Planting indigenous foods
Bush food such as lemon myrtle, native bush mint and warrigal greens has been an integral part of life for well over 60,000 years.
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What is bush food?
Bush food has been an integral part of life for well over 60,000 years! Plants such as lemon myrtle, native bush mint and warrigal greens are resilient food plants as they have been adapting to our tough climate for centuries. They require minimal space, often minimal water, are wildlife-friendly and nutrient rich.
During our summer seasons, we frequently reach very extreme levels of heat and aridity, with long periods of drought conditions for both rural and urban regions. We also often have water restrictions which can make it even more difficult to sustain lush greenery on our farms or our homes.
Lucky for us, native plants are specifically drought tolerant, having developed and hardened to our soils and usually arid weather conditions. They also don’t need chemicals to thrive where planted, and can grow anywhere from a small pot at home to larger plots of land in a backyard or community garden.
What are the benefits of native plants?
Not only are indigenous species designed to thrive in our climate; they provide critical resources and shelter for our local wildlife. Acacia, casuarina and eucalyptus trees provide food and shelter to a number of Australian varieties of birds and butterflies. Banksia, bottlebrush and grevillea bushes are wonderful for blossom-feeding animals such as lorikeets, honeyeaters and bees.
These are crucially important to Australian ecosystems as these creatures fall into a very important category of wildlife called pollinators. Pollinators are essential to our land as they assist in spreading pollen, to continue plant fruiting and reproduction.
One of the most important species of pollinator we have is the bee, with around 2,000 native species in Australia alone. By continuing to plant and grow indigenous flowering species, we can provide essential nutrients to these bees. Many of them are only capable of foraging on native flowers.
What are some uses for bush food?
Aside from providing important nutrients and food to native animals, indigenous food plants are also a wonderful source of nutrients and delicious for us humans to cook with. For example, Warrigal greens can become a flavourful pesto for pasta, while lemon myrtle can be used to make tea or to flavour biscuits and cakes. Delicious!
Whether it’s food for you, or food for our wildlife, native plants are the way to go. Start with a simple native flower or plant in a pot and see where it inspires you to go!
➔ Action: Look up some local native nurseries and gardens in your area where you can learn more about native food plants, and maybe even pick some up to start growing yourself!
There are a range of native nurseries around Australia which are focused on regenerative permaculture and peri-urban agriculture, two of which are:
- IndigiGrow in La Perouse (NSW), a 100% Aboriginal owned and operated social enteprise with a nursery and bushfood farm located within La Perouse Public School.
- Kuranga in Mount Evelyn (VIC), a nursery displaying Australia’s largest range of Australian native plants. Also on-site is the Paperbark Cafe which serves bush food inspired dishes, made with locally harvested produce.
If you are already growing some edible natives, look up some new recipes or uses for the plants that you have access to! You can visit Melbourne Bushfood to see a range of easy to follow recipes such as Barramundi Bush Curry with Bush Tomato rice and Sandalwood Nuts or Native Rosella Jam.
- Sanctuary Magazine: Native food backyard
- Environment and Heritage NSW: Living with native animals
- Tucker Bush: Why grow bushfood in your backyard
- ABC: Native edible plants and bush foods to grow at home
- Sustainable Table: Twofold Aboriginal Corporation