Tasmania is home to a large range of bush food plants, however most of us walk straight by them or grow them in our gardens without realising they we can actually eat parts of them. So here’s ten hardy, nutritious and delicious native plants of Tasmania you can sink your teeth into…
Pig face (Carpobrotus Rossii): This succulent ground creeper can be found along the coast growing in sand dunes. They have a purple/pink fruit which is *delicious* (salty and sweet), you just have to suck out the small seed pulp of the fruit. This is by far my favourite bush tucker, you can also eat its green leaves in salads, apply ‘pig face juice’ to sandfly bites and make a poultice of crushed leaves to help ease pain from burns – image from here.
Running Postman (Kennedia Prostrata): This plant’s beautiful red flowers can be added to water where they’ll realise a delicious nectar. The leaves can be infused in hot water for tea and apparently you can use the stems as a strong twine. This ground cover is naturally found in coastal regions but can thrive in a home garden in a well drained, sunny location, image from here.
Dragon-leaf Richea (Richea Dracophylla): A popular plant you’ll see on any good Tassie bush walk. The large flower heads are full of nectar, you just have to remove the ‘gum nut like’ cap cap from each one and suck out the nectar. This plant will grow up to 3m at higher altitudes, but can also live in a pot in a moist, shady spot – image from here.
Native Raspberry (Rubus Parvifolius): Similar to raspberries, only with a smaller berry. Eat them fresh, in jams or other preserves. This plant will climb to 1.5m and have spiky thorns, adding to the harvest challenge – image from here.
Sagg (Lomandra Longifolia): This is a popular landscaping plant that sometimes get overlooked as a bush food. Its young, white shoots can be eaten raw and taste a bit nutty – they can also be baked. This clumping grass can grow in dry or wet conditions up to around 1m high – image from here.
Native Pepper (Tasmannia Lanceolata): Definitely Tasmania’s most popular bush food used by cooks across the world in place of common pepper. You can harvest and use the pepper berries fresh, or dry them and use at a later date. It grows as an understory shrub and prefers cool, moist areas – you can also grow them in large pots as well – image from here.
River Mint (Mentha Australia): You’ll find this strong tasting mint herb growing along water ways in northern Tasmania. Use it just like you’d use common garden mint, in drinks, salads and cooked meals. Some people write you shouldn’t eat this while pregnant – so please be careful, image from here.
Sweet-scented Kunzea (Kunzea Ambigua): Use the leaves as a tasty tea or as a strong flavour in cooking. People say this is the best native plant to add to dishes like roast meat and veggies. Kunzea will grow to 3m on average soils and can be pruned easily to keep it smaller – image from here.
Water Ribbons (Triglochin Procera): You can eat Water Ribbon’s thick, tuberous roots. To prepare them pan fry or roast them. These tubers were a major food food indigenous folks in Tassie and the mainland. They grow best in slow moving or still water up to 50cm deep or in really damp ground – image from here.
Cider Gum (Eucalyptus Gunnii): The Cider Gum’s sap can be collected and used as a syrup, similar to how maple syrup is used. It’s said that indigenous Tasmanians made an alcoholic drink from it. To harvest the sap you need to make a wound in the tree’s trunk – we suggest only doing this for trees on your own (or friend’s land) and not out in the bush – image from here.
A really important thing to remember when identifying bush foods out in the wild is to be careful – if there is any doubt at all simply don’t eat it. If you’d like to find out about more about these plants and many more we recommend getting in touch with Plants of Tasmania near Hobart. They have a wealth of knowledge including a booklet you can buy called “Tasmanian Bush Food” for only $5!