mulberries, juicy grape-like Illawarra plums, tropical Atherton raspberries, attractive Burdekin plums, spicy apple flavoured muntries, tangy small-leaved tamarinds and world famous macadamias.
Vegetables, herbs and spices - shade-loving red back ginger, lemon myrtle, with its intense citrus fragrance and flavour, spicy mountain pepper, refreshing round baby pigface, spinach-like Warrigal greens and moisture-loving river mint.
To promote lots of healthy growth and a lots of tasty bush tucker, feed your bush food plants every spring and autumn with Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver Plant Fertiliser. It's an organic rich plant food that's safe for Australian native plants
Recipe inspiration - If 'pan fried pink snapper with native lemongrass reduction, vegetable puree, sauteed sea parsley and warrrigal greens' sounds delicious, visit tuckerbush.com.au/recipes/ for this and other recipes.
For more information on Tucker Bush plants, visit www.tuckerbush.com.au.