They found their way into the hands of chefs and onto the menus of Australian restaurants many years ago, and now edible bush plants are becoming more and more available at our local nurseries.
If you’ve never considered growing native edibles in your home garden, perhaps you might reconsider. Aside from their great culinary potential, many of the plants are highly ornamental, hardy, and as it turns out, very nutritious.
Here are our top five picks to get you started:
Any kind of lime tree makes a superb addition to an urban garden, but desert lime also has the benefit of being native to Australia. Its grape-sized fruit have an intense citrus flavour and can be used whole, skin and all, instead of normal limes in just about any recipe: marmalade, chutney, dipping sauce, cordial, and yes, as beer garnish. Desert limes freeze well without losing flavour and studies show that they’re exceptionally high in vitamin C.
This could easily be the most versatile of native plants. Lemon myrtle a cosmetic ingredient, a spice, and also a popular ornamental. It’s an attractive flowering shrub that’s very hardy and will grow well in most gardens. The leaves have a nice lemony flavour and can be used fresh or dried in tea, flavoured oils, dressings, spice mixes, stir-fries and even ice-cream. Lemon myrtle makes a great substitute for lemongrass in Asian dishes.
The native peach, quandong, has a slightly tart and peachy flavour. Its bright-red fruit are much smaller than the peaches we know, but they make up for their modest size with a rich content of vitamin C. If you don’t manage to eat all the fruit or turn them into jam, relish or sauce, you can freeze or dry them and enjoy later with full flavour. Like most fruit trees, it’ll take a few years for a quandong tree to begin bearing fruit.
Also known as blue berry ginger, this native perennial herb makes an interesting decorative plant and will easily grow indoors. It has large, glossy leaves and tubular white flowers that are followed by bright blue berries. Most parts of the plant can be eaten, including the berries, leaves, stem tips and young roots. Grilling some meat wrapped in native ginger leaves will give it a mild gingery flavour.
The macadamia nut needs no introduction, except maybe to say that this highly prized nut is native to Australia. Its decorative appeal alone warrants a spot in the home garden – when covered in white or pink blossoms, the tree makes a spectacular landscape feature and its dense foliage provides plenty of shade.
You’ll find a good selection of native edible plants at these nurseries:
155 Watsonia Road, Maida Vale
Wandilla Plant Nurseries
811 Welshpool Road East, Wattle Grove