Course CodeBHT328
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn about identifying, growing and using

Australian Plants for Food

There are many Australian plants that are edible, and even some that are in very high demand as foods throughout the world. The Aborigines lived off the land before white civilization came to Australia. Plants contributed significantly to their diet. Many of these native plants are worthwhile growing. There are many different types of bush tucker foods:

  • Nuts and seeds (eg. Acacia, Macadamia, bunya nuts)
  • Drinks (eg. hot teas, infusions of nectar laden flowers, fruit juices)
  • Flavourings (eg. lemon scented myrtle)
  • Berries (eg. Astroloma, some Solanum species)
  • Fruits (eg. quandong, Ficus macrophylla, Syzygium)
  • Vegetables
  • Wattle seeds ground to produce ‘flour’
  • Plant roots ground to produce a paste or flour.

Lesson Structure

  1. Introduction
    • Scope
    • Is it Edible
    • Native Plants to be Cautious with
    • Understanding Plant Toxins
    • Nutritional Value of Bush tucker
    • Plant Identification
    • Naming Plants
    • Hybrids, Varieties and Cultivars
    • Plant Families
    • Pronouncing Plant Names
    • Resources
  2. Growing
    • Understanding Soil
    • Improving Soil
    • Feeding Plants
    • Growing Australian Plants on Low Fertility Soils
    • Planting Procedure
    • Mulching
    • Pruning Australian Plants
    • Propagation
    • Seed
    • Collecting, Storing, Germinating Seed
    • Difficult Seeds
    • Seed Germination Techniques
    • Handling and raising seedlings
    • Asexual Propagation (Cuttings, Division, etc)
  3. Gathering
    • Introduction
    • Ethics
    • Bush Foods as A Commercial Venture
    • Gathering Acacia Seed
    • Developing a Bush Food Garden
    • Designing a Bush Garden
    • Selected Native Trees for a Bush Tucker Garden
    • Selected Shrubs for a Bush Tucker Garden
    • Selected Small Indigenous Australian Plants for a Bush Tucker Garden
    • Rainforest Gardens
    • Desert Gardens
    • Edible Arid Zone Bush Tucker plants
    • Water Management
  4. Nuts and Seeds
    • Macadamia
    • Araucaria
    • Aleurites moluccana
    • Athertonia diversifolia (Atherton Oak)
    • Castanospermum australe
    • Hicksbeachia pinnatifolia
    • Acacias
    • Using Acacias (eg. Wattleseed Essense)
  5. Vegetables
    • Native Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides)
    • Pigface (Carpobrotus sp.)
    • Longleaf Mat Rush (Lomandra longifolia)
    • Solanums (Bush Tomatoes or Kangaroo Apple)
    • Blechnum indicum
    • Apium prostratum (Sea Celery)
    • Native Lilies
    • Microseris lanceolata (Yam Daisy)
    • Dioscorea transversa (Wild Yams)
    • Native ginger Alpinia caerulea
    • Seaweeds
  6. Fruits
    • Astroloma
    • Austromyrtus dulcis (Midgen Berry)
    • Billardiera sp (eg. Appleberry)
    • Davidsonia purescens (Davidson’s Plum)
    • Eugenia spp. and Syzygium spp. (eg. Bush Cherries)
    • Ficus (Native Figs)
    • Planchonella australis (Black Apple)
    • Quandong (Santalum)
    • Rubus sp (Native Raspberry)
    • Other Fruits ...lots more outlined
  7. Flavourings, Teas, Essences
    • Backhousia
    • Curcuma (related to ginger)
    • Eucalyptus
    • Leptospermum
    • Soaked Flowers (eg. Grevillea)
    • Acacia
    • Alpinia caerulea
    • Tasmannia sp
  8. Using Bush Tucker Plants
    • Develop your ability to identify, select, and develop processing procedures, for a range of varieties of bush food plants selected.


  • Discuss the nature and scope of bush tucker plants.
  • Review the way bush tucker plants are accurately identified.
  • Describe how to cultivate a range of bush tucker plants.
  • Describe how bush foods are harvested from the wild and how to set up a cultivated bush food garden.
  • Outline the cultivation, harvest and use of various bush tucker nuts and seeds.
  • Explain the cultivation, harvest and use of various bush tucker vegetables
  • Explain the cultivation, harvest and use of various bush tucker fruits
  • Explain the cultivation, harvest and use of various bush tucker plants that are used to flavour foods or beverages
  • Describe the preparation of bush tucker.


It is estimated that there are approximately five thousand different bush tucker species native to Australia; they have provided Aboriginal people with a wide variety of nutritious foods for thousands of years. Given that in the developed world there are only around 20 plant species which have become staple food sources it is little wonder that there has been a resurgent interest in bush tucker during recent years. This interest has also been marked by the emergence of nurseries specialising in bush tucker plants. This lesson will concentrate on the culture, care and propagation of native plants.


Australian Bush Foods as a Commercial Venture

Over the last decade, the bush-food industry has had small but significant growth, with interest both domestically and internationally for our unique species and the foods that they can produce. The bush tucker industry is currently estimated to be around $14million per annum (excluding macadamia production which is worth $120million on its own).

Aboriginal communities and licensed collectors harvest directly from the wild. As demand increases, the pressure to supply also increases. This has an enormous impact on the sustainability of collecting wild species and the future health of the natural environment. For efficient and cost effective wild harvesting that produces quality bush food, collectors must harvest material to an agreed standard. This can be problematic as quality varies from season to season and from collector to collector.

There is some evidence to suggest that wild-harvesting can be sustainable and ecologically sound if certain guidelines are followed. Some of these include:

  • Harvesting from species that are abundant in an area. Search for areas that are producing abundant crops from an abundant amount of plants – heavily producing plants also produce better quality and more viable seed.
  • Harvesting only seeds and fruits – not an entire plant; leaving enough seed for the plant to reproduce.
  • The amount that is harvested should be relative to the production of each species.
  • Harvest only a small percentage of a crop from any one area to maximise sustainability.

However an obvious direction in the production of bush foods is commercial farming. This has the opportunity to create expansion in commercial bush-food production and see the development of more specialised farms.  Appropriate species selection for farming has been aided through research studies and the significant input of Botanical Gardens; their major role being the provision of educational resources on plants and their uses, and to encourage sustainable collection or production.

Farming of bush tucker species offers many benefits; it reduces risk of failed and or poor quality produce that can be associated with wild harvests. It cuts back the labour intensive high cost of wild collection and is not dependant on the unreliability of wild plant production. With restrictions to the access of wild sources in the near future (through government intervention), access will be limited. It is currently estimated that about 80% of bush food is wild collected. This figure will be greatly reduced over the coming decade; almost all bush-food will be produced on commercial farms in the near future.  


The food industry today is always looking for new 'tastes' and with over 5,000 different bush tucker foods, the possibilities for anyone with an entrepreneurial flair, are quite obvious. 
  • Grow and sell a crop that is difficult, or maybe even impossible to find 
  • Process bush tucker foods with or apart from mainstream foods to produce unique preserves or food products
  • Create unique dishes as a cook, caterer, cafe or restaurant owner
 Develop your business or career into a very unique position, carving out a niche market and a following of loyal customers, to ensure your future.

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