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  • Writer's pictureKay Savage

Benefiting From Bush Food Gardens

Landscape architect and Local Times columnist Lawrie Smith AM will be offering tips and tricks on how to create the perfect edible garden using native plants.

If you're looking for a unique and sustainable way to enhance your garden and dining experience, you may want to consider incorporating Australian native plants into your landscape design.

“It is important to note that not all native plants are edible, and some may have chemical properties that could be poisonous or cause unwanted health impacts.

Landscape architect and Local Times columnist Lawrie Smith AM has spent over 45 years promoting the use of native plants for their aesthetic and culinary value. With his extensive knowledge, he will be offering tips and tricks on how to create the perfect edible garden using native plants in a series of lectures on "Australian Bush Food Gardens" at several Moreton Bay Regional Council libraries.

“When you enjoy a slice of Pizza you immediately think of Italy; when you enjoy Sushi your taste buds fly to Japan; a serving of Crème Brûlée transports you to the Champs-Elysées in Paris; and a hot dog with ketchup can only be the United States. Every nation has its own special memorable culinary experience,” said Lawrie.

“Our ever-expanding multicultural Australian population has been living in this great south land for just over 200 years, and with us we brought our familiar cuisines from around the world. Until comparatively recently, despite this diversity of tastes, no renowned uniquely Australian foods have emerged.”

As an advocate for sustainable landscape design and the "design with nature" ethos, Lawrie has built his career around the value of Australian flora and open-space facilities for the community. Growing up in Moreton Bay and still living there in retirement, he has worked on a range of projects, including the gardens of World Expo ’88.

Lawrie is now sharing his expertise on how to create an edible native garden that is both attractive and environmentally friendly. Such a garden not only attracts wildlife, but is also a source of special tastes to add to your family menu.

Lawrie has noticed that Australians are slowly learning to appreciate the country's diverse natural environments, and the potential of native plants to contribute to our lifestyle, culture, and national cuisine. While the first settlers used native plants to supplement their diet, it is only in recent years that the unique flavours of these plants have become more widely known.

“We are slowly learning from our First Nations peoples how they lived comfortably for 60, 000 years on this the worlds driest continent. They have always been sustained by a wealth of wildlife and the diversity of native plants, all offering a range of rich and healthy natural foods, while some contain beneficial medicinal properties,” Lawrie said.

One example Lawrie discussed was the Queensland Nut or Macadamia which is now recognised as one of the world's most useful and delicious nuts. It grows naturally in random forest locations from Northern NSW to central coastal Queensland, and is cultivated in extensive orchards for local consumption and export.

Another lesser-known Australian food is the Davidson Plum, Davidsonia pruriens, which has a delightful ruby-red flesh that is tart and juicy. The egg-sized fruit is often used for jams, jellies, and sauces, and in cultivation. As a bonus, it makes an attractive, small, upright productive feature tree for residential gardens.

“These two species are just the tip of the iceberg, and there are hundreds more that have proven to be acceptable additions to our cuisine and gardens,” said Lawrie, who has identified over 100 native plants that can provide tasty additions to your dining table, including beverages, fruits, flowers, greens, nuts, and medicinal plants.

Lawrie’s presentation will take you on a journey of discovery; providing photos, samples, and even a taste or two. You will learn where each plant will be best used in any garden layout to provide an interesting feature of your unique edible garden.

Incorporating edible native plants into your garden design not only provides a unique dining experience, but also contributes to sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.

“It is important to note that not all native plants are edible, and some may have chemical properties that could be poisonous or cause unwanted health impacts,” said Lawrie.

“Therefore, it is essential to correctly identify the species before consuming any part of a plant.”

With Lawrie's guidance and expertise, you can create a beautiful and functional garden that supports local wildlife and adds a touch of Australia's diverse culture to your menu.

Check with your nearest Moreton Bay Regional Council library to find out more about Lawrie’s free ‘Edible Gardening With Native Plants’ series.

Recipe Davidson Jam - Davidsonia pruriens

  1. Collect the fruit and remove the seeds (two per fruit). Cut around the ‘equator’ of the fruit, then split apart and remove the two flat seeds. No need to cut the fruits into smaller pieces.

  2. Put the fruit into a saucepan and add just enough water as to be barely visible under the fruit pieces. Davidson Plums are juicy and do not need as much added water.

  3. Boil lightly for about 15 to 20 minutes until soft. Then using a blender or whisk to reduce the fruit to a coarse pulp.

  4. Using a cup, measure how much boiled fruit there is, and then put it back into return it to the saucepan together with an equal volume of raw sugar. (I prefer to add only two thirds the volume in sugar so the jam is sweet/tart.) Stir and add in the juice of one small lemon (optional).

  5. Boil lightly for 20 to 25 minutes, test on a cold plate to see if it jells.

  6. When done, bottle and put on the lids while the mixture is still hot.

  7. Once processed the delicious Davidson Plum fruits will bring your breakfast toast alive, add zing to your morning tea scones or give a tang to your ice cream sundae.


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