With many families avoiding traditional European-style Christmas Dinners and adding a localised twist on their holiday entertaining platters down under, there's plenty of native ingredients to add to the deliciousness, uniqueness and spirituality this Christmas.
Get to know what's growing in your backyard and ways to use it this entertaining season.
Native Finger Limes (Dooja)
Fondly known as “citrus caviar”, Australian native finger limes have beady, glassy pulp similar to fish roe. However, coming from the Rutaceae (citrus fruit) family, the tiny balls of flesh burst with a sour and tart tang.
Finger limes originate from, and thrive in, Australia’s east coast rainforests - Barunggam, Wakka Wakka, Bundjalung and Gumbainggir lands. Indigenous people have not only cooked with native finger limes for thousands of years, but have drawn on their generous antioxidants - being high in folate, potassium, Vitamin E and Vitamin C - making them great in meals, but good bush medicine too.
Native finger limes work great in lighter meals,
- use on oysters
- with cerveche
- floating in champagne, gin and tonics or cocktails
- in salads
- on smoked salmon blinis
- tuna mourn vol a von
- jams and preserves
Davidson Plums (Ooray)
Also grown in the east coast rainforests on Bundjalung and Ngarabal lands - way up high, up to 12 meters in bulbous clusters - is the Davidson plum. With deep, dark purple-red flesh and soft pulp, these fruits only superficially represent the European plum. They have low sugar content and a sharp tart, slightly astringent and bitter taste.
The Davidson Plum has an impressive list of nutrients (most of which are embedded in the skin) and contains more antioxidants than blueberries, as well as folate, magesium, calcium, vitamin E and lutein, which is beneficial for eye health.
Like Beetroot, the Davidson Plum is rich in colour and can be used as a natural food colouring (and should be clear of white clothing). Other culinary ideas are,
- sliced thinly in salads
- stewed slowly in casseroles
- cooked with other plums (Victorian and Illawarra) and served with deserts like custard or trifle
- preserved in jams, chutneys and relishes
- pickled with kohlrabi or cauliflower.
Bush Apples (Bemburrtyak)
A favourite of the Top End mob - the Yolgnu Arnhem lands, Walpri deserts and on Larrakia country - Bush Apples are only in season for a short time, but fortunately it's the entertaining season!
These fruits only have mils of fluffy flesh, with one large seed lodged in the centre. Its outer layer is hard and crunchy and overall, Bush Apples have a tangy flavour.
To make best use of these treats try,
- it grated in salads
- sliced thinly on a cheeseboard
- stewed with custard
- pickled with cloves and star anise
- stewed as a sauce for ham or turkey
The Mentha (mint) species are distributed throughout the globe, with six being native to Australia. Slender Mint grows well in cold, dry conditions and is found from Mt Lofty Ranges on Peramangk country, throughout Victoria, up to the Blue Moutains on Darug lands. It also flourishes on Palawa country in Tasmania.
It has a herby, spearmint-peppermint aroma and flavour and comes with many medicinal properties. It can aid digestive upsets, is a diuretic and can be used as a natural insect repellent.
Use generously this entertaining season in,
- cocktails or mocktails
- in fruit salad
- as a mint granita palate cleaners
- with chocolate ice-cream
- pickled through a tomato and mozzarella salad
Grown around Southern Australia's beaches, karkalla or 'Pigface' as its commonly known, are found all year round covering sand dunes and soaking in salty air.
Both the flowers and leaves are edible, with the fruits tasting like a strawberry-come-fig with a salty after taste. Its leaves, however, are slightly more bland, but just as succulent.
- Barbecue it on skewers with prawns
- in stir frys
- stuff in fish to bake
- cook and eat as a side veg to meat
With large leafty leaves leveraging unique glistening salt-accumulating cells, Ice Pants are a coastal plant which grows naturally in saline wetlands, sand dunes and sea weed deposits.
It is mostly made-up of water, but contains mineral salts and vitamins A, B and C. Adding it to all your salads this Christmas is a must, as well as,
- your seafood dishes
- floating in a rich broth
- juiced or blended in smoothies