Our man in Gippsland, Martin Potts, recently helped organise a bush tucker and artifact making day as part of NAIDOC week – part of our work to connect communities with the natural environment. Here’s his mouth watering report…..
Let’s get the safety bit about bush tucker over with first. Please don’t just go out and start eating random plants off the ground. That’s a good way to get very sick, very quick. But with the help an experienced forager, the bush has the ability to bring a whole new set of flavours to your plate.
Why use everyday black pepper when you could be using mountain pepper? Bush tucker facilitator Cassie Harrap showed us how to put together one of her favourite steak toppings by combining dried mountain pepper berries and dried chillies in a grinder.
Cassie also had 50 local plants to give away so I’m already looking forward to growing my own meal. I might have to stop short of raising my own cow though.
The tubers of a local Victorian wildflower, the vanilla lily, have been providing indigenous people with food for far longer than anyone can remember. I’d never tried them though, but luckily Cassie had grown and harvested some ready for tasting.
Although they’re traditionally roasted, a local school’s kitchen had a go at frying them in peanut oil and honey, with some Dutch carrot slithers. And if the traditional method is half as good as the food the cooks served up then it’s very tasty indeed.
Now I must admit I’m not usually one to get too excited by celery. But native celery – which is actually a herb that tastes a bit like parsley – turns out to be a great way to add flavour to fish when poaching. You could even try harvesting it while the line’s in waiting for a catch!
Cassie isn’t just an expert on bush tucker – she’s extremely skilled at artifact making too. She worked with local children to make string and clap sticks out of stringybark, and gave away yet more plants, Mat rush (Lomandra longifolia), which can be used to make baskets.
I never cease to be amazed by the versatility of the native plants we have in Australia, which is one of many reasons why it’s so important to restore and conserve the natural habitat of the Gippsland Lakes. And it was also great to hear how much the local elders appreciated our efforts to bring a genuine cultural experience to the Gippsland Lakes and pass on some of their community’s knowledge. I know I for one can’t wait until my plants are big enough to eat.
Martin Potts, Greening Australia
Native celery can bring a dish of poached fish to life