Forgotten Foods

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Tales from Garden to Table

10 Native plants you never knew were edible

Posted on 29 January, 2016 at 0:05 Comments comments (1)

It really is amazing how many of our native plants offer something edible. The following list of common garden plants represents just a tiny proportion of native plants that have edible roots, fruit, leaves or seeds. 

 

  1. Brachychiton populneus or Kurrajong is a beautiful small tree that makes a great feature in the garden and, even more impressive is that the seeds can be roasted and eaten whole or ground into flour.
  2. Bursaria spinosa or Sweet Bursaria, Boxthorn and numerous variations around these common names, is a variable medium to large shrub that is common in bushland throughout Victoria and NSW. I only found out today that the both nectar and seeds are edible with the seeds being yet another useful source of bush flour.
  3. Clematis aristata or Old Mans Beard is a light climber found throughout forested areas throughout Eastern Australia. It is an attractive plant with a lovely spring flower display and masses of fluffy seed heads in summer and has edible tap roots that can be roasted.
  4. Hardenbergia violacea or Native Wisteria is another attractive climber with lovely violet flowers in spring. Early settlers apparently brewed a tea substitue from the leaves.
  5. Kennedia prostrata or Running Postman is a fabulous little groundcover ideal for rocky gardens where it can wend its way amongst the rocks. The flowers contain sweet nectar and the leaves can also be used for tea.
  6. Lomandra longifolia or Spiny Matt Rush is such a commonly used plant it is getting a bit boring. However, it certainly has its uses as a filler plant in difficult spots and as an added bonus you can eat the leaf bases which taste like peas. The nectar is apparently also edible but how you would get past the spines is beyond me. There is some sketchy information that also suggests the seeds ground for flour. You could also try some of the other species of Lomandra some of which lack the spines on the flowers which would make nectar tasting far easier.
  7. Viola hederaceae or Native Violet is a great little groundcover for shady spots in the garden. It does prefer moist conditions and may disappear over summer if it is too hot and dry. The dainty little flowers make a pretty addition to a fruit salad or icecream.
  8. Xanthorrhoea australis or Grasstree was used for food, weapons and basketry. The flower spikes are rich in edible nectar and the leaf bases may also be edible.
  9. Dianella caerulea or Blue Flax Lilly is a usefull filler plant where you want something tough and tufting. The purple flowers are a pretty feature as are the edible blue berries. The berries of most Dianella species are apparently edible with the possible exception of D. tasmanica although it depends on which reference you read. If you're wanting to try any of the berries start with a very small amount and see how they smell and taste and obviously use common sense and don't eat any more of them if you feel in any way unwell.
  10. Banksia marginata or Silver Banksia is a good feature tree or screening shrub for coastal and dry gardens. All banksias produce copious amounts of nectar which can be sucked straight from the flower or made into a drink by soaking the flowers in water for a few hours.