Year 11 students studying Foods and Applied Foods had their senses delighted—and challenged—by ‘Bush Tucker’ today when Aunty Julie McHale, a Palawa woman, who has been adopted as an elder by the local Dja Dja Wurrung community, revealed the veritable supermarket that surrounds us.

Aunty Julie began the session by introducing everyone to the sacred Wurrun, Pulloitch and Mootchong leaves (otherwise known as Manna Gum, Cherry Bullart and Black Wattle).

The group then dived into an intense introduction to the herbs, berries, fruits, nuts, fungi, ferns, flowers and roots that have long-sustained traditional owners who lived so successfully off country.

“These days our taste buds have become so used to sweet foods, that we often find the fructose-free indigenous fruits very sour,” Aunty Julie said. “But try the Minya berries that resemble a currant… or the Munthari berries that taste a bit like apples.

“And, I warn you, unless you can handle the hottest chillis, keep well clear of the pepper berries.”

As part of her presentation, Aunty Julie explained that many native Australian foods would qualify for what we label ‘super foods’. They are generally richly nutritious and many also contain medicinal properties that make them valuable as ‘first aid kit’ treatments.

The day ended with native mushroom pizza and local-ingredient dukkah and macadamia oil—all washed down with lemon myrtle tea and banksia-grevillea punch. Delicious!!!

Kara Graham thought the whole experience was amazing.

“I learnt so many new things, but I have to admit I was not so keen on some of the flavours—I’m just not used to them.”

James Fisher enjoyed trying a variety of the foods and agreed with Kara that it was about getting used to new flavours.

“I think it would be good if we grew some of these foods more widely,” Lucy Noonan said.

Tom Tavaga found the morning a “very interesting experience” as he experienced foods he had never tasted before.

“I hope you leave here confused,” Aunty Julie said to the students. “I hope you leave here wondering why we are growing European crops that are so vulnerable to our weather, when grain crops like kangaroo grass and wallaby grass are completely adapted to the Australian environment.”