Last week I saw a couple of Facebook posts showing photos of Bunya Nuts being opened and eaten. I knew they were native to this region, and I really wanted to get one! Part of the paleo lifestyle to us is eating local foods when possible; living more sustainably. A step past that is eating foods that are native to our area and foraged for in the wild.
So my mission was to find and try a bunya nut!
On Saturday afternoon we headed to the country to meet with a bush tucker man. As we made our way further into the hills towards his house, driving along dirt roads, we spotted 3 bunya nuts on the road ahead of us. Of course I told Clint to stop the car so I could grab one. I wasn’t greedy, I just picked one up. It was huge! And spiky, and heavy.. these things only form at the very top of bunya trees, so if one so happened to fall on your head while standing below you’d certainly know about it. Or, maybe not, cos there’s a good chance it’d knock you out pretty quickly, or worse…!
So we drove off with a giant, green, spiky, round thing rolling around in the tray of the ute and arrived at our destination.
While we chatted to the local bush tucker fella we were lucky enough to be given a few native foods including a type of bush lime which look similar to regular limes but are sticky on the outside, and not juicy when opened, plus some finger limes, and aniseed leaves straight from the tree. More goodies to experiment with in the kitchen!
Next we drove to a nearby creek so he could show us more of the area and on the way we spotted a few more bunya nuts on the ground. Our guide suggested we grab them so they get used, as the feral deer and pigs would get stuck into them anyway, so we placed an opened nut and a whole nut in the tray along with another whole one and off we went.
It was a great afternoon chatting to an incredibly knowledgeable bloke and spending time out in the country. I could easily do that every weekend actually!
When we got home that evening I got straight to playing with the haul of bunya nuts. I grabbed the open one and saw how easy it was to extract the individual seeds. I had some idea what to do with them, thanks to advice from our new friend, but to have a better understanding I Google’d “how to cook bunya nuts” and came across a few pages with images and clear instructions.
The seeds are rock hard so a common way to prepare them is to boil for 45 mins to an hour. This allows the pointy end of the casing to split open and also the flesh inside to soften. I’ve since found boiling for an hour or more is best, after my first attempt of only around 45 mins meant I was using a pair of pliers from Clint’s new toolbox to cut the skin off, peeling it back with my fingers, and leaving me with very sore fingers indeed! That was a mission! Luckily boiling for over an hour makes the peeling process a lot easier.
Once the seeds have cooled a little I use a sharp knife to cut down where the split is toward the larger end of the seed then I can scrape out the yellow bit running along the middle of the flesh (which is apparently toxic) and also the flesh itself. Throw the shell away and you’re left with a soft yellowy-brown flesh that tastes like nutty potato! It’s actually really mourish, and totally not what you’d expect the flavour and texture to be when you first see the nut in it’s whole state.
The flesh can then be eaten as is, warm or cold, or it can be mashed or even made into pesto. I made mash blended with ghee and Himalayan salt. DEEELISH!
It’s a very starchy food so the mash is a little ‘gluey’ but after two lots of it I haven’t felt any heaviness in my stomach like I would with sweet potato or potato, and it’s very filling for a long time without causing the carb crash.
Apparently the seeds sweeten more when they’ve been left in the fridge for a couple of months and they also freeze well. So I have a bag of them in the freezer to use for a Paleo Weekend Camping Retreat event in April this year, because they’ll be out of season then and I want to show people this interesting and unique food during the event!
What did we do with the other bush tucker foods we gathered that day?
Well the round limes were used in paleo Panna Cotta but the first experiment wasn’t successful, maybe due to the type of coconut milk used, so I’ll try another brand I actually prefer using and see how that turns out.
The finger limes are still yet to be used but I’d like to do a slow cooked lime and honey chicken.
The aniseed leaves are currently drying out to be crushed and stored for tea.
How would I sum up our new bush tucker gathering and cooking experience?
Well.. there’s definitely a kind of satisfaction and gratification that comes with finding food, doing what needs to be done to make it edible, then cooking and eating it. Finding native food, out where it naturally grows, in the wild, with absolutely no alteration from a human hand or machine is really special. I think though you’d need to experience it personally to really understand.
It’s not only nourishing in a physical sense – eating wild, unprocessed and non-toxic foods – but also in an emotional and spiritual sense; a feeling of being more connected to nature and the earth by taking something directly from it, eating it, being nourished by it and appreciating where it came from.
Especially when a bunya nut falls from only a very tall and old tree, that’s a special thing!
If we had to go through this process with everything we ate, in this day and age, we’d all certainly have a much greater appreciation for our food. Farmers are amazing. And so were our ancestors who hunted and gathered for survival.
Going into a shop and buying food already harvested, shipped, processed and packaged just isn’t the same. There’s no connection between us and where that food came from. And I think that’s a huge problem in the world these days. Meeting a farmer and seeing where our food comes from is one thing (and a very positive thing at that!) but actually finding your own food in the wild is a totally unique and special experience.
Unfortunately it’s not something we can easily do in this day and age, even if more of us wanted to. The land around us is mostly owned by the government. Well, they say it’s ‘public land’, the national parks and state forests, but the public are so limited as to how they can actually use it. So it’s really not our land anymore, sadly.
Any time Clint and I can forage in the wild is a time we are truly grateful to have. I hope we get to experience this more in the future. And I hope people all over the world get to experience this often. We can dream anyway!
Thanks for reading about our recent bush tucker adventure! We’d love to hear about the wild and native plants and foods you gather and use, so feel free to tell us!
5 things I’m grateful for:
1. trying and enjoying bush tucker like bunya nuts
2. days spent in the country
3. the rain today giving life to my garden
4. all the amazing events we have planned this year
5. good people in our life