woman's hands holding native foods or bush tucker

Sowing seeds of Indigenous culture through native ingredients

By Ryan Gandiaga. @ryangandiaga

Australia has had a long history of denying Indigenous culture that has extended to the use of native ingredients. Part of acknowledging and reconciling with First Nations people’s connection to the land starts with not just eating native foods, but having the conversations that they bring.

Only in the past couple of decades have we seen restaurants highlighting these ingredients, such as Orana in Adelaide or Attica in Melbourne, and these ingredients are yet to be widely popular among home cooks.

Bush Restaurant, Redfern

Grant Lawn, one of the owners of Bush, a restaurant in Redfern that focuses on promoting the use of native ingredients, thinks native ingredients are becoming popular but still have a way to go.

“They are expensive and hard to source, however the more we consume the more they will be planted and cared for,” said Lawn.

As with any ingredients, the price and accessibility is a crucial factor in terms of its popularity among general consumers. IndigiGrow is a nursery and gardening store that is “100% Aboriginal owned and operated with a focus on edible bush foods and replanting the endangered species of the Sydney coastal region.”

We were able to visit IndigiGrow, which is located next to La Perouse Public School, and toured the grounds with a store person who was helpful in explaining all the different edible plants that they sell.

IndigiGrow native foods nursery in La Perouse
IndigiGrow Nursery in La Perouse. Photo: Ryan Gandiaga

Although most people may not know what to do with native ingredients, the easiest option is to use them the same way as other ingredients. After the tour it was interesting to find that there were a number of native herbs that could be used the same as their regular counterparts, offering slightly different flavours such as native rosemary, native thyme and sea celery.

It’s important that more Australians learn about native ingredients and can be given the opportunity to taste them and be shown ways to integrate them into their home cooking. It has the potential to build stronger ties to both the Indigenous community and the land that these ingredients are grown upon.

Bush and other restaurants with a philosophy of promoting native ingredients are just one area where we see a way of educating Australians. TV shows such as Masterchef, and various cookbooks, have also leaned into highlighting native ingredients. The next step is to just get people talking about them.

To find out more about native ingredients check out these websites for more information and recipes:

Featured image: Royal Botanic Gardens/CC/flickr

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