Spring – Perfect for Food Foraging
Our taste buds are bursting with flavour. Deep in the jungle of Adelaide’s lush Botanic Gardens we are unearthing new taste sensations to try at home. Spring is the perfect time of year to enjoy a food foraging tour.
The discovery of how good hibiscus jam tastes is a revelation. We taste segments of cumquat and mandarin for our palate to compare. I am surprised that the sweetness and juiciness of the cumquat defeats the mandarin by a mile, and will forever be known as its poor cousin. Our tour guide through this maze of plants informs us, “you don’t eat the skin of the mandarin, just the inside, but you can eat the whole cumquat.”
Our volunteer tour guide for our food foraging tour in Adelaide Botanic Garden is Jan. For the past ten years she has been volunteering with the Friends of the Botanic Gardens. Jan inspires us with her knowledge and enthusiasm. We learn that wild hibiscus has grown in Australia for several thousand years. Kurrajong now export their immensely popular champagne dipping flowers to over 30 countries. “Cumquat is also a good luck symbol”, Jan tells us, “and a sign of prosperity originating in China”. The taste of pomegranate juice titillates us further. “A very ancient fruit, the seeds can be used in salad, marinade and couscous,” Jan enlightens us. “The Greeks smash them on the ground at weddings and the Vietnamese thread the seeds to use as necklaces.”
Winding our way through the abundant gardens, I’m mesmerised as we learn about the history and culinary usage of lilly pillies by the early settlers. I also learn there are over 40 edible native varieties of fig trees.
The biggest surprise on this sensory food foraging tour is the discovery of muntrie apples. This is a bush tucker food from South Australia related to the eucalyptus tree. According to Jan muntrie apples are the next big “superfood”, with four times the antioxidant benefit of blueberries. The delicious, slightly spicy and sweet flavour explodes in our mouth and we revel in tasting them both raw and covered in chocolate.
Plants for the Pantry is one of various food foraging tours you can do at the Adelaide Botanic Garden. Fiery Foods, Tomato Tales, Heirloom Foods and Harvest the Landscape to name a few others. The best time to book is October – April. For bookings contact Peter Clark on 83707328 / 0400272093 or Stephanie at the Volunteer Friends of the Botanic Gardens office on 82229367. Cost is a very reasonable $5 per person for group tours.