With the current interest in growing all things edible I want to share with you my favourite, easy to grow edible Australian bush tucker plants. I have grown all of these for a number of years and have eaten them all with no ill effects. However, I would caution that not everyone reacts the same way to different foods. With the current rise in allergies to common foods such as peanuts it is important to ensure that you do not have any bad reactions to any of the plants listed in this article. I have never heard of any issues with any of these plants but there is always a first time for everything!
1. Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora)
Not only is this plant one of the best bush foods, it is also a beautiful ornamental with its glossy green aromatic leaves and fluffy white flower heads. Whilst it is capable of growing into a small to medium sized tree, it can be kept as a shrub through regular pruning of the growing tips.
This also serves to harvest the plant for its culinary uses for flavouring all sorts of dishes. Plant in a sunny spot with well drained soil and feed regularly during the warmer months to give yourself plenty of shoot tips for harvest. The lemon scented oils in the leaves are the thing that provides the flavour.
2. Midyim or Midgen Berry (Austromyrtus dulcis)
This versatile small shrub is one of the best bush tucker plants of all, featuring small but sweet-tasting berries that are borne in profusion in late summer and early autumn. It makes an attractive border, rockery or pot plant and can even be trimmed into a low growing hedge.
It flowers in early summer and should be kept well-fed and mulched after that to ensure a good harvest of berries. Give it a light trim after harvest and you will be well rewarded the following season.
The macadamia is a small to large tree that bears decorative trusses of cream flowers, followed by edible, nutritious nuts. It naturally occurs in Queensland, but has spread to other parts of the world where it is grown for the nuts.
It is a hardy and easy care tree best suited to sub-tropical to warm temperate climates, preferring moist, fertile soils, with good drainage. Macadamias can be trimmed to keep them to a suitable height. Macadamias can be susceptible to phytophthora. And be careful – macadamia nuts can give allergic reactions.
4. Davidson’s Plum (Davidsonia pruriens)
Davidson’s plum is a small to medium sized rainforest tree from North Queensland. It bears edible, sour, dark burgundy fruit that grow in clusters along the stem. It has large compound leaves, and the new growth is red. The fruit can be made into jams and jellies, used in sauces, and is high in antioxidants.
Davidson’s plum can be grown in shaded positions as well as full sun, and can also be used as an indoor plant when young. It is tall and slender, so can fit into narrow places. It prefers moist and fertile soils, but is tolerant of poorer soils. It is troubled by few pests and diseases.
The fruit drops from the tree when ripe. It has a rich, tangy taste, and an intense colour.
5. Aniseed Myrtle (Backhousia anisata)
A small to medium tree that features mid-green foliage with an attractive wavy edge and a wonderful aroma of aniseed when crushed. The foliage can be used to make a refreshing tea and I have also used it personally to add an aniseed flavour to salads and stir fries. It makes a good feature or shade tree but can also be kept low in a pot through regular tip pruning. Prune it back by 20 to 30% after flowering if you wish to keep it compact.
[Click here for a recipe for Thai pork meatballs using lemon myrtle]