Most of the edible fruits and veggies grown in our traditional Australian gardens were imported from overseas, but there is growing interest in native bush tucker foods. By growing edible native plants you can fill your backyard with unique and tasty bush tucker fruits, roots, nuts, seeds and leaves which have naturally evolved to thrive in our climate.
Bush foods have sustained Indigenous people for generations, and today we can learn their culture from the fruits of the land. Growing bush tucker plants is a wonderful way to connect young people to country.
Growing and eating fresh bush foods is great for our health. Popular bush tucker plants like Lilly Pilly contain high levels of vitamin C, magnesium and potassium. Mountain Pepperberry and Muntries are easy to grow and loaded with anti-oxidants.
How to grow bush tucker plants in Perth
Good soil is key to growing healthy edible native plants. The soil should be well drained and enriched with organic matter. Once established, most native bush tucker plants will grow with minimal fuss. To encourage more robust growth and intense flavours, use a liquid fertiliser that is safe for natives. Raised beds are not ideal for growing bush tucker plants.
To build a successful bush foods forest you need to create diversity and density. Native bush tucker plants can be categorised into three layers:
- Trees layer
- Shrub layer
- Herb layer
Choose your tree layer plants first to help build a canopy that will protect more tender plants from the strong Summer sun in Perth. There are several types of native plum trees to look out for including the Burdekin Plum, Davidson Plum and Illawarra Plum.
To increase your chances of success, choose native bush tucker plants that are suited to growing in your region. Check out neighbouring gardens and local nurseries for information specific to your local area.
In the same way that we recommend growing fruits and veggies that your family enjoys eating, it is a great idea to go for native tucker bush plants that your family love the taste of too.
We've selected some of the most popular and easy to grow bush tucker plants we recommend for gardens in Perth:
1. Midyim Berry
A small shrub with edible white and purple speckled berries that have a sweet, passionfruit taste. They grow well in full sun or partial shade and the berries are great in salads, muffins and smoothies.
2. Lilly Pilly
In Australia alone there are over 60 different types of lilly pilly. The pinkish red berries feature widely in traditional Aboriginal medicine as a treatment for wounds and skin conditions and as a general immune system booster. The small berries are popular for making jam and desserts.
Most people will recognise rosella (or wild hibiscus) from the flowers in syrup that are served in champagne and cocktails. The flowers are high in vitamin C, and may be eaten or used to make pectin which helps to set jellies and jams. The leaves and stems can be used fresh in salads, and in some cultures the bitter root is eaten for traditional medicine. Check out our Perth seed library for Rosella seeds.
Raspberry Jam Wattle is just one of over 950 species of Australian wattles, many of which have edible parts. This WA native is so named because of its strong aroma - the fragrant hardwood is useful for making tools and artefacts in Indigenous culture. Edible wattleseed can be roasted and used in Noongar cuisine to make flour.
5. Red Back Ginger
The popular perennial is an attractive plant with lush green leaves, berries and rhizomes which all taste of mild ginger. Wrap seafood parcels in the leaves and use the rhizomes in cooking like ginger. Plant in full or part shade for best results.
Commonly known as Ravensthorpe Radish, the youlk is native to WA where it is significant in Noongar culture. The tasty bushfood vegetable is considered a marker of Indigenous identity, spirituality and connection to country. Traditionally this bushfood root was grown along the South Coast and in the Wheatbelt region, where women would harvest them with digging sticks and roast them.
There are many more wonderful varieties of native bush foods you can grow in Perth and throughout Australia. We would love to know what you are growing where you are in the comments below.