I=Indigenous Foods are Coming to Stores and Cafes Soon
I am so intrigued at discovering more and more about Indigenous foods and how they are making a place in the world by way of researchers, cafe owners, and farms that are starting to get the word out and the world ready.
Too long have the Aboriginals and other indigenous peoples been held down, or held back from capitalizing on their native “bush tucker” (Foods found in the wild like fruits, nuts, wallaby, and swamp turtle) and sharing it instead of hiding it from the world. These are the foods that have sustained Aboriginal communities for millennia.
The University of Queensland and the Australian Research Council recently launched the Training Centre for Uniquely Australian Foods, it’s aim being to expand the scope of Australia’s native food agriculture business, thereby creating new cash crops in Indigenous communities.
Indigenous Australians have been greatly undervalued for their skills, culture, and traditional knowledge due to the legacy of British colonization, which was designed to mirror Britain’s society yet in doing so, created education and employment systems that were foreign and often outright hostile to Indigenous Australians. This caused high unemployment rates, particularly in remote areas without access to education or job training.
The new center wants to highlight those very things with the farms they are helping establish, which will be owned and operated by Indigenous people. The profits will then be spread throughout their communities. The center has a research team who specialize in social science, natural science, and law. They work with an Indigenous enterprise group of which Robert Dann is a member.
As one of the world’s oldest civilizations Indigenous people have a history stretching back 60,000 years. They have a cuisine consisting of 5,000 native food species, yet only 18 of these have been commercialized. Dann wants the world to know more about delicious foods like the boab nut that they have known for centuries.
He has been enjoying recipes made with the boab nuts since childhood and has now turned those recipes into a business. What is a boab nut? They come from the boab tree with it’s bulbous trunk and spindly branches. The nuts are the size of a cantaloupe, which — once broken open — reveal white kernels which are then boiled and made into a porridge with sugar. The broth from the boiled nuts is also made into a drink similar to iced tea. With the help of the center, he has learned how to market his recipes and has branded his Boab-nut-infused drinks Bindam Mie.
Another collaboration between the center and an Indigenous community led to the introduction of a green plum the people have been eating for 53,000 years, which the scientists say could become the latest “super food”. It might become one of the key sources of income for these Indigenous communities in Arhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory.
Initially, the team was seeking out the well-known Kakadu Plum, when the Indigenous people showed them the more superior plum. Now the team is working to learn the nutritional properties and commercial value, because according to Dr. Sultanbawa, it is one of the healthiest native foods ever discovered in Australia. High in folate, fiber, and protein not to mention lots of minerals like magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, its also delicious! It’s said to taste like a pear.
Not yet ready to be sold, investors are still interested. Once the center finishes the work on the green-plum project, the fruit will become the 19th Australian native food produced commercially. It will join fruits like, desert lime, finger lime, bush tomato, Kakadu plum, lemon aspen, pepperberry, quondong, and riberry. Also herbs such as gulbarn, jilungin,anise myrtle, river mint, saltbush, sea parsley, peppermint gum, pepperleaf, and strawberry gum.
The doctor states that the center wants to help produce and sell native foods while utilizing Indigenous knowledge which must be respected, as they know best how to grow and use these foods. This makes the Centre different from other ventures that have tried to exploit Indigenous resources and knowledge with limited direct benefit to Indigenous communities.
Dann’s business has succeeded tremendously with the center’s help. His brand produces peach, lemon, and original flavored boab iced tea which can be purchased directly via his website and also in Western Australian stores. His customers appreciate the simple, natural ingredients used to make the drinks, nothing but water, boab powder, fruit extract, and organic agave nectar. Bindam Mie also sells ginger beer, boab powder and syrup.
He enjoys seeing the Indigenous people getting a proper chance to make some money from their native foods. The only prior commercial experience Dann had was collecting Kakadu plums and selling them with a friend to a health-food company. Now he is creating employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians in the Kimberley, paying them 414 per kilogram for the boab nuts they gather in the wild.
He says, “There are so many amazing native foods that no one really knows about, only us [Indigenous people.] Now we are starting to show them to the world.”
I’ll be speaking more on Indigenous foods in future posts when I showcase some of Australia’s newest eateries, like The Lillypad, which I will talk about on the 12th.