Growing Bushfoods by Cath Manuel
Looking for new plants to grow in your garden or interesting foods to use in the kitchen?
Consider choosing a few Australian native plants and enjoy our bushfoods!
Growing bushfoods suitable to your region makes a garden ‘low maintenance’ and provides delicious tasting foods to enhance flavours and colours in your cooking. They can also be used for medicinal purposes and nature-based art activities.
Many varieties of bushfoods are grown as landscaping plants throughout our communities. Local councils understand the various uses of these hardy plants and the beautiful appearance they have growing through our streets and parks.
Whilst these plants are growing freely along our coastlines, within parklands and forests, we can also cultivate an environment suitable to grow many of these in our home and community gardens, which also helps to create a community connection.
There are many species of bushfoods that can be grown, so here’s a few that are easy to grow and harvest for cooking…
Lemon Myrtle – Backhousia citriodora
This beautiful tall growing rainforest shrub/tree, originating from north NSW and SE Queensland, with its glossy green aromatic leaves and fluffy white flowerheads is one of the best bush foods with a variety of uses.
Through regular pruning it can be kept at a smaller size and suitable for most garden spaces or grown in a large pot. When grown in the ground can reach heights of up to 15m.
Grows best in a sunny location with well-drained soil. Water regularly during the warmer months to see regular new growth and will take light frosts, but thrives in warmer, frost-free areas.
The delicious lemon flavoured leaves are perfect for flavouring Asian dishes. Can be used to replace Kaffir Lime leaves or Lemongrass. Can also be used to flavour cakes or slices and makes a refreshing herbal tea, which helps to reduce the effects of flu, coughs and colds due to its strong medicinal purposes.
Many uses for this beautiful shrub, which is a must-have in suitable locations.
Lilly Pilly ‘Brush Cherry’ – Syzygium australe
There are many varieties of Lilly Pilly that are grown throughout Australia.
The Brush Cherry is a large compact shrub, that’s grown in many locations and is very useful as a hedge shrub.
The lovely flush of pink new growth, small pale flowers and small red berries provide colour throughout the garden.
Lilly Pilly’s grow well in a well-drained soil, but like a good watering during dry times, especially to keep up new growth.
The small red berries of this species can be eaten freshly picked from the tree or used in muffins and very popular made into a jam.
Pigface – Carpobrotus glaucescens
Pigface is a hardy groundcover grown along most Australian coast locations, as it likes a sandy, well-drained soil with a sunny situation.
Great grown in rockeries and as a ground cover in a natural garden, especially in coastal gardens.
All parts of the Pigface are edible and medicinal. The succulent leaves can be used like aloe vera to reduce the effect of burns or stings and can also be eaten raw or cooked.
The pretty daisy-like flowers provide vivid colour and then fruit develops from pollinated flowers to provide a delicious salty tasting fruit, which can be used for jam and chutney.
Finger Lime – Citrus australasica
A small rainforest shrub, with small green leaves and thorns grows well in warmer climates.
The long fruit has been called ‘lime caviar’ and when sliced open lengthways provides sweet, juicy lime beads! A few varieties of Finger Limes are available, so choose between green, pink or red fruits.
Being a rainforest shrub, it grows best in the ground or in a container with part shade and slightly protected from the elements.
Feed with an organic fertiliser each season for healthy growth and good crops of delicious tangy fruit.
Midyim Berry – Austromyrtus dulcis
A small shrub growing in coastal areas. Likes full sun to part shade and well-drained soil with a layer of mulch.
This shrub is suitable for any garden with sandy loam or quality loam and produces small pale flowers and delicious spotted fruit, similar to a blueberry.
Great as a landscaping plant used alongside Lemon Myrtle or other taller growing shrubs or trees.
Native River Mint – Mentha australis
This lovely small leafed ground cover grows well in the garden (although can take over a garden if in right growing conditions), in a pot and also in a hanging basket (that’s how I grow this lovely Mint!)
Best suited to a semi-shaded position with protection from strong winds and full sun with moist soil will see this Mint thrive.
The delicate small leaves, which are similar in appearance to Thyme, have a strong spearmint flavour and small pale leaves are also edible with a lovely sweet mint flavour. Leaves are highly aromatic when crushed so is suitable for growing in a sensory or therapeutic garden.
Leaves and flowers are used in any dish, desert or beverage that requires a mint flavour and also lovely as a garnish.
TIPS FOR GROWING…
- choose plants to suit your climate and garden location
- follow the guidelines for each plant’s growing needs and prepare soil,
- plant in suitable sunlight, apply water as needed and fertilise sparingly
- if growing in a container choose suitable size containers for plant growth, eg a low shallow dish is great for mint varieties and a larger pot is needed for taller growing species
- when growing in containers use premium potting mix and add a handful, or two, of aged animal manure to help boost strong root growth
- harvest edible leaves as needed or harvest and dry ready to store and use in the kitchen
- following organic growing methods where possible. Find ideas for organic gardening at https://soiltosupper.com/easy-ideas-for-organic-gardening/
There are many species of bushfoods that can be grown in regions throughout Australia. Before choosing plants, I suggest doing some research into your local plant species and grow them in suitable soils and locations.
If you have any questions about your garden or establishing a gardening program please contact me – firstname.lastname@example.org
Growing with you,
Cath Manuel is the founder of Soil to Supper and a specialist in therapeutic horticulture and kitchen gardens.
Cath has many years’ experience in the horticulture industry, especially within the field of therapeutic horticulture, and provides programs both online and onsite. She also delivers unique training and provides support for people wanting to enjoy a career in Therapeutic Gardening.
Cath has a great passion for sharing her knowledge to inspire and support people of all ages and abilities to enjoy gardening for improved health and wellbeing.
Find more on therapeutic gardening at www.soiltosupper.com