A Guide to Buying, Cooking, and Using Australian Bush Spices
For Thousands of years Aboriginal Australians have been foraging and collecting indigenous spices across the country to season their foods. Only recently has the world taken notice to these unique flavours and the extraordinary health benefits of these rare bush spices. In this article we are going to dive deep into some of the kinds of Australia's Aboriginal bush spices, where they come from, what they taste like and what they are used for. Get ready for a journey down under.
What Are Australian Bush Spices?
Archaeologists believe that the Aboriginals first came to the Australian continent around 45,000 years ago. Now there are about 500 recognized tribes across the land. Before colonization these peoples lived traditional lives foraging their food across Australia. The nation is home to some very unique plants and flora only found here due to the extreme secludedness of the land.
Native Australians today still collect many of these rare plants using them to season food, recently some Aboriginal Australians have created trendy new restaurants featuring dishes using these stunning new favours such as Mabu Mabu in Melbourne.
Due to the fact that the majority of these spices are still been foraged wild they have not been exported in large amounts making them some of the rarest spices on the planet.
Types of Australian Bush Spices
Each tribe collects and uses many different Australian Bush Spices. With Australia being such a large land the types of plants vary depending on where you are making the diversity of bush spices very large. Here are a few of the more commonly used Australian Bush Spices that are used amongst almost all Australian Aboriginals.
Lemon Myrtle is one of the strongest lemon flavoured herbs in the world. Traditionally used as a healing oil, Lemon Myrtle is also a delicious way to add flavour to savoury dishes (especially kangaroo, lamb and chicken). Use it sparingly although as a little bit of it goes a long way! Lemon Myrtle is also an excellent vegan source of calcium and contains antioxidants, lutein, vitamin E, zinc and magnesium.
Wattleseed is a little bit nutty and slightly chocolaty with undertones of coffee. Wattleseed is the unsung hero of native Australian foods, thanks to its high concentrations of potassium, calcium, iron and zinc. It’s also a protein powerhouse! Dried, roasted and crushed, Wattleseed can be used in baking, sauces, scones, BBQ and scrambled eggs.
Old Man Saltbush
Growing across all parts of mainland Australia, Saltbush or "Old Man Saltbush" is rich in protein, antioxidants and minerals, with 20 per cent less sodium than salt, but really tastes salty! Also known as Bluegreen Saltbush or Giant Saltbush, the leaves have a soft, earthy saltiness ideal as a seasoning or condiment. The salty taste of Old Man Saltbush makes it the perfect substitute for seasoning most savoury dishes and some sweet ones too surprisedly!
Mountain Pepperberry is a culinary treat, Pepperberries provide a delicious fruity but fiery flavour that builds in heat, making them the perfect for a new pepper experience. Found in the highlands of Australia including Tasmania, they are often called "Tasmanian Pepperberry".
You can use it like a normal pepper but it tastes exotic and different. Great with olive oil as a salad dressing, in dips and with roasted meats or veggies. Pepperberries have been recognized for their antioxidant content and contain vitamin E, lutein, zinc, magnesium, calcium and iron.
Kakadu is also known as the Bush Plum The Kakadu Plum is a nutrient-rich, antioxidant powerhouse! Kakadu has the highest Vitamin C levels of ANY fruit in the world, the Kakadu Plum is a tart little fruit that is best enjoyed in small portions. We love it with homemade muffins, breads, salad dressings or adding a pinch to smoothies.
Bush Tomato is also known by its Aboriginal name akudjura. It is a small, round fruit with a strong flavour and smell. Initially distinctively raisin or caramel in flavour, bush tomato has an amazing savoury after taste. Rich in antioxidants and minerals, including selenium, bush tomato is considered one of the most important of all the Central Australian plant foods for Aboriginals. Try adding into soups and marinades for a distinct Australian flavor!
Native Thyme was traditionally used as a medicinal herb. It is also rich in vitamin A and vitamin C.
This herb has a flavour profile like Italian herbs and peppery garden thyme. Add it to your sauces and marinades or use in place of regular thyme. It has an aroma that’s earthy and herbal. Perfect for Italian cuisine, BBQ, Meats, salads! the possibilities are endless with this native Australian ingredient.
Australia’s native Indigenous cinnamon! It is warm, mildly spicy and sweet spice that is very versatile. Cinnamon myrtle can be used to give a pleasant and subtle flavour in many savoury recipes, including curries, casseroles and slow cooked dishes. Cinnamon Myrtle is also amazing in desserts, confectionary, ice cream and almost any recipe using cream or chocolate. Cinnamon myrtle can also be used in baked goods such as biscuits, bread, cakes, and muffins, really anywhere cinnamon would typically be used!
Cooking With Australian Bush Spices
Cooking with Australian Bush Spices takes some getting used to. Luckily there are many recourses online these days. Many of these blogs are written by Australian Aboriginals who pass down recipes from their families. Others are spice loving Australians who are sharing their culinary history adapting it to a more modern taste.
One of my favorite Aboriginal Australian chefs and authors is Nornie Bero, the creator of Mabu Mabu in Melbourne. First Nations chef Nornie Bero excels the tastes of native flavors in everyday cooking by unlocking the secrets of Australian herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits. See her Cookbook below!
Australian Bush Spice Recipes
Looking to be inspired and cook with Australian Bush Spices? Look no further, our partners here at the Spice Merchant are constantly trying out new indigenous recipes and posting them for everyone to experience.
However, although these recipes are wonderful and you should definitely try them what we encourage you to do to learn cooking with Australian Bush Spices is experimenting. This is how Aboriginals figured out how great Lemon Myrtle was with seafood or Wattleseed with bread. Still not convinced? Try putting Mountain Pepperberry on your next steak with some Saltbush, a classic Aussie BBQ secret.
Heres a link to some amazing Australian recipes using our Bush Spices
Where to Buy Australian Bush Spices
Sourcing Australian Bush Spices is the biggest hurdle for anyone wanting to delve into the culinary world of Aboriginal Australians. There are only a few stores selling these products outside of Australia, lucky for you, your on the website of a company who sources them directly from tribes in Australia and sells them across North America.
We source Aboriginal bushfood spices from Indigenous farmers across Australia and produce in small batches to ensure the highest quality 100% pure Australian native spices - no fillers, no additives, no preservatives