In Australia, we are surrounded by the “bush” and I’ve always felt something like national pride when I hear people taking about it. We either are in the “bush” that surrounds us all here Down Under, or have at least been to “it”. One way or the other, it is part of what makes Australia and what shapes us as Australians. We have also heard of the term “bush tucker”, and yet it remains somehwat illusive to us. So, what excatly is bush tucker? And how come we can’t buy it at the local supermarket?
One of the main reasons why bush tucker is likely to feel put of grasp is that it spans across a very wide and varied range of food items. Firstly, bush tucker can be animal foods, such as kangaroo, emu, lizards, snacks, goannas and possums. This is probably what most people can picture easily and may have even tried before. Secondly, bush tucker can refer to plant items, which can vary from region to region depending on the flora growing in the specific climat. Common items include wild passionfruit, bush tomato, quandongs, bush bananas, bush organges, yams and berries. Some of these can be eaten raw straight from the plant, but others may need soaking or cooking before being edible. The ripeness of the fruit itself may even determine whether or not it is safe to eat raw or need treatment prior. This can obviously cause some issues for sale in a supermarket as an extensive knowledge is required for safe ingestion. This issue obivoulsy only being heightened by the vast variety across this huge continent.
Other bush tucker foods include seeds and insects, such as witchetty grubs and caterpillars, as well as native honey from native bees or honey ants. Some of these latter foods are likely to require some extra courage before trying for most average Aussies.
For a long time, I wondered why the English did not attempt to learn what or how to eat native foods in this rugged country. Instead, they imported European plants and animals which either struggled to survive due to lack of water or got out of hands to became a pest and there after almost ignored as food supply, such as rabbits or black berries in some parts of Australia. Now, I appreciate the vast knowledge needed to survive in this big Australian bush and am glad that there are still some native people that have this knowledge. Today, we are lucky that some of this knowledge is shared with us through some native products, such as teas, or at special events and restaurants where we get the chance to glimpse into the often forgotten treasures of this wonderful country.