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Aboriginal Bush Foods from the Barcaldine Area

Updated: Apr 1, 2019

Ever wondered about the brushes surrounding Barcaldine, and what sort of cuisine you can expect to find? Look no further-- we have a list to answer your curiousities.

Burdekin Plumb

  • the Plumb is one of many Australian plants with edible fruit

  • Aboriginal people would soften the fruit by burying them in sand for up to two weeks after picking

  • They also ate the fruits dried

  • The are used to make jam

Bush Orange

  • The Bush Orange is very rich in vitamin C

  • It grows on a tree and the outer skin is green

  • When broken its yellowy orange on the inside

  • When the fruit is in season you can smell the fruit. It gives off a very strong caramel smell!

Bush Banana

  • Aboriginal people love this plant. They eat the flowers, young leaves, roast the roots and suck the nectar from the flowers

  • The young, green pods, skin, green seeds and pulp - all are eaten raw while they are still crunchy, moist and sweet

  • They have a sticky, milky white sap

  • Older fruits can be baked lightly in hot fire ashes and peeled before eating

Bush Coconut

  • The bush coconuts are found on the blood wood tree

  • When split open there is a white coating on the inside which represents the coconut. You eat this, although it tastes very bland

  • The coconut is formed by the female wasp. She has no wings and is in the form of a jelly like insect

  • You can eat her as she is full of protein

Emu Apple

  • Emu apples are fleshy, edible fruit which look, smell and taste like tiny apples, but are best if left buried for a few days first

  • When ripe, the skin of the fruit is downy and tinged red, pink or purple like a peach

  • Aboriginal people would pound the dried fruit into cakes

Lily Pilly

  • There are 52 species of lilly pilly in Australia, all with edible fruit

  • In spring to early summer, most lilly pillies have fluffy white or greenish flowers followed by long lasting red, purple or whitish berries.

  • Aboriginal people would eat the berries when they were a bright pink colour

  • The lilly pilly was one of the first edible plants to be noted during Captain Cook's visit to Australia in 1770. The colonists also made the fruit into jams and summer drinks

  • This lilly pilly is endangered because of clearing of its habitat for agriculture


  • Pigweed not only provides tiny, oily, nutritious seeds, but a green vegetable, whose anti-scorbutic qualities were valued by the people of the west well into the 1950's.

  • Leaves were eaten raw and seeds ground and baked

  • The tiny black seeds are one of the most important bush foods of inland Australia, containing up to 20% protein and 16% fat

  • Aboriginal people 'pulled up the plants, throwing them in heaps, which after a few days they turn over and an abundant supply of seed is found to have fallen out'

  • The seed is processed by grinding it on a float rock with a hand-held stone. The resulting flour is made into a damper

  • The leaves and stems are also edible

  • They can be pounded into a mush and eaten raw, cooked as a vegetable or added to salads

Bottle Tree

  • The white pulpy substance found under the bark was used as food

  • The starchy tissue of the stems and roots of the tree can be eaten, as well as the seeds

  • The seeds are surrounded by irritating hairs which were removed by roasting in a fire

  • The roots yield good quantities of drinking water

  • The aborigines also cut holes in the soft trunks of the tree, creating artificial reservoirs

  • Bottle trees have fibrous inner bark which was used for making rope and twine for fishing nets


  • The inner bark is removed in lace strips. It was used to make fishing nets, lines and dilly bags

  • The seeds were ground up and made into flour

  • The tree is an excellent supplier of water with large quantities of water found from the roots

Paper Bark Tree

  • paperbarks commonly grow round the edges of fresh water swamps

  • The flowers secrete copious quantities of nectar, which may be sucked directly, or extracted by soaking the blossoms in water to make a sweet drink

  • Aborigines used the leaves traditionally for many medicinal purposes, including chewing the young leaves to alleviate headaches and for other ailments

  • The softness and flexibility of the paperbark itself made it an extremely useful tree to Aboriginal people

  • It was used to line coolamons when used as cradles, as a bandage, as a sleeping mat, and as material for building gunyas or humpies

  • It was also used for wrapping food or cooking (in the same way aluminium foil is today) as a disposable raincoat, and for mending holes in canoes

Bull Rush

  • Native bullrush - flat long leaves 1-2m high, flowering spike resembles a fluffy cat tail, or some of the old timers reckon it looks like a sausage on the end of a skewer

  • The immature green flower stalk can be steamed or boiled and eaten like corn on the cob

  • The mature brown flower stalk can be pulled apart and mixed in a damper made from the swollen base stem which is in the mud. Mats can be woven from leaves

  • Bullrush damper was a main food for many Aboriginal tribes

  • The underground stems were baked and skinned and thoroughly chewed to extract starch. The remained were rolled on the thigh to make twine

Bottle Brush

  • Nectar-baring flowers like the bottlebrush were sucked for their sweet nectar and taste

  • By immersing the flowers in water, a sweet tasting drink is made

  • Blossoms of some plants were collected and kneaded in a coolamon

  • The flowers are then removed and water is mixed with the residue to make a sweet drink

Bloodwood Tree

  • Carrying bowls were made from the bumps (boules) on the bark

  • The red sap was used as medicine

  • The oily sap was used as a liniment to treat arthritis

  • Aboriginal people would collect drinking water from hollows and the roots

  • The red sap was also used to tan kangaroo-skin waterbags

  • The dead wood is one of the most favoured firewoods, regarded as burning with a steady, hot flame

  • Fruit capsules are used in necklaces and as toys

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