Wild food walk and talk

Wild food walk and talk (in a window of non-wild weather)

Busher tucker tiles 1Continuing on with the theme of wild food GULP hosted a wild food walk at Casaurina Coastal reserve with a focus on native plants. We worked to get Larrrakia guide and representative to lead the walk and talk, but in the end this was not possible as the head of Larrakia rangers, but we received their blessing and had a message to pass on from them.

The Larrakia people are the traditional caretakers of the land and always will be, they are saltwater people, making Lee Point and its creeks a very special place, particularly for food. A diet of seafood was suplimented with fruits and roots from the bush as well as eating some land animals. The plants tell a story of the time of year and reflect a story that everything is interconnected and in cycle.

As Darwin was taken over by “settlers” and as with pretty much everywhere else land stolen and developed, the Larrakia had a very difficult time continuing the same interaction with land and food. There are some very sacred places within the Casaurina beach area and many indigenous people from all over come to Darwin and still enjoy the bush tucker available. Some other introduced plants can also be found wild and can be eaten (such as Rosella)

Passing on the story of how our native landscapes hold valuable and amazing plants (and animals) will help keep these placed protected and respected, rather than seen as “unused scrubland” – a term often used for our wonderful bush.

Display table 2

This is a popular topic with over 50 people joining us for the walk and talk despite the wild weather warnings- luckily for us we happened to host this in a pocket of lightening skies.

The wild food guides included Yvette Brady, from Greening Australia, a very knowledgeable native horticulturalist and indigenous trainer; Rod Baker who works on a Bush Tucker program in a homeland in Arnhemland, Emma Lupin, GULP coordinator and native plant and wildlife specialist and Grusha Lehman- a knowledgeable community cook and lover of the Bush from our GULP and Food care projects who has spent many years foraging.

many walk

A display table was set up with a huge array of mainly fruits that are to be found in our native landscapes at this time of year.

After an intro talk on the many species in season and different places they are found and how to eat them, we took everyone in 4 guided groups to look at wild food plants insitu within the park.

rod toursEmma tours

Shortly we will add the details of all the plants covered in our walk and talks..

Ampelosiscus dec16

Fluggea

Syzygium armstrongii

We hope to host more wild food walks in future and Larrakia can join us to tell their story in person..

Botanical Alchemy from Darwin backyard plants

Plants are amazingly diverse and used by humans in so many ways, not forgetting their intrinsic connection to all other beings.  Here in the Top End we have an abundance of incredible native plants in our landscape and the ability to grow a huge array of Tropical plants for amenity, aesthetic value, happiness, food or in this case dyes.

square colours landscape.jpg

We have had a bit of a focus on wild food with GULP with a recent twist on dyeing.

Aly de Groot is a local fibre artist inspired by the NT flora and fauna. She has lived and worked in the Top End with local plants as fibres and dyes for many years, often working with indigenous communities on ghost net projects and recycled arts. Using the inspiration of traditional techniques to create a whole other realm of fibre art.

Aly models

When Aly offered to facilitate a workshop for GULP using back yard plant dies before she leaves to Queensland (hopefully not forever) we snapped up the fantastic opportunity for her to share her skills.

The workshop was open to anyone interested, but we limited the numbers so it was not too crammed. An enthusiastic group of wonderful Darwin residents came together on Summer solstice with local food dishes to share, ideas of dye plants and some great enthusiasm. The idea was that Aly guided the morning session and shared her dyeing techniques and after a shared lunch anyone wishing to carried on with experiments of collected plants that we thought might make good dye.

In the morning we went for a little wander in Rapid Creek (the suburb and to the creek edge) to collect some plant material. The rule when collecting is to only take a little from each plants, particularly if it is flowers or fruit, so the plant can still reproduce. We were just looking for Eucalypts or Melaleuca trees with low lying leaves; which are very common and the Weeping Teas Tree (Leptospernum maddium) is very common as a nature strip tree, but usually found along creek edges.

 

Walk tree sepia

There are many native plants that you can dye with, but we don’t want to encourage everyone to go ripping up Mangroves or native shrubs from the bush, so we have stuck to those easily grown in gardens or replenished.

The Eucalyptus leaves make up a dye bath for the base of dyeing. This can be any plant that is plentiful and will make the base of the colour. Late on we also used green tea. Eucalyptus or Melaleuca leaves make a grey, brown colour and green tea more of a yellowy green colour.

The next step is to choose the dye plants or objects that will make the pattern.

dyeingplants

We tried garden turmeric root, Ceylon Spinach berries, Amaranth flowers,

A board of dye plants

Kaffir lime leaves, turmeric (again), Stinky Cheese Fruit root (Monrinda citrifolia)- a common naturalised Top End plant that pops up in gardens and Weeping Tea Tree Leaves.

tumeric rosella

Frozen rosella calyx, like those you would make jam with, were also trialled.

dyeing plants

Then different dye plants and rusty treasures are laid onto the silk fabric…

Wrap all

Rusty nails and old items make great dark patterns, dry tea is added to make orange patches, some onion peel and Okinaoa spinach thrown in for measure and experimental purposes, each placed to add not only colour but pattern through texture.

green plants

Once an agreeable amount of plants are placed inside the material is tightly wrapped up.

 

Roll colour

 

 

The parcels of botanical goodness are wrapped really tightly, with plastic string and other rusty wire adornments and then boiled in the base dye bath.

boil boil

After boiling them for an hour or more, they are pulled out and like Christmas presents, the surprises inside revealed.

UNravelling

The fabric is then rinsed off and ironed. Silk is used as it takes on colours more readily and does not need as many mordents as cotton. Traditionally in the NT strips or strings of plant fibres are dyed then woven; usually Pandanus or Sand Palm.

tumeric result

Noni (Stinky Cheese Fruit) root, turmeric root,  dried tea leaves , rosella and kaffir lime leaves were very effective. The scarves were a fantastic outcome and grew our love of local plants even more.

More plant dye experiments and workshops are planned by the GULP team…

Dye outcome

Group shot

Thanks Aly for your inspiration, thanks City of Darwin for supporting GULP and thanks all participants for the great food and dyeing ideas…

Words and photos by EM Lupin

Celebrate Wet Season Gardening at Lakeside Drive

There are some wonderful community gardens around Darwin where you can meet knowledgeable people who grow veggies during the whole year and value community.

This Sunday Lakeside Drive Community Garden is hosting an Open Garden to celebrate our change in seasons and the great work carried out there by Work for the Dole.

Anyone is invited to come along and check out the garden, meet members, work for the dole participants and express their interest in joining.

Some cultural poles have been placed in the garden by the City of Darwin Council and there will be an opening ceremony too.

There are some plots that will be made available to the community and if you are interested you can register.and find out more about how to get involved.

There will be garden tours, a quick snapshot of what to grow in the wet season and some local garden tea making demos by the GULP project.

So please come along

2015 LDCG OPEN GARDEN

Top Ten Top End Native Edible Plants

So to tie in with the theme of Top End Native Plants that we have been running workshops about, here is a list of the Top 10 Bush Tucker Plants (published by Emma of Taste of The Top End -www.tasteofthetopend.com)

 

 

There are many edible native fruits and flowers that have some form of nutrition and won’t kill you, but a lot taste pretty bad. There are some amazing ones, loved by native animals including birds, mammals and humans. I have given the list in order of (my) preference, but you can get into the bush and try for yourselves!

PS. All the photos are taken by me in either the Darwin region or Arnhem land, except for the one of me (taken by my partner) and indigenous words are taken from CSIRO / TRACKS calendars and Plants of the Tiwi / Jawoyn Plants books.

1) Green plum  (Buchanania Obovata)- Anarcardaceae

 This fruit could be argued to be one of the tastiest bush fruits that we have in the top end. It is a medium tree with smaller rounder fruit than the Kakadu plum (Terminalia) but also found in the woodland. Its leaves are large round and obovate, but variable- they are thinner over in Eastern Arnhem Land and fatter nearer Darwin.

The fruit ripen around October and are ready through until December, they have a really distinct taste and are in the Mango family. It is known as Yankumwani in Tiwi, Elu in Malak malak, Kerewey in Matngala, Munydjutj in Yolngu. The Yongul often use a stone to crush the fruit into a paste to feed to older and younger people with less teeth. Last year we took the GULP project to look into the potential of this great fruit on a homeland in East Arnhem Land.

Mundtj in hands

Mundtj on tree

2) Kakadu Plum (Terminalia ferndinanadiana) – Combertaceae

This is also known as Kakadu plum or Gubinge or Billy Goat plum and various indigenous names inlcuding Nghul Nghul, Murunga, Marnybi and Manmohpan. The fruits of this tree reportedly are the highest natural source of vitamin C. The fruits are often made into powder and sold for large amounts at health food stores! We are lucky enough that right now this common tree is fruiting in our back yard. It is a slender tree (up to 25m) found in savanna woodland, our most common landscape type across Northern Australia.

The fruit are found on the trees at the beginning of our dry season (April- May) and are small, about 1 cm long, oval with narrower ends and light green in colour. The fruit are quite sour and ready when they are soft to touch.

The fruit can be added to smoothies, made into jam or relish and sauce or pickles, the skin is a little astringent.  There are a wonderful indicator of seasonal change!

While out bush doing work I have found quite a few fruit, just about to be ripe. I have also planted a tree on my “Native nature strip” but it is not yet mature enough to fruit. If you would like to plant one, you can either grow a tree from seed or buy them at a native plant nursery.

plums in hand 2

Terminalia on tree

3) Red bush apple (Syzygium suborbiculare)- Myrtaceae

This beautiful fruit is found in the bush in the build up season, Syzygium suborbiculare or Red Bush Apple in English, Bemburrtyak In Malak Malak, Gorokkorokkin in Waigaman, Mindilima in Larrakia, Migemininy in Nauiya and Jaruk in Jawoyn. This fruit comes from a pretty plant that is in the mid layer of open woodland and starts of with shiny oval leaves and red petioles. It only fruits at this time of year, but is found across the whole of northern Australia and will catch your eye if you are in the bush, either on the ground or hanging on the tree. It’s a splash of colour amongst the fresh new green growth that is making the rather humidly warm but wonderful woodland landscape look delicious right now. And like many common English names for bush tucker “Bush Apple” makes a comparison to a temperate fruit- but is in the Myrtaceae family, like all our Eucalypts, Paperbarks etc.

Syzygium genus are a whole bunch of plants often called ‘Lilly Pilly’ and are found all over Australia and Asia and have edible fruit. It only vaguely resembles red of some apple varieties and there the similarity ends. (For your information the cooler loving apple is in the Rosaceae family!) As the fruit is from a small tree, you can pick it from the branches and eat it straight away- the seed is large and only a few mils of flesh is on the outside, which has a fluffy texture on the inner side and a crunchy texture on the outer side with ha tangy flavour, not too unlike a rosella, maybe with a hint of bitterness. Apparently there is a pink variation on Tiwi which is sweeter. It can be made into a great salad.  

A handful of Larini

red bush apple on tree

4) Bush Apricot (Meiogyne cylindricarpa.)- Annonaceae

This native rainforest plant is usually found in monsoon rainforest and riverine margins in the Top End and Western Australian tropics. The plant itself is a pretty specimen, enjoying part shade, part sun and loves water all year around, reflected by its natural habitat as a lower story rainforest plant and growing to just over 2 meters. It has a sporadic distribution, with plants being found near fresh water and most of its distribution being in Central and East Arnhem Land.

This plant makes a great ornamental specimen, having quite a symmetrical branch formation with glossy opposite small elliptical leaves and the intriguing looking fruit forms sporadically throughout the year. The fruit is one of the tastiest bush tucker fruits I have tasted with a long cylindrical orange to red seed pod containing a sweet fleshy inner and several small round seeds. I have personally only eaten fruit from plants in cultivation, which some people have in their gardens in the Darwin region.

The skin of the seed pod and the fleshy inner can be eaten and the taste is said to be similar to an apricot. This can be eaten off the tree, or made into salad dressings or relish, as shown below and enjoyed with local banana cake, made by Grusha.

The fruit for certain would sustain bats, birds and small mammals and would probably also have an indigenous history, but I cannot find an language names for the fruit.

meiyogyne hand

IMG_9099

5)) Native Peanut Tree (Sterculia quadrifida)- Sterculiaceae

Peanut Tree– Sterculia quadrifida in the family Malvaceae also known as the peanut tree, is a small tree from 5- 10 m with pretty leaves and very striking deep orange dry oval fruit which split to reveal black seeds. The tree is commonly found in our open woodland in the Top End. It is these seeds which are edible. The seeds really do taste like peanuts- hence the name. The seeds can be eaten raw and there is a little bit of dry papery skin around them which you don’t need to eat. In the Darwin region the fruit seems to ripen during the dry season and into the build up. The tree is known as Dundil in the Larakia language and Malikini in Tiwi.

The tree is found across the whole top of northern Australia and in Timor and Papua New Guinea.

Peanut tree table 2

Peanut tree

6) Cluster Fig (Ficus racemosa)– Moraceae

Cluster Fig- Ficus racemosa is a striking tree found along rivers and in coastal monsoon vine thicket. It grows up to 20m and often has multiple branches usually stemming from quite low down. The fruit ripen to an orange colour, from green and grow all along the trees branches in clusters.

The fruit is called Ali in Malak Malak, Warwi in Matngala and has always been eaten by indigenous people.

This is probably the best of all our Top End native figs. It still has a fluffy non-descript taste, with a hint of sweetness. I got an idea from a book to make a sugar syrup and slightly coat them in it and this made them pretty interesting.

If you are in Darwin and not in the bush there is a big planting of these in a park in Karama.

Ficus fruit

cluster fig close

7) Wild grape (Ampeloccssis acetosa)- Vitaceae

This vine shoots up as the wet season starts and is commonly found not only in the Darwin region but across a few parts of northern Australia, including Cape York.

Now don’t get too excited it is not a really fat grape like the commercially grown wine varieties, but it is a wonderful plant that is often prolific in areas of our Savannah woodland that has small edible juicy grape fruit that is ripe now (and is from March to May ish) and yes it really is a grape cousin,  in the grape family (Vitaceae).

It has, like all our native plants been named first in indigenous language including Turukwanga (Tiwi) and Makorlkorl (Jawoyn)

I have been advised that you should not eat the skin, as it is bitter. The fruit grows in bunches and ripens from green to black and has a juicy sweet taste, with a  little hot or bitter after taste but is perfectly harmless. I have read that Jawoyn people rubbed the fruit first in sand to get rid of the cheeky after taste; I did not try this but I presume you then brush off the sand to avoid a gritty crust! The little grapes each have about three seeds in.

Wild grape greenWild grape on plant

8) Cocky Apple (Planchonia careya)- Lecythidaceae

The Cocky Apple, also known as Wulngum (Malak Malak), Pindaylany (Matngala), Mangal or Pamkujji (Jawoyn) has a botanical name of Planchonia careya is in the family Lecythidaceae. It is a common understory plant found in our beautiful savannah or open woodland landscapes. It is a calendar plant and only fruits once a year- which is  as the first rains start (October/ November) and that bright green flush goes through the bush; it fruits over a couple of months, from the build up or Dalirgang in Larrakia seasons and then into the rainy season.). It is a very pretty tree and the flowers are also very attractive, large fleshy pink and white with numerous stamens. And if you would like some technical details- The tree grows to be between 4 -10 m tall and has smooth broadly ovate leaves that often are a reddish colour when newly developing- they are smaller leaves than the green plum (Buchanania obavata) or Kakadu plum (Termnalia ferdinandiana)

Planchonia 5

Planchonia long

9) Milky plum (Persoonia falcatta)- Proteaceae

This is a common and beautiful small tree/ large shrub with long falcate leaves, that almost look like an acacia and pretty yellow flowers. It is known as jimijinga in Tiwi, This plant is found in the woodland and the fruit is ripe at the start of the wet season and through to Christmas time. The fruit are small and very round, juicy and pretty tasty and would probably make great preserves.

perssonia in a bowl 3

persoonia tree 3

10) Fern Leaf Grevillea- Grevillea pteridifolia is a beautiful small tree that loves sandy soil and wet areas in the Darwin region. It flowers in the late dry season and early wet season nearer the coast and flowers a bit more sporadically more inland. The beautiful orangey flowers fill with nectar that attract many birds, like rainbow lorikeets, that almost get drunk on the nectar. When the flowers glisten with nectar they are also pretty delicious to humans and are often sucked on by children, like a bush lolly. The nectar is  sweet and fragrant with a malty flavour and the whole flower can be dropped into water to make a cordial. It can also be steeped in hot water to more effectively release the sweet juices and make a honey like juice/ tea that other local herbs could be added to.

Grevillea jar

IMG_6567

Grevillea suck

Fair Food the Documentary- Darwin Premiere

GULP NT have teamed up with the Enviro collective (CDU) and Lakeside Drive Community Garden to Premiere this great doco in the NT.

The AUSTRALIAN FOOD SOVEREIGNTY ALLIANCE INC (AFSA) has produced the film which looks at food systems and fair food.

The movie will be screened under the stars at Lakeside Drive Community Garden at 7pm, with cooking demos, produce talks and Garden tours from 5pm.

There will be time for a short discussion after the movie, local fabulous food served. The movie is by donation and a great way to spend an August Sunday.

We hope to see you there…

Fair Food Flyer Gourd (2)

Wild food Weekend

The GULP NT project has recently starting focussing on bush tucker and wild foods (wild food also included feral animals and weeds) and developing ways of making these interesting plant parts and creatures into delicious dishes.

A group of interested individuals involved in the project got together to brain storm, discuss and experiment with the use of wild foods, including road kill, seafood, bush fruits, roots and leaves. This isn’t the first time as the GULP project has used wild foods to create recipes. GULP members have already been promoting the use of the cane toad, have been wild food collecting in the mangroves with long term Top End local Llyod and GULP has also been involved in a remote project working with a community on an Arnhem Land homeland in devolving products from the wild harvested and abundant Mundtj (Buchanania obovata)

Fruit selction
Before the recent wild food gathering members of the group harvested wild foods either individually or with others and brought them together.

MANGROVE SEAFOOD

The harvest included many Mud crabs, mud mussels, periwinkles and long bums. These were collected in the very amazing Adelaide River Mouth with environmentalist, local seafood enthusiast and friend Llyod. The expedition took all day but was very worth it.

Longbums, loved also by indigenous people are amazing food in a cone-shaped shell with the very awesome scientific name Telescopium Telescopium. They are found amongst a variety of brackish mangroves in the mud and once cooked turn a wild green colour. They can be boiled or cooked in the coals and then need to be smashed out of their shells. We cooked them up, once shelled in coconut lemongrass, ginger and chilli with home made coconut milk from foraged coconuts from Coconut Grove.

longbum

The main focus of our sea food harvest was the delicate and specialised mud mussel ( Polymesoda erosa or Jukwarringa in Tiwi). Once boiled for a short time they open revealing a salty and watery small shell fish which really is delicious. These are mostly found amongst the roots coming up from the mud of the Grey Mangrove, Avicennia marina and are best picked when buried far in the mud and harder to spot. This is the tidal zone, so you have to get in at low tide and you may end up as a mud monster.

Mussel broth best

We also picked up a few periwinkles found on the Stilt mangroves or Rhizophoro.

The mud mussels are best just steamed in a pan until they open. They can be cooked with the leaf of the Grey Mangrove, and this boiled with water is quite tasty as a tea.

A little note on sustainable harvest- Whenever collecting wild food you need to only take as much as you need, always leave more than you take so the plant or animal can reproduce. If the animal or plant is feral/ a weed then this rule does not apply and you help the native environment by taking the produce. 

On our sea journey we also put crab pots down and came back with some juicy mud crabs. We made sure all were big enough and put all females back.
Llyod and crab

ROAD KILL WALLABY
Road kill wallaby also featured on the menu. This needs to be fresh, skinned and gutted and can then be frozen for later. It is very sad that many animals are hit by cars, but if you can eat them then there is less waste and to a point the meat had a natural and free life before the unfortunate end.

Bamboo 2

Lou took a technique often used in Asia and after cutting up the meat mixed with a variety of herbs and flavourings including lemongrass, ginger and chilli. This was then stuffed into the bamboo tubes and placed in the coals out of the flames of the fire and sort of steamed.

Bamboo steaming

NATIVE FRUIT

 Cluster figs were collected by Grusha from Casaurina coastal reserve, they seem to be just getting ready here and all over the riverine margins. They grow on the stem and branches of this tree (Ficus racemosa) and change to an orangey colour when ready. They have a slightly fluffy texture with the hint of sweetness, but to be honest are not that delicious off the tree. Grusha made these into incredible syrup by stewing them in water in a slow cooker with sugar and spices for a couple of hours. These were so good. These were cooked up and a served on pancakes with yoghurt and kapok flowers.

Grusha figs

figs on pancakes figs top view

Pandanus nuts, were cooked on the coals and broken open, but with not much success, the seed seemed to be a little hard to get out, we might need to get a little more advice on this one from our Yolngu family.

Pandanus nuts

Kakudu plum- Terminalia ferdiandiana (frozen and pickled as just out of season) was bought along. The fruit seemed pretty tasty and less stringy frozen. The pickles, preserved in vinegar, sugar and spices were very tasty. It had been picked in May from the bush on the outskirts of Darwin.

pickled green plum

Local Yam root (Dioscorea sp.) was carefully peeled, this took a while as it is very hobbly boobly. This ha been grown in Grusha’s garden, originally collected from the bush. This is the time to harvest them, in unburnt bush so the leaves can be seen. The later in the dry season the foliage dies back.

Yam

Emma had collected Syzgium fibrosum, which actually occur more in Arnhem land, but have often planted in landscaping. These sweet little fruits were added to pickled crab and also made into a sweet sauce by simmering with sugar and having as a great side sauce.

Syzygium fibrosum bowl

Wild Rosella (yes kind of a weed) was bought along for cutting and preparing, but also some premade jam was bought along. The Rosella was actually collected in some remnant bushland in the Howard River region in some disturbed areas.

Rossella cutting

Kapok flowers which are currently in flower were added to dishes.

Water Lilly roots (Nyphaeae sp.) harvested that morning from our friend’s dam, were skinned and chopped up to go with the cooked crab. Some backyard egg and lemon mayonnaise was also made to go with it.

lotus roots

Some crab was also pickled with lemongrass, vinegar, ginger, a little chilli and Syzygium fibrosum, which Emma had harvested that morning. This Lilly Pilly is found in Arnhem Land and is very tasty and is now grown in many gardens and for landscaping, so can be ‘foraged’ from in more Urban areas. Steaming and then de-shelling the crab was quite a task!

Crabbed outcut crab in pot

pickled crab

Grevillea flowers from the Fern Leaf Grevillea (Grevillea Pteridifolia) were made into a delicious malty sweet drink, just by adding boiled water from the fire.

Grevillea tea

We also made some Hibiscus, lime and lemongrass tea, not native but also could be served in combination with the Grevillea..Hibiscus lemongrass tea

The gathering was held on  Liz ‘s 30 acre property in Darwin river , which she manages as Land for Wildlife and is all intact, beautiful native woodland (and completely weed free) This seemed a great setting for a wild food workshop and we are very grateful to her as we had to change locations at the last minute and she let us use her place and outdoor kitchen. It is also worth noting that all the plant species that seem tasty to humans support wildlife from insects to birds and mammals.

Liz Amy and BhaviniThis workshop was just the start of many more wild food collecting and preparation experiences and the project hopes to host walks and workshops on particular bush tucker in the October/ November season for any interested others and involve Larrakia representatives.

We will also cover each of these ingredients separately and feature focus pieces on them, so watch this space and we would love to hear from you if you cook with wild foods / bush tucker.