A tour of Australian native ingredients
Think Australian cuisine and you might think Vegemite, lamingtons and shrimp on the barbie. But Australia is home to a raft of unusual ingredients, from chocolatey wattleseed to peach-like quandong.
Eaten by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years, they’re now celebrated and championed by chefs who like to bring a taste of bush tucker to their menus, introducing foodie fans to a whole host of little-known ingredients.
We’ve picked out five flavours for epicures to try Down Under (and highlighted which of our tours around Australia are best for seeking out each one). Dig in!
This creamy, citrussy herb hails from the sub-tropical rainforests in coastal Queensland and northern New South Wales. The leaves of the lemon myrtle shrub have long been used by Indigenous Australians, and are rich in vitamins and antimicrobial properties.
In food, they’re used in all sorts of delicious dishes, from cheesecakes and sorbets to grilled fish and veggie stews. Look out for it in cafes, artisan bakeries and patisseries around Brisbane and Noosa, where you’ll often see mouthwatering tarts, ice-creams and puddings flavoured with lemon myrtle.
Our ‘Grand Tour of Australia’ holidays include time on the Queensland and New South Wales coast, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to seek out a few lemon myrtle treats.
Found on a handful of acacia species, the low-GI, protein-rich wattleseed has been used in Australia for thousands of years. Flavour-wise, it’s slightly nutty with chocolate and coffee undertones, so it goes well in a whole host of dishes and products.
It’s often ground to a flour and used to make bread, cakes and muffins, or stirred into warm milk, hot chocolate or chai to add extra depth. It adds a punch to smoothies and pavlovas, and you’ll often find it sprinkled over yoghurt or muesli in health-food cafes.
You’ll find it in Australia’s more arid parts – it’s wild harvested around Alice Springs, and grown in areas of South Australia and western Victoria. All four of our holidays to Australia include a couple of days around Alice springs and Uluru, while our ‘Best of Australia’ tours also feature time in western Victoria and Adelaide.
Native to Australia’s dry central deserts, bush tomatoes are usually harvested during autumn/winter time, when the sun has dried them to the point of looking a little like large raisins.
High in vitamin C, they have an earthy caramel flavour profile, with a kick of spice. They’re incredibly versatile – find them used whole in soups and stews, chopped into salsas and relishes, and baked into bread with punchy herbs. When ground into a spice (often labelled ‘akudjura’), they’re delicious rubbed onto meat or fish.
Our Australia tour holidays all include stops in the ‘Red Centre’, where bush tomatoes are typically grown and harvested.
Known as an Outback superfood, this shiny, cherry-red fruit is packed full of good stuff (antioxidants, iron, zinc, calcium and twice the vitamin C of an orange). Sometimes called a wild or desert peach, it’s been a staple for Indigenous Australians for thousands of years, and has a slightly tangy peachy, rhubarb flavour.
It’s often poached to make jams, chutneys and compotes, or to be used as a tart, tangy pie filling. It can be slow-cooked into a sticky sauce to glaze a shoulder of pork or leg of lamb, or made into a fruity gelato or summer pudding. In cakes and puddings, you might find it combined with wattleseed.
You’ll find quandong trees in the arid or semi-arid areas of most states, so you’ll never be far from its sweet, sticky deliciousness. Our tours of Australia tend not to include most lunches or dinners, leaving you free to seek out fantastic local restaurants and cafes wherever we are that day – perfect for finding yourself a few authentic Aussie dishes.
Karkalla is often spied growing on the sand dunes and cliffs of coastal regions of Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria. Also known as pigface (for the shape of its flowers) and beach banana (for the shape of its leaves), you can eat both the deep-red fruit and the crunchy leaves of karkalla.
The salty leaves are served raw in a crunchy salad, or blanched or stir-fried and paired with meat, fish and veggies. They’ve been a popular pick with celebrity chefs (TV chef Kylie Kwong is a fan), and feature on the menu at a number of high-end Sydney eateries. The fruit, meanwhile, tends to be cooked or stewed to make jams, conserves and jellies. It can also be eaten raw – it has a sweet and slightly salty flavour, and is similar in texture to a fig or kiwifruit.
Our ‘Grand Tour of Australia’ and ‘Highlights of Australia’ holidays visit Western Australia and Victoria; ‘The Best of Australia’ visits Victoria and South Australia.
Tempted to try some of Australia’s native ingredients? Browse our Australia escorted tours or contact our travel advisors for more information.
Although she loves a lie-in at home, Laura is often up and about before dawn on holiday. She’s watched the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, Uluru and Angkor Wat, but her favourite was seeing the first light of the New Year sweeping across the yacht-dotted waters of Sydney Harbour.
Laura | About the author
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