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..

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.

Rod’s Cane Toad Canape’s

It’s happened again, the cane toad eating has hit the headlines!

Professor Phillip Hayward, from Southern Cross University has been promoting the eating of cane toads (and our site) 

This seems appropriate as the rain starts to come again and the ugly reptiles begin to come forth and multiply and mess with the ecological integrity of the native landscapes.

Cane toad legsThis is Rod (from Humpty Doo/ Nightcliff)’s recipe of Cane toad Canapés- little morsel’s of cane toad leg sautéed in garlic butter, made with local garlic chives and on bread. This was demonstrated at the Tropical GArden Spectacular GULP cooking stage earlier this year to a very large and curious crowd!! Many people tried them and enjoyed the taste!

Rod cane toad

rod cooking cane toad

Canapés of toad legs in garlic butter (Rod)

Ingredients

8 toad legs with skins removed
3 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 fresh baguette sliced
Garlic chives, finely chopped

cooking cane toad Melt butter in a heavy based sauce pan and fry garlic or garlic chives until softened, add cut capsicum or optional extras
Add toad legs and cook in butter until tender
Lightly toast the baguette

Em cane toad Serve two toad legs on a piece of baguette, drizzled with garlic butter and garnished with chives.

Click here for a PDF version of the recipe- cane toad leg garlic canapés

We have some recipes involving more local ingredients to compliment the legs too and will post these shortly!

Toad legs- the new feral fine food?

toads in a heapIn the past the GULP team have discussed the various contents of the cook book that will emerge from this wonderful community based local food project.  We would like to set the book out to be produce focused and look at the ingredients that we grow, then from this the recipes are written, and include a ‘star rating’ of how local the recipe is overall. The subject that has arisen a lot, is if we should include meat. Aside from the fact a couple of the team are veggie, semi- veggie, we want the book to appeal to all tastes and reaslise and a lot of people do want to eat meat. The problem is at the moment in the Top End there is no abattoir and the Brahmin cattle that are run in the bush are  (sadly) live exported overseas.

 Many people keep chickens and we would like to include how you can kill and eat these. Many people catch fish and wonderful local fish and seafood is available, so we would love to include this and what ‘sustainable’ seafood is. From here though the two other sources of meat are wild hunted and road kill- unintentionally killed animals, native or not that can make good tucker. In the Territory and Top End there are many feral animals, buffalo, pigs, even goats and donkeys further towards Mataranka- all fair game for hunting and eating (OK- so you need permits, heck out the land you are on etc. but you get the drift). One feral animal that is often overlooked as something to end up on your plate is the cane toad.

Cane toads,  (Rhinella marina) formerly Bufo marinus, are native to South America and were introduced to Australia as another awesome idea at the time, but now disastrous for our biodiversity, introduced by Australian Government in 1935. The department of Sugar Experiment stations  was responsible, trying to keep the cane beetle under control in Queensland. Unfortunately these unfortunately ugly beasties went feral, covering the whole of Queensland by 1980 and reaching the NT in 1984 in South Kakadu, they made it to Darwin by 2004. There are reports that they are spreading further and further and studies show they are more numerous than ever before dispite various programs to stop their spreading and breeding and have just made it over the WA border. These ugly fellas parotid gland produces milky toxic secretion or poison that is dangerous to many species (bufotoxin) and kill other native species such as Northern Quolls, goannas, frogs and snakes. They outcompete other frogs and reptiles and are pretty detrimental to a lot of native animals.

So these guys are pretty easily disliked, adding to that is the fact they are dam ugly too, maybe it is their reputation that adds to the ugliness. People swerve to run over them, get them with spades, you name it, it’s kind of iconic or  ironic (especially in Queensland apparently)

Anyway friends of GULP live further from Darwin, outside Adelaide River and have always been keen on experimenting with the cooking of road kill, including snakes and wallabies and also had an interest in the use of these ugly toads as food.

Every year, at a wonderful ‘Fire Party’ social gathering that involves fire management- an early burn off in selected areas to protect later more intense fire, much great food is prepared and is often a bit of a focus. It is great to share food with friends. This year it was encouraged that meaty road kill or feral animals were prepared.Amongst the amazing dishes prepared were buffalo and wallaby stews and an array of toad dishes.

There are just so many cane toads it is mind boggling, but they are also surprisingly easy to catch. The most humane way reported is to catch them by the back legs and whip them into a dark airtight canoe bag and then freeze them, you don’t want to stress them out, and after you have a few (they only have little legs) pop them in the freezer as quickly as possible. After sufficiently frozen thaw these guys out. With a meat clever or sharp knife, cut off their legs.

toad leg cutting Because of the fact these creatures contain poison in their back (and skin) you want to skin them and avoid the upper body. Apparently the more stressed, the more the poison is dispersed, so give them the most calm end possible! Anyway we discarded the body and put it in a hot compost- great blood and bone! Then we skinned the legs- which is really easy.

leg skin one

Several recipes had been made with the GULP team, I tried marinating them in soy, garlic, ginger and chili.marinating legsAfter a couple of hours (in the fridge) I sautéed them in sesame oil and served them with heaps of local (Vietnamese coriander) and random salad greens, including sweet leaf and rosella leaves.

legs on plate

Other recipes include –

Salad of toad legs with Kang Kung and galangal (Cole)

8 toad legs with skins removed 4-5 knuckles of galangal, finely chopped 3 leaves of Thai coriander, finley chopped 2 large handfuls of kang kung, washed and roughly chopped 1 teaspoon sesame seed oil Splash of soy sauce Salt and pepper to season

Method

Heat sesame seed oil in a wok on a medium heat. Fry toad legs for a couple minutes, add galangal and coriander, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes stirring continuously. Add kang kung and mix with plash of soy sauce until stems cooked.

Serve as an entre for 2 people or meal for 1.

Canapés of toad legs in garlic butter (Rod)

8 toad legs with skins removed

2 table spoons of butter 3 cloves of garlic Salt and pepper to taste 1 fresh baguette sliced Garlic chives, finely chopped

Method

Melt butter in a heavy based sauce pan and fry garlic until soften Add toad legs and cook in butter until tender Lightly toast the baguette Serve two toad legs on a piece of baguette, drizzled with garlic butter and garnished with chives.

mmm on a platter

So guys, don’t just get out there and swerve for them or shovel these guys, if you are going to try some pest management, you might as well get some protein from this unwanted visitor. Just remember, allow them to have a quick death and treat them well, it isn’t their fault they were bought here!  Secondly don’t poison yourselves, be very careful with skins and dispose of the body in a closed compost bin, away from other animals.

la cane toad

Oh and what do they taste like- well a bit like gamey chicken.

Disclaimer- GULP and members of, take no responsibility for people licking toads, these are cooking suggestions and we are just sharing our story. If you try, well that’s up to you!

Cane toad licking