Friday, September 23, 2011

Tasting Tassie

I'm a little bit obsessed by the idea of food with a sense of place. Not just local, organic and seasonal, but tastes that may be unique to where you are when you eat them. Tassie talks itself up on loads of fantastic produce that it'd be hard to live without. Olives, truffles, cheese, wine, saffron.....but, with the exception of seafood, perhaps mountain pepper and the odd bit of wallaby, I doubt that many native foods have made it past the lips of most Tasmanians.

There are quite a few wild food plants that are easy to use in any conventional kitchen. Flavours that are unique, but not challenging to the inexperienced palate. These are some of my favourites.

Sea Celery, Apium prostratum. This one is my very favourite at the moment! It's closely related to celery from a botanical perspective, but in the kitchen, and to the eye, it is more reminiscent of parsley. It has a strong parsley-like flavour, but is a little more earthy. I've had it growing, both in the outside garden here at Neika, where it's been waterlogged, frozen and rabbit nibbled, but still grows enough to gather, and in the polytunnel where it is more protected and grew well all winter. I've got lovely plants in tubes that are coming to market this Sunday.

Kunzea, Kunzea ambigua. This is an East Coast native from the Myrtaceae family, along with eucalypts, guavas, lemon myrtle and clove. Its probably the first Tasmanian plant that has come into regular use in my kitchen. It has a sweet, floral, mentholy aroma when fresh, when dried the menthol notes disapate. I first used it for cups of tea when bushwalking, and during tea breaks at Plants of Tasmania Nursery. I use it along with thyme, lemon zest and garlic to season roast chicken and spuds (or maybe one of Richard's Bruny bunnies..), or on its own with fish. It also adds a nice floral kick to cheese crackers. I'll have this available as a cut herb ready for use in your kitchen.

Round leafed mint, Prostanthera rotundifolia. This one is as pretty as it is tasty, although I use it in tiny quantities. A small teaspoon of leaves blitzed with the sugar used to make chocolate chip cookies, gives a clean, minty sweetness. In the garden the plant gets to about 1.5m tall and is covered in gorgeous purple flowers through Spring. It can be short lived in the garden, but regular pruning will stay it at its best for longer. It is listed as vulnerable in the wild in Tasmania. I have some lovely plants in flower that I'll bring down to market.

I'll also have the usual array of plants, some mixed bundles of herbs ready for you to throw in the pot, eggs, purple sprouting broccoli for the early birds, and whatever lovely Spring greens look best tomorrow when I'm gathering!

So rock on down to the Farm Gate on Sunday from 9am!! And watch this space for a list of our 19 awesome varieties of tomato seedlings that will start appearing at the market soon.


  1. Nice looking wild food plants. It's so interesting knowing which ones you can eat. Must make it to Farm Gate one day been wanting to for awhile. Great time in the garden now with all the fruit trees starting to flower etc.

  2. It's a fantastic time in the garden! But I wouldn't mind if the rain would stop for a little while so I can plant my spuds.... There are loads more wild plants to eat, native and feral. I love watching your animal adventures too, I have pig envy!