The bush food, called bush 'tucker' in Australia, eaten by the Aboriginal people of Central Australia usually falls into a few different groups:
1. Traditional food from animals including kangaroo, emus, wild turkey, rock wallaby, possums, snakes and lizards and anteaters.
2. Food from plants including wild orange, wild passionfruit, wild fig, bush tomato, conkerberry, mistletoe, bush banana and bush coconut, quandongs, pencil yams, mulga apple, bush plums and sultanas.
3. Edible seeds including mulga seeds and wattle seeds.
4. Grubs and insects including witchetty grub, cicadas and caterpillars. Other grubs are found in various tree species such as river red gum, coolibah, ironwood and the prickly wattle.
5. Honey and nectars found in the honey ant, honey from the native bee, nectar from the flowers of the bloodwood and corkwood trees.
Kangaroo, Goannas and Perenties
Still long time favorites of the Aboriginal people in Central Australia. Kangaroo is hunted in the modern way and cooked in the traditional way of tossing it in the fire first to singe off the hair and then put in a hole and covered with hot coals to cook. The tail and feet are usually cut off before cooking. 'Roo Tails' can be made into a nice stew or soup. If you would like to try it this recipe might be nice. Goannas are caught on the ground and cooked in a similar fashion to the kangaroo. Toss in the fire to singe the skin and then lay the goanna on top of the hot coals until cooked. Perenties are lizards and can be caught in trees or rabbit burrows or just walking around in creek beds. They are much bigger than goannas but cooked in the same way.
Food from plants and trees include wild orange, wild passionfruit, wild fig, bush tomato, conkerberry, mistletoe, bush banana and bush coconut, quandongs, pencil yams, mulga apple, bush plums and sultanas.
Seeds, Grubs and Honey
Edible seeds include mulga seeds and wattle seeds. One of the most well known of the edible seeds is the seed from the wattle tree. This tree or shrub grows to around 6m high and the flowers are a bright, golden yellow. There are almost 1000 species of wattle in Australia. These seeds can be roasted and ground into an edible paste. Or they can be roasted in the pod and eaten straight away. Aboriginal people also ground the seeds to make a type of flour which could be used to make dampers and breads by cooking over hot coals and rocks. The seeds are very nutritious.
Grubs and insects include the witchetty grub, cicadas and caterpillars. Other grubs are found in various tree species such as the river red gum, the coolibah, ironwood and the prickly wattle tree. Probably the most 'famous' of the grub family, the witchetty grub is an important desert food. The grub is a large, white, wood-eating larva of several species of moths. The grubs are found in the roots of the witchetty bush which is found around Alice Springs and Central Australia. Aboriginal women and children most commonly dig for them. They are seen as a delicacy and can be eaten ‘as is’ or very quickly cooked in the coals of a fire. The grub is a very important insect food in the desert and has been a staple in the diets of Australia Aboriginals.
Honey is found in the honey ant and also from the native bee, nectar comes from the flowers of the bloodwood and corkwood trees. Honey Ants are found in the desert area of Central Australia, including the Utopia region. The ants build nests under trees or bushes and are often found under Mulga trees. They will hide the entrance to their nests by covering them with leaves and bark. The nests are dug into the ground, sometimes as deep as 1 – 2 metres. Honey ants are unique in that they can store this honeydew inside their own bodies which can then be used later by their fellow ants when other food is scarce. Aboriginal women are often in charge of gathering the honey ants. They will begin digging about 50cm from the nest entrance, working around the nest to locate the chambers where the ants are hiding. It takes a lot of digging and patience to be rewarded with a handful of ants so this is looked on as a special treat. The honey is eaten by sucking the honey from the ants stomach.