When Sharon Winsor was growing up, she loved collecting bush foods – particularly the five corners plant. "They fruit every September," she says. "We would get very excited about going to get them early before the emus come out and take them all."
Winsor is a Ngemba Weilwan woman who was born in Gunnedah, a northeastern NSW town. She spent her adolescence in nearby Rocky Glen, where she loved gathering yabbies – especially "going to catch them in dams and creeks, then having to clean them and prepare them for eating”.
This connection with the bush has no doubt come in handy with running her business, Indigiearth, which began its first iteration in 1996 in Western Sydney. It's evolved in size and range, and its current collection includes bush spices (such as aniseed myrtle), native teas and beauty products made from Indigenous ingredients. Filling your shopping basket with Indigiearth items can have a long-lasting effect: the business offers employment opportunities to Indigenous Australians and also educates the broader community about native products and their usage in contemporary life.
Wherever possible, the company buys its raw produce, including native fruits, seeds and plants, directly from Aboriginal communities Australia-wide. Part of Winsor's remit is to apply her own hard-won business lessons and wisdom to supporting Aboriginal communities to initiate wild harvesting and production enterprises. She knows better than most the obstacles that hold back Aboriginal entrepreneurs, particularly women, from pursuing their ideas.
“Aboriginal people are faced with the stigma that we are not good managers or good financial managers, so applying for financial support is really hard. Balancing home/community responsibilities and building a business is also challenging. I would love to see more support for Aboriginal women in business, by Aboriginal women.”
The Indigiearth business is truly a family affair, with Winsor's teenage children actively participating in events and also the less glamorous tasks, such as picking, packing and finalising orders.
Even though her 17-year-old son Maliyan (whose name means wedgetail eagle) is still in school, he's also able to assist with catering and preparing food, performing with their traditional dance group, playing the didjeridoo at events and helping with cultural workshops and education.
"My daughter Kirralaa (meaning star) is 19 and works full-time as a trainee educational support worker at her school. She makes some of the products, packs orders, and takes part in traditional performances.”
“Aboriginal people are faced with the stigma that we are not good managers or good financial managers, so applying for financial support is really hard."
The Indigiearth range is broad.
“Our most popular products are lemon myrtle tea, bush tomato chutney and saltbush dukkah. People have learnt about the health properties of lemon myrtle and are now enjoying lemon myrtle to drink and cook with,” says Winsor.
Here is Winsor’s advice on using the native products from the Indigiearth range.
Whole bush tomato
"I use the bush tomato in the chutney I make, [it's] also nice to use in casseroles, roasts – just add a few for the flavour to infuse your roasts or slow-cook casseroles. It can also be ground up and used as a sprinkle to make dips."
Wild peach chutney
"This is a great accompaniment to any meat, sandwiches or wraps. Also great to make a dip - add some to a bit of cream cheese!"
"Sea parsley, or sea celery as it's also called, is a wonderfully intense flavour that can be familiar with a combination of parsley and celery. It's amazing in seafood dishes – sprinkle some on prawns while cooking, in soups and stir-frys, or flavouring butter."
“Our bush tucker gift boxes include our rosella chocolate-coated macadamias, native loose-leaf tea, bush tomato chutney, wild peach jam and wild rosella jam. We are more than happy to custom-make hampers upon request as well,” says Winsor. “Other popular Christmas gifts are our entertainer gift packs, and our quandong dessert sauce is amazing with Christmas plum puddings.”
For more info on Indigiearth, visit its website.