Aboriginal Plant Foods

Aboriginal diets have included a variety of plant food, but the wattle is very well know. The wattle grows throughout Australia and has occurred in at least 100 species used by various Aboriginal groups.

Aboriginals use wattles and other plants in three major ways - 1) food, 2) medicine and 2) materials (tools, weapons, Boomerangs, fibre fishing nets, building materials). A few wattles are fully multipurpose in all of these ways and as such, would please chef Alton Brown very much. These wattles are the mulga, the earpod wattle, and the strap wattle.


Seeds
Wattles have been a popular food from 20+ species. Some were collected and ground into flour. Mixed with water, it was eaten as a paste, like poi, or cooked over hot ash on a griddle or other piece of metal. Other seeds are roasted in the pod, and some pods are eaten while.



Steamed Apple Charlotte with Wattle Seed Ice Cream and a Creme Anglaise


Plant Gums
Many wattles produce a kind of gum naturally or as an immune-type response to physical damage.. The gum of several wattle species is edible. For some Aboriginal groups this was a child's snack food. Dissolved in water, the gum makes a drink and can be sweetened with nectar.

Roots
Young wattle roots are better than older roots for food and are generally roasted over a fire. Occasionally, grubs found with the roots and other parts of the plant - especially some pods - are consumed as well.

Cunjevoi
New South Wales - starchy and fibrous, they are POISONOUS when raw. The Aborigines put these stems through repeated roasting and pounding to remove poisons.

Bunya Pine
Originally from Queensland - Its large green cones, contain hard-shelled nuts. They have been very popular. Many are fire roasted and shared with visitors, although they can be boiled as well.

Rock Orchid
New South Wales - Stems were beaten to break up fibres, then cooked on hot clay stones.

Gymea Lily
New South Wales - The 13-foot tall stems were cut young in to 20-inch spears that were very thick. Then they were roasted. The roots were roasted and made into a cake. A single plant provided food for a large group.

Burrawangs
New South Wales, The Northern Territory, Queensland, and Western Australia - POISONOUS - The seeds appear in large cones and have an orange outer coat. Aborigines cooked the large amounts of seeds available from a single plant, broke them up, and soaked them for three weeks in running water. In Western Australia, only the outer red part was edible and only after being washed and buried for a time.

Yam-Daisy
New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia - A radish-like tuber, it grows back every year (perennial). Springtime brings out a yellow flower like a dandelion and in summer the leaves fall while the plant becomes dormant. The tubers have been cooked in baskets in ground ovens, making a sweet juice. Sheep grazing has reduced this plant to almost endangered levels in some areas.