Edible Natives

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With pandemic-driven food insecurities running high, and La Nina threatening to darken another summer it is only natural for gardeners to be feeling pessimistic.

With the release of Greener Spaces Better Places 2022, Spring Plant & Gardening Trend Report hope can be found. The report details how to maintain your garden through weather uncertainty and the top tips for creating a bio-diverse garden that aids (even just a little) with the worries of climate change.

We spoke to Greener Spaces Better Places Spokesperson and First Nations Community Greening Officer at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Brenden Moore, about all of these climate concerns and food insecurities.

“The native finger lime [citrus australasica] tastes amazing. When you push out the fruit, it looks like caviar, almost exotic. These kinds of fruit trees have been in Australia and enjoyed by Aboriginal people for thousands of years, and now they’re starting to land on more plates. To grow them in Australia requires little maintenance because they’re used to living in our soils and thriving under the conditions mother nature set for our native plants – they thrive both in the ground and in large pots.” – Quote from Brenden in the Greener Spaces Better Places 2022 Trend Report.

for a successful biodiverse garden you need to plant ‘endemics’

The garden has become a hub for encouraging lively habitats, with a huge resurgence towards saving the birds and the bees – and it’s not stopping anytime soon. A great way to encourage lively habitats within the garden is by planting a diverse range of plants and flowers. One major factor our expert points out is that for a successful biodiverse garden you need to plant ‘endemics’. Endemic plants are natives traditionally found in your local area. But with Australia’s climate being diverse across the continent, an Aussie native is not necessarily native to your specific area.

These are Brenden’s top recommendations for edible Natives that even the everyday gardener can tackle.

Lemon Myrtle

One of if not the most popular of the native herbs, Lemon Myrtle has long been used in Aboriginal cuisine and medicine and is perfectly suited to the warm climate that Australia provides.. The tangy, refreshing leaves are often used in teas, syrups, glazes, cakes, biscuits, dressings, sauces, ice creams, dips and meat dishes. Harvesting is super simple, just pluck single leaves as needed removing no more than one-third of the plant at a time.

This rainforest native is well suited to warm, sunny areas. It is not well suited for cold, frosty or windy areas. Grow it in well-drained soil, but keep it well-watered throughout the year, it is well-suited to pots.

Finger Lime

This native citrus is well known for its unique caviar-like pulp and attractive colour, which can vary between yellow, green, pale pink and crimson. Finger Lime is great in summer drinks and desserts, and may also be used in chutneys, jams and marmalades.

Finger Lime fruit doesn’t ripen well off the tree, so only pick fully ripe fruit. This plant thrives in sunlight or partial shade as it too is a rainforest native. Plant in well-draining soil. Finger lime can grow up to 8m in height but can be kept smaller with regular pruning.

Bush Mint

This species is more delicate and smaller than other mints and is native to most states within Australia. It can be used in salad, tea, sorbet and many other edible delights. Other traditional uses include relief for cold & flu symptoms, insect repellent, and a fragrant ingredient in homemade scrubs and lotions.

This plant is suited to a variety of different temperatures, other than frost, and is recommended to be harvested in the cooler months. It’s a very adaptable plant but does best in shady, boggy areas or pots. It’s easy to keep, offers large quantities of mint and makes a wonderful addition to any herb garden or a kitchen windowsill.

Davidson plum (AKA the Mullumbimby Plum)

This sour plant, while considered endangered in the wild, is a fan favourite of domestic and commercial gardeners. With individual trees producing large quantities of plums between the months of November and February this is bound to be a crowd favourite at all the family holidays. Their refreshing tartness works well in both sweet and savoury products, such as jams, jellies, cordials, wines and meat sauces.

A mature plant is suited to full sun or partial shade and does best in moist, fertile soil rich in organic matter. Water well during the flowering and fruiting season.

Now, where to get these plants?

Brenden recommends Indigigrow which is a local Indigenous nursery, located in Sydney. He emphasises the importance of giving back to the Indigenous community when purchasing native plants. If you aren’t Sydney local, most smaller local plant nurseries will have all the tools you need to start growing your very own bush tucker.

 


Go to https://home.greenerspacesbetterplaces.com.au to discover how you can make your own space greener.

Sydney NSW https://www.indigigrow.com.au

Melbourne VIC https://www.greeningaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/indigenous-plant-nurseries-greater-melbourne-21.pdf

In Perth WA you can go to https://tucker-bush.square.site/s/shop to find bush tucker plants and seedlings

In Queensland you can find bush tucker plants at Witjuti Grub Bushfood Nursery https://witjutigrub.com.au

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