Paul West learns the benefits of bushfoods and how to incorporate them into the River Cottage kitchen.
Margaret Dean and Beresford Stock are retired academics with a background in pharmacy and an interest in bush foods. After teaching in various positions around the world they moved to Narooma where they started growing bush food as a hobby on their small property.
Margaret and Beresford (also known as Stocky) were able to help Paul as he investigated the available options for growing his own native bush food. They provided advice as to what might be suitable for the area and gave him some saplings.
Margaret and Stocky grow a variety of bush foods on their property including Lemon Myrtle, Aniseed Myrtle, Finger Limes, Bunya Nuts, Illawarra Plums, Native Cherries and Macadamias amongst others. The native foods can have a very finite fruiting period, though during his visit Paul was able to harvest finger limes - which were later used in a refreshing cordial.
Finger limes are a tropical rainforest plant not normally found on the NSW South Coast. Their fruits are cylindrical and their caviar-like acidic pulp can be coloured green, yellow or rose. They can be used a substitute for any citrus, but they don’t juice well. They are suitable for freezing and can be preserved in this way.
Finger Limes are becoming increasingly popular in mainstream cookery and are often utilised as an accompaniment to oysters, in cocktails and a as a lime substitute in other dishes. They have an intense zesty flavour.
Margaret and Stocky do not make a living out of their bush food orchards as the market for the product is not quite established. Most of the fruits and nuts are utilised in making preserves including Macadamia Nut Pesto, Finger Lime Marmalade, and a Lemon Aspen spread. They also sell ground Lemon Myrtle and Aniseed Myrtle for use as an infusion in other dishes.
As well as Finger Limes, River Cottage Australia now has a variety of native plants growing in the garden that will hopefully grow and fruit successfully and provide Paul with ingredients for some uniquely Australian home grown dishes into the future.