Yesterday I went to the first week of a Bush Tucker course held at the ACT Aboriginal and TSI Cultural Centre. The centre is in a beautiuful location, on the banks of lake burley griffin, very close to the special place between the mountain and the river where the Ngambri used to camp prior to white settlement. If you want to learn more about the Ngambri, and Aboriginal history in the Canberra area, then Ann Jackson-Nakano's work "The Kamberri, A History of Aboriginal Families in the ACT and Surrounds" would be a very good place to start. It is available here.
I am pretty sure that part of an elegantly frugal life must involve learning about the cornucopia of native foods that surround us. So off I went, keen to learn more about the spuds and peas of the Ngambri, and I wasnt dissapointed.
My main interest in the course was to find out what was possible with the abundant lomandras that grow in our garden. You can find out more about lomandras here. When they flower, the backyard is FILLED with the sweetest, honey smell. I learned that the flowers can be soaked in lemon juice, or water and then strained to made a lovely sweet drink. They can also be used to make "elderberry wine", except you substitute the elderberries for the lomandra blossoms.
The white stem bases can be eaten raw, and taste just like freshly picked peas. I just tried this, and it is true - they do! In a very efficient way, the discarded leaves left over from eating the bases would have been used to make baskets for use in earth ovens, and for carrying things.
Now for the potatoes. The potato of the Ngambri was probably the Yam Daisy, or Microseris lanceolata. In South Australia this is called the Murnong. We went for a little look at what was around in the native pasture near the cultural centre, but it is the wrong time for Yam Daisies. Apparently it would have been baked in an earth oven, probably wrapped in a woven basket, and either eaten for dinner or cold for breaky. Weight for weight the Yam Daisy tubers provide 80% of the calories of a spud, but have no starch, and taste a little on the water chestnut side of potato. I think I recognise this little plant though, and will keep a look out for it in spring.
Photo source here
We also wandered down to the lake and played around with the bullrushes, but it was a bit hard to pull up the tubers. We also started building an earth oven which we will hopefully get to use some time later in the course.
I also found out that the slippery jacks I had eaten ealier this year were probably a native mushy, rather than the imported varierty - which explains why they look a little different to the text books but tasted good just the same.
Well, thats about it for yesterday -unless folks want my recipie for pear and pepita muffins - yum yum, I am eating one with a cuppa while I write.