Since opening the doors to Saltbush Kitchen in Buninyong, I have had many conversations with customers wanting to grow their own bushfoods. Bringing bushfoods into the average Australian garden may seem daunting, but it is well worthwhile, rewarding and there’s nothing quite like adding fresh bushfoods to your cooking! So here are my top 5 bushfoods for an urban garden (in Victoria).
A great starting point Rivermint is a very beginner friendly plant to grow. It’s happy in a pot, or in the ground (be aware it will spread like English mint). It can cope with full sun or full shade, however it will need regular watering, it naturally grows by rivers after all. It likes growing conditions similar to European Peppermint or Spearmint and appreciates a regular trim. Pop one on your kitchen windowsill as a starter bushfood.
- Where to grow: Can grow in a pot or the ground
- Botanical name: Mentha australis
- Flavour: Intense mint flavour and scent
- Cooking substitute: A great substitute for mint
- Cooking use: Great in salads, dressings, tea and desserts
Also known as Native Oregano and Native round-leaf mint, this is a quick growing addition to any bushfood addicts garden. It prefers a sunny spot with well-drained soil, watch out for root rot. This is a great plant for beginners because it’s not a fussy grower and the leaves and stems can easily be added to cooking, they also dry easily for storage. The strong earthy flavours pair well with a wide range of savoury foods. It has beautiful purple flowers in spring that offers a delicate delicious addition to salads and desserts.
- Where to grow: Best grown in the ground
- Botanical name: Prostanthera rotundifolia
- Flavour: Strong savory mint/thyme like flavour and scent
- Cooking substitute: A great substitute for rosemary & oregano
- Cooking use: Brilliant addition to bread, meat rubs and savoury meals
- Warning: Be warned it is VERY strong and you don’t need to use much!
Originating in Tasmania the Mountain Pepper plant is a delightful addition to any Australian garden. With a little bit of space, in the ground or a pot, this can grow to quite an attractive shrub, with delightful flowers in Spring. Both the leaves and berries can be added to meals for a peppery spice. The Mountain Pepper bush is happy with frost, but keep it shaded from hot sun in Summer, it prefers a bit of a chilly mountain atmosphere.
- Where to grow: Can grow in a pot or in the garden (preferably in the ground)
- Botanical name: Tasmannia lanceolata
- Origin: Tasmania
- Flavour: Spicy pepper flavour reminiscent of Sichuan pepper
- Cooking Substitute: A great substitute for pepper
- Cooking use: The leaf is a delicious savoury pepper great on spuds and other veggies. Cook up with butter, leeks and cheddar for a tart. The berry has more of a sweet spicy flavour and is very versatile - use anywhere you would use black pepper.
Traditionally a seaside plant, Warrigal Greens have huge potential in the bushfood fan’s garden. They are incredibly easy to grow and propagate yourself, start with it in a pot because it has the potential to take over. With a bit of watering and regular trimming you’ll find yourself with a lush plot of greens which can easily replace spinach in your cooking. These greens make a great base for pesto and are a flexible addition to any meal. Just make sure to give them a quick blanch before eating, the fur on the leaves can be a touch unpleasant if raw.
- Where to grow: Best to grow in a contained garden bed as it spreads
- Botanical name: Tetragonia tetragonioides
- Flavour: Spinach with bite and guts
- Cooking Substitute: A great substitute for English spinach.
- Cooking method: Best to blanch and rinse before cooking
- Cooking use: Delightful in quiches, tarts and stews. Makes an awesome pesto (see our recipe at www.saltbushkitchen.com.au) Try sautéed with butter for breakfast with eggs.
Native Lemon Grass
If you’re looking for a bright lemon flavour then look no further, Native Lemongrass is an excellent herb for the bushfood novice. This plant is robust, like many native grasses, and with a bit of watering can grow into a lush plant. Harvest the leaves year round to add to teas, desserts or curries. You can also freeze or dry the leaves if you’d like to save them, or share with friends! The aromatic lemon scents will easily find their way into your day to day cooking.
- Where to grow: Can grow in a pot or in the garden
- Botanical name: Cymbopogon ambiguus
- Origin: Central Australia
- Flavour: A beautiful aromatic lemon flavour.
- Cooking substitute: A great substitute for lemon grass.
- Drinking use: Use as a tea, add to boiled water for a fresh pick me up
- Cooking use: Use where you would use lemon grass.
These 5 plants are a great place to start, and are (seasonally) available at Saltbush Kitchen or your local nursery.
Bring more of Australia into your garden this Spring.