NAIDOC Week – Australian Native Plants

By Greta Paget

The aim of NAIDOC week is to celebrate the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This act of recognition and celebration is especially significant in our current political climate, with BLM protests occurring worldwide.

Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu (among other scholarly works) challenges the concept of a ‘hunter-gatherer’ model in Australia before colonisation. The work puts forward scientific evidence to support Pascoe’s proposal that Indigenous Australians employed agricultural and land management methods in pre-colonial times. Acknowledging such methods allows us to acknowledge Indigenous Australia’s pre-colonial history, which is largely overlooked in our educational institutions.

As a gardening blog, we will detail how to grow and use five native Australian plants, some of which Pascoe grows and harvests on his Victorian property.

1) Australian Finger Lime

This sub-tropical plant can be grown in your Sydney garden, in well-drained soil with mulching in winter and moist ground in summer. It can be grown in a pot or in a garden bed, in sun or part shade, and can be pruned to be kept to the desired size. The fruit, once picked, can be used for lime juice in baking, as an addition to drinks, or used in marmalades.

2) Murnong (Yam Daisy)

This plant has edible roots and leaves – the roots are ‘sweet and slightly coconutty’, and the leaves are ‘slightly bitter’. Whilst rare, they may be found in bushland in NSW, Victoria, and the ACT. They grow best in rich soil and full sun, and with regular watering in the summer months. They can be grown in garden beds or in pots with sufficient root space. Once harvested, the roots may be eaten raw or baked like a potato.

3) Lilly Pilly

Varieties of this shrub can be grown in the Sydney region, in deep soil, in sun or partial shade (sun is preferred). Again, the shrub likes mulch in winter and moist soil in summer, and fertiliser in the spring. The berries can be used to make jams and chutneys or added to salads.

4) Wattleseed

Certain species of wattle may be harvested for wattleseed, which once roasted, has a coffee-like flavour, and can be used in desserts, sauces, marinades, and curries. Whilst species used for wattleseed generally thrive better inland than in the Sydney region, the wattle plant is of interest as a native plant which yields edible seeds, grows well in Australian soils and climates, and has adapted to native animals which may act as pests. 

5) Kangaroo Grass

Whilst this plant might be a little too space-hungry to be reasonably grown in your city garden, it is of interest as a crop which Pascoe grows on his property. It manages the dry Australian climate, can grow in a range of soils, and has adapted to Australian pests. The grain, once harvested, may be used as a native alternative to wheat when making bread.

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