Saturday, 4 August 2012

Wild plant book recommendations

A comment on my earlier blog post on edible Australian Plants was quite a fair question and something that most migrants to Australia (and even the descendants of migrants to Australia) often think: that is that there isn't anything to eat in the bush here, unlike back home.

There seems to be a view that Europe was a blessed garden and Australia was a harsh place to live in (certainly any early settlers can give testament to that).
The question in particular was:
Gotta say that's not as appealing as the stuff we had in Northern Europe, but I'd still love to learn to forage more here

The poster also asked for a book reference on Australian plants. Ultimately I thought that the easiest way to answer the question of a good book on edible Australian plants was to post this picture of the book.

On the other subject, while it may be true that many plants which are used for food are superior in Europe (or other parts of the world), its important to recall that this is the result of some thousands of years of cultivation, cross breeding and and international trade / exploration.

For example:
The wild ancestors of the carrot are likely to have come from Iran and Afghanistan, which remains the centre of diversity of D. carota, the wild carrot. Selective breeding over the centuries of a naturally occurring subspecies of the wild carrot, Daucus carota subsp. sativus, to reduce bitterness, increase sweetness and minimise the woody core, has produced the familiar garden vegetable. ... The modern carrot appears to have been introduced to Europe in the 8–10th centuries.

The potato was first domesticated in the region of modern-day southern Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia. This event took place between the years 8000 BC and 5000 BC. ... Historians speculate that leftover tubers (and maize) were carried ashore and planted: "We think that the potato arrived some years before the end of the 16th century, by two different ports of entry: the first, logically, in Spain around 1570, and the second via the British isles between 1588 and 1593 ...

and even bread on the table in Europe owes its existence to trade with the "east"
Wheat is one of the first cereals known to have been domesticated, and wheat's ability to self-pollinate greatly facilitated the selection of many distinct domesticated varieties. The archaeological record suggests that this first occurred in the regions known as the Fertile Crescent, and the Nile Delta. These include southeastern parts of Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, the Levant, Israel, Egypt and Ethiopia. Recent findings narrow the first domestication of wheat down to a small region of southeastern Turkey, and domesticated Einkorn wheat at Nevalı Çori—40 miles (64 km) northwest of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey

the list of benefits to our food from trade and exchange goes on and on .. you may be rather disappointed with what was strictly locally available without this. This is something which wasn't available to the peoples of this continent.

There is little doubt that survival in Australia was hard going. Sure the climate may be less challenging than parts of Europe, but the life here wasn't any less so. The indigenous people were clearly masterful at survival here.


Sami said...

I didn't mean the cultivated varieties; the "bred" range over here I think mostly is and tastes better than in Finland (except strawberries). I was referring to the wild foraged goodies like blueberries, cloudberries, wild strawberries, cowberries etc that are just awesome.

Thanks for the book tip though!

obakesan said...


yep ... no doubt that the berries there are lovely. My favorites are the wild raspberry (not the cultivated ones) and then the local wild strawberries.

Even the cultivated strawberries beat the sour apples they sell as strawberries over here.