Pedro community cooks features in this month Off The Leash
We featured this story in Off The Leash’s “Community Cooks”
The Recipe is also available in the “Eat My Words” community cook book.
Ben is a wonderful Bininji man from Murdudjurl country, growing up on his homeland which is now Kakadu. After some years living in Darwin and beyond Ben is back on country and has cofounded “Kakadu Kitchen”, a business that promotes indigenous food with a modern twist. Ben’s first memories of food were collecting bush tucker and eating fruit from trees grown on his farm. One tree that was planted on his farm was a star fruit tree that was gifted to his family from a Greek family in Darwin. This tree represents a connection to Darwin and last year created a dish to tell this story of friendship and connections as well as the story of a connection to country.
The dish is a Greek inspired fruit salad and includes symbolism of indigenous stories, sitting under the stars (star fruit) by the campfire (red capsicum). The dish was created for the GULP story telling event “Eat my Words” and appears in the cookbook featuring community cooks. If you would like to get involved or find out more recipes and stories please email us at email@example.com
For more information about Kakadu Kitchen https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/taste/events/kakadu-kitchen/
Greek inspired Star fruit salad
2 ripe but firm (and sweet) local star fruits
½ red onion
A small bunch of mint
150 g Danish feta (optional)
2 Teaspoons of Olive oil
One teaspoon of cider vinegar
Juice of one local lemon
One teaspoon of local honey
One small chili, chopped
One clove of garlic- crushed
A pinch of salt
OR TO TASTE
- Cut the star fruit thinly, if there are any brown lines at the edges than you also cut these off. Sett aside
- Cut the cucumbers into thin slices, cross ways. Set aside
- Cut the capsicums into small thin rounds and then into quarters, set aside.
- Cut the red onion into vey small rings.
- If you are going to put salad in choose a fairly firm and less strong in flavour such as Danish feta. Cut this into small cubes or crumble and set aside.
- Next make the dressing –
- Cut the lemon, and squeeze the juice into a jug or container.
- Measure out the cider vinegar, the olive oil and honey and mix into the lemon juice.
- Dice the chilies very really small, cut the garlic very very small. Add them into the dressings and salt to taste
- Tear the leaves of the mint up for garnish.
- IN a dish, bowl or serving dish gently put the cut salad ingredients, laying out the star fruit over the mixed local greens, the capsicum can be placed in the sliced starfruit, or evenly over the platter, and the feta crumbled over the top. Pour over the dressing and garnish with the mint.
Starfruit (Averrhoa carambola) is a wonderful tree, also know as Carambola. It is a really pretty medium tree with weeping branches and beautiful pink flowers which grows well in the Darwin region. Its origins are thought to be from Indonesia and it has five ridges, which when cut into slices make star shapes. The fruit is sweet and crisp, juicy with a hint of sour- a unique taste, rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. This fruit makes a wonderful addition for taste and asthetics to many sweet and savory salads and also is fantastic garnish for deserts and savory dishes alike (one of my favourites!)
Hidden right in the middle of The Mulch Pit Community Garden over 60 attendees enjoyed a sit down meal under the stars, and were served 5 courses, by volunteers and people who had chosen to get involved with the innovative ticketing system. The tables were decorated with local flowers, provided by a lovely participant and decorated with jars and op shop finds and the whole event was surrounded by many of the plants appearing on the plates.
There was an adjacent “chill out area” reminiscent of a Moroccan tent, adorned with fairy lights and lanterns, mats and cushions, but actually under 2 hills hoists covered in passionfruit vine.
The 5 dishes were created by local cooks, using local ingredients and accompanied by the creator’s story of their journey to Darwin or being from Darwin and connection to this place, to these people, to our produce, to here and now; the dishes were served to everyone with a heart felt story about why they were chosen by their creators. Yo Bell from Story projects helped the community cooks construct their stories and deliver them on the night.
This is not the first time GULP NT has run story telling and food events to inspire the Darwin community to embrace local produce, but the first time it has been the focus at a sit down meal. Some of the cooks have been involved before in either radio stories about cooking or at the community cooking stage at the Tropical Garden Spectacular, at the Local Roots festival or Banana Festival, or are familiar with the project so had personal connections and a love of local food.
Most of all we love to be involved in connecting community and connecting to our wonderful Top End produce and this is a wonderful way to bring people together.
The idea behind the event was to create a magical atmosphere to connect community, to connect people to their food and to encourage everyone to embrace growing and using local produce (GULP!) all held together by story telling; with the added bonus that those coming could become more involved and pay less or even pay more- with the mid ticket at an affordable price.
There was lots of preparation of the ingredients involved, lots of foraging, market shopping and coming together, there were menu preparations and story telling mentoring and there are many many people to thank- but we will do a little behind the scenes post separately!
So all those attending were welcomed to the space and to this place and blessed with the original food story, one of Larrakia legend, Leslie Gordon. The story was so much more than a ‘Welcome to Country” but a personal story of growing up in Darwin in the surrounds, spending time with family hunting and going bush for food, particularly on show day and learning to see yams with her siblings.
Join GULP for a five course meal under the stars, in the lush surrounds of the Mulch Pit Community Garden; as part of the Darwin Fringe Festival.
Community cooks from diverse backgrounds will use local tropical produce to create a fine meal made with love, and seasoned with their stories. As each course is served its creator will share not only the recipe and the origin of the ingredients, but also about themselves and their Darwin journey.
As well as knowledge about how to use tropical produce, guests will go home with a recipe booklet and greater understanding of how eating local can reduce the environmental impact of their diet by reducing waste and food miles.
Eat My Words! encourages participation from guests with ticket prices varying according to how much or how little you wish to contribute. Offer your creative talents and reduce your ticket price to just $5 or help set up or wash dishes at the end of the night and you’ll pay half. Alternatively, if you’re in a good place financially pay a little extra to support the ongoing work of the Mulch Pit. You might even like to pay it forward by purchasing our ‘be my guest option’ where you buy a ticket for yourself while sponsoring a place for someone who needs a little bit of good fortune to head their way.
Eat My Words! will be a low food miles and low waste event. We will be using lovely mistmatched crockery, cutlery and glassware, have on-site composting and wherever possible will endeavour to use ingredients with either no packaging, or recyclable packaging.
A selection of cold tisanes and infusions will be provided at the event. You are welcome to BYO alcoholic or other beverages.
6pm til 10pm
Thursday 13th July, 2017
The Mulch Pit Community Garden
21 Cummins Street, Nightcliff
Help reduce the environmental footprint of Eat My Words! by cycling, sharing a ride or catching the bus. The number 4 bus stops on Francis Street, approx 150m from the venue. Timetables and maps can be found at https://www.nt.gov.au/driving/public-transport-cycling/public-bus-timetables-maps-darwin
Various ticket prices/ involvement available- check it out! Limited seats available
SURPRISE! We are asking all our guests to bring along one small surprise (preferably something very low, or no, cost) to gift to a stranger at the event. It would be great if your gift connects to the event theme. Some suggestions are a plant, packet of seeds, favourite ingredient or cooking or gardening implement. This is a great opportunity to find a new home for something useful that you no longer need 🙂
So far we have cooks from the Phillipines, PNG and Southern Indian with more to come. The majority of the food will be vegetarian and gluten free but we can’t promise that all dishes will be both.
Resources and seating space for this event are pretty tight so all guest will need a ticket, children included – babes in arms should be fine.
Want to know more?
Find out more about the MULCH PIT at –
GULP NT (Growing and Using Local Plants) can be found online at –
Thanks to TASTE OF THE TOP END for use of their gorgeous pics of tropical tucker. Check out more at –
WEBSITE – https://tasteofthetopend.com/
FACEBOOK – https://www.facebook.com/Taste-of-The-Top-End-409610495814389/
INSTAGRAM – https://www.instagram.com/tasteofthetopend/
Don’t forget to share this campaign with your family and friends. It’s going to be an amazing, one-of-a kind event x
Wild food walk and talk (in a window of non-wild weather)
Continuing 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.
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.
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.
Shortly we will add the details of all the plants covered in our walk and talks..
We hope to host more wild food walks in future and Larrakia can join us to tell their story in person..
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.