Bushtucker gardens

A bushtucker garden is one that contains indigenous plants used for culinary, and sometimes medicinal, purposes. It can be designed in almost any garden style, by choosing edible plants that can suit, for example, formal settings or a sun-loving cottage garden. Species used range from small plants, such as Blue Flax-lily (Dianella caerulea) to large trees, such as Illawarra Plum Pine (Podocarpus elatus).  Different parts of the plants used include fruit, shoots, bark, leaves, roots, tubers or sap, depending on the species. These gardens can be beneficial to birds and other animals as well as humans.
Illawarra Plum Pine is one of the most palatable local species, with its fleshy purple fruit. These are only borne on female plants. Image by Byron Cawthorne-McGregor. 
Some particularly useful and/or tasty plants to consider include:



Black Apple (Planchonella australis)

Small to medium tree with large, tasty plum-like fruit that are best eaten fresh; full sun or part shade

Illawarra Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerifolius)

Tall rainforest tree with edible yellow seeds - requires processing (to remove irritating hairs) and roasting or baking; full sun

Coastal Banksia (Banksia integrifolia)

Small or medium sized tree with flowers in the form of ‘candles’ containing nectar; full sun

Illawarra Plum Pine (Podocarpus elatus)

Slow growing medium tree with glossy green leaves and tasty purple fruit; sun or shade

Native Tamarind (Diploglottis australis)

Tall rainforest tree with delicious tart orange fruit (which are often high up and difficult to access); full sun or part shade

Brush Cherry (Syzygium australe)

Medium to large tree with edible pink fruit, good for jam or eating fresh; full sun or part shade

Magenta Cherry (Syzygium paniculatum)

Neat small tree with edible reddish fruit good for making jam; full sun or part shade

Native Hibiscus (Hibiscus heterophyllus)

Small, fast-growing tree with a neat conical shape and edible leaf veins; full sun or part shade

Grey Myrtle (Backhousia myrtifolia)

Small tree whose leaves have a cinnamon like scent and can be used in cooking; full sun or part shade


Native Currant (Coprosma quadrifida)

Small-leaved shrub to 3m with edible red berries; prickly; part shade

Elderberry Panax (Polyscias sambucifolia)

Medium sized shrub or small tree with tart but tasty blue berries, ideal for baking or preserves; full sun to full shade

Coastal Wattle (Acacia longifolia subsp. sophorae)

Large, spreading shrub to 3m with broad green leaves and edible seeds; full sun

Bolwarra (Eupomatia laurina)

Shrub to 4m with arching branches and edible fruit; part or full shade

Brush Pepperberry (Tasmannia insipida)

Thin stemmed shrub to 3m with glossy leaves and edible, peppery berries; part shade

Cockspur Thorn (Maclura cochinchinensis)

Technically a woody climber, with many large spines but palatable soft fruit; part shade

Berry Saltbush (Einadia hastata)

Hardy low shrub to 30cm with many tiny but tasty bright red fruit; full sun 


Apple Berry (Billardiera scandens)

Medium-sized climber with soft hairy leaves and edible fruit; full sun or part shade

Giant Pepper Vine (Piper hederaceum)

Large vine with heart-shaped leaves and edible pepper fruit, can be pruned to size; full sun or part shade

Native Sarsaparilla (Smilax glyciphylla)

Delicate twiner with decorative red new growth and tangy fruit; part shade

Native Raspberry (Rubus parviflorus or R. rosifolius)

Low climbers or groundcovers with prickly stems and edible raspberry fruits; full sun or part shade 

Low plants and groundcovers

Native Mint (Mentha diemenica)

Neat low mint plant with a gentle mint flavour to its leaves; part shade

Pigface (Carpobrotus glaucescens)

Succulent groundcover for sandy sites, the fruit are tasty and young leaves can be blanched and eaten; full sun

Warrigal Greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides)

A low spreading plant with soft green edible spinach-like leaves; part shade

Sea Celery (Apium prostratum)

Small coastal plant with leaves that can be used like parsley; full sun

Rainforest Spinach (Elatostema reticulatum)

Attractive low plant for the edge of a pond or other permanently wet spot in part or full shade; the leaves are tasty eaten raw 

Blue Flax-lily (Dianella caerulea)

Strappy clumping perennial with edible blue fruit; full sun or part shade

Native Flax (Linum marginale)

Delicate small annual or biennial with blue flowers and edible flax seeds; part shade

Samphire (Sarcocornia quinqueflora)

Small edible succulent from the edges of saltmarsh, a culinary favourite; full sun

Warrigal Greens (Tetragonia tetragonoides) is a great little semi-succulent groundcover that has the added benefit of being edible. Image by Tracee Lea ©. 
Terry Rankmore's Murni Dhungang explores a range of edible native plants from the region. He has also written Bush Medicine Plants of the Illawarra.

For some suggestions on using these foods in cooking, and a range of recipes, check out Wild Lime by Juleigh Robins.  Wild Food Plants of Australia by Tim Low provides brief details on a wide range of edible native plants from around Australia.

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