What is the Australian Aboriginal Food?

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Australian Aboriginal food is about the food that is available in the desert. The native people survived on it for tens of thousands of years.

So, what food is available in the desert?

"Not much" - this is the first thing that comes to mind.

But if you visit Central Australia you will change your mind. There is tucker (bush food) in those semi arid lands.

Visit the Desert Park in Alice Springs. It is a must see conservation area if you want to know more about Aboriginal food or medicine or if you want to learn about the desert species of flora and fauna.

When you leave the park you will know a lot about life in the desert.

And you will know more about the Australian aboriginal food and also how indigenous people find the essential element that accompanies food - the precious water.

aboriginal food tools

Coolamon and other food tools

This is what the Desert Park guide showed us - various kitchen tools made of wood, stone, string or hair. No pots and pans, but all of these tools pioneered the modern equipment handsomely.

The "coolamon" is a plate to eat from, a spade to scoop or dig, a bucket for water and a capsule to carry the baby. All in one - very efficient for being able to move quickly in search of food or water.

The grinder made of stone did its job properly - ground seeds from certain trees and grass make a nutritious damper that can be baked in ashes.

Australian Aboriginal Food - Some Examples

australian coonavittra wattle

Coonavittra wattle

Some of the edible seeds are those of the mulga, the dogwood trees or those of the coonavittra wattle. They can be eaten as such, mixed with water and eaten as a paste or ground for flour.

The wattle seeds are harvested today and are commercially available.

They have an incredible coffee and chocolate like aroma. Added to ice creams, pancake batter, sweet or savoury sauces the wattle seed grounds, extract or paste bring a new and interesting flavour to food.

You can buy them at Amazon.

Click on the image on the left to take you to the Amazon store.

Aborigine people also eat the white gum of the wattle. Insects get into the bark of the tree, expose its gum and make it easy to be harvested.

Mulga apples are fine for eating. They are not exactly apples they are a nut formed around insect larvae, a "bush coconut"

honey grevillea flowers

Beautiful honey grevillea flowers

Honey grevillea produces sweet honey nectar which can be licked, or mixed with water to drink, or mixed with ground seeds to make them tastier.  

Nectar also comes from corkwood and bloodwood flowers. Bloodwoods are trees that offer shelter to native bees and their honey. Australian Aborigines search for the honey sugarbags in these trees.

ruby salt bush

Ruby salt bush

The ruby salt bush (above) has some nice red, flavoursome fruit. These berries can be eaten raw or they can be dried to use later.

Bush melon

Bush melon

There are also the bush melons, apparently very bitter and not that good to eat. And the bush tomatoes, but most of them are poisonous.

So most plants are not edible and it has taken a lot of trial and error for people of the desert to know the good from the bad. 

Then there is the native lemon grass that makes a delicious tea and the lemon myrtle, famous for its exquisite lemony flavours. They are now part of the modern diet.

Here are some more interesting pages about Indigenous Australians:

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