It’s a wonderful thing that over the past decade or so, those of us from non-Indigenous backgrounds have become increasingly aware of the enormous wealth of knowledge possessed by the traditional guardians of our paradise on the planet. Recent catastrophic events have forced a rethink on how we manage the land in various respects, and this has obviously involved an increasing input by the First Nations People.
There’s a wealth of great bush tucker but one of my favourites is a wonderful, low-growing plant that produces scrumptious berries around January/February. Its common name has a few variations, but Midgen Berry is often used while the botanical name is Austromyrtus dulcis. It grows naturally up the North Coast and places like Fraser Island are covered in it. I have to admit it’s not one to particularly grow for the flowers; they are small and white and are produced around December. Having said that, the foliage is quite attractive with the new growth being of a lovely copper colour. But the more flowers, the more the berries. I simply love to gather handfuls of the berries and pop them on my cereal in late January and February. The taste is neither sweet nor sour so make of that what you will. It’s a low-growing plant to no more than 40cm high and will get a spread of up to a couple of metres and is an effective groundcover. It’s happy in full sun to quite heavy shade and seems to flower and fruit in any conditions. The only ‘pest’ I’ve encountered is with the Regent Bower Bird which also loves the fruit.
Years ago, I was asked to supply some tube stock to a grower of blueberries and was happy to do so. I followed up that request by contacting the Rural Industries Development Authority which was then a Commonwealth agency and when I asked if anyone was growing the plant commercially for the fruit, the answer I got was ‘No, and I can understand why not.’ I suspect the answer lies in the fact that when the fruit is ready to collect it’s fairly soft and really has to be gathered by hand. Tumblers are available by contacting Westleigh Native Plants at email@example.com
Brian Roach spent his professional life as Crown Prosecutor/Barrister before retiring. Brian runs a cottage industry native plant nursery from his home in Westleigh, as well as being a member of the Australian Plants Society.