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  • Writer's pictureMarnie Birch

Narangba's Untapped Resource

Rarely do you find a retail nursery that stocks rare and unusual plants ideally suited for the Moreton Bay climate.

When we think of Vitamin C, oranges come to mind. Yet, an Australian tree is easily grown in backyards and bears fruit containing 100 times more vitamin C than an orange. You can find it and thousands of other bush tucker plants, perfect for growing in the Moreton Bay region, at Narangba Nursery, thanks to Andrew Greenhow’s passion for bush tucker plants, which dates back to his early childhood.

“Not many people know about the Davidson Plum. The fruit form along the trunk and it ties with the Kakadu Plum in having the highest concentration of Vitamin C of any plant in the world; 100 times more than oranges.

As a six-year-old, Andrew became fascinated with plants while watching VHS tapes of ABC’s iconic Bush Tucker Man Series at his Grandma’s house.

“That got me into bush tucker in a big way. I’ve been propagating them since I was a kid. I was amazed that no one commercially marketed the more unusual varieties like Midgen Berries and Pink Lime Berries before I started doing it,” says Andrew, insisting that apart from the Macadamia Nut, bush tucker is essentially an untapped resource.

Andrew’s accumulated knowledge of cultivating bush tucker stems from his own experience and trial and error, as no textbooks existed. “It is a kind of an obsession, and I'm still learning,” he says.

Educated in Environmental Science at University, Andrew worked revegetating mining and construction areas until 2016. When he and his partner drove past a five-acre property on Narangba Road, noting it was up for Auction, it seemed like pure coincidence. Andrew’s parents had owned the same property twenty years earlier, but he never imagined being lucky enough to have the land to fulfil his dream of creating a bush tucker nursery.

“We were renting down the road and saw the auction sign. We decided to pop in for sentimental reasons and ended up getting it.”

Six years on, the Narangba Nursery stocks over 2000 speciality bush tucker plants, popular exotics, flowering natives, Proteas and unusual fruit trees. They propagate 350 rare species from their garden plants. Of those,150 bush tucker plants are propagated directly from trees that Andrew and his parents planted on-site when they previously owned the property twenty years before. Trees such as the Forest fever, Plum pines and a Davidson plum that Andrew planted himself when he was just a child.

“Not many people know about the Davidson Plum. The fruit form along the trunk and it ties with the Kakadu Plum in having the highest concentration of Vitamin C of any plant in the world; 100 times more than oranges,” he says.

Andrew’s passion for bush tucker is infectious, and his knowledge of its importance to local biodiversity is impressive. He says adding bush tucker plants to your garden makes sense as the plants have evolved to grow well in our specific climate and soils and don’t suffer the usual pests and diseases that afflict exotic species.

“European imports require much more water, pesticides and fertilisers to cope with our climate and soils. Bushtucker plants don't need that. And we only stock plants that will thrive in the Greater Brisbane area,” says Andrew.

Andrew states that another benefit of bush tucker is that they serve a dual purpose. Species like the Midgen Berry (Austromyrtus sp.) are important food for native animals such as bandicoots, birds, native bees, pollinating and pest-controlling insects, and crucial to regional biodiversity. The popular Finger Lime (Native Citrus) adds a fantastic flavour to cooking and hosts the Swallowtail Butterfly. The non-invasive Swamp Foxtail Grass provides a habitat for Sedge frogs and aids in erosion control.

According to Andrew, bush tucker fruit has a higher nutritional value and a superior taste than their European counterparts. He cites the Native Raspberry as his favourite and the Native Mulberry, which tastes just like a strawberry.

“They [the Native Mulberry] are small, so you have to pick a lot, but they host the Jezebel Nymph butterfly, an endangered butterfly that feeds only on that plant which is native to Brisbane,” Andrew says, explaining that out of the 1300 edible varieties of Lilly Pillies (Syzygium sp.), only five varieties have delicious fruit, but hundreds more can be made into jams. Adding, “Syzygium aqueum or ‘Water Rose Apple,’ is a good one as it tastes deliciously like a cross between a watermelon and a cherry.”

Native plants once had a reputation for being short-lived, but Andrew disagrees, insisting that only certain Grevilleas and Banksias grow, flower, seed, and die quickly.

“That’s because they've evolved to cope with frequent bushfires, so they need to grow and set seed fast [to survive] before the next fire hits. We stick to selling species that live for a minimum of fifteen years or more at our nursery.”

With plans to expand and add new attractions to the nursery next year, Andrew’s passion for educating the community about utilising bush tucker for nutrition, aesthetics and biodiversity looks secure. The Bush Tucker Man would, no doubt, be pleased.


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