Citrus Caviar and a Desert Nut

05 Jul 2013

Two Australian endemic foods, from the remote Kimberley in the far north west and from the sub-tropical forests of the east coast, have been added to the Slow Food Ark of Taste. The Pindan walnut Terminalia cunninghamii and finger lime Citrus australasica are relics of Gondwana, the southern super-continent that broke apart millions of years ago and included what we know as the Australian landmass. Today, these bush foods remain of significance to Aboriginal people and have been listed on the Ark of Taste in a bid to stop them disappearing from local cuisines and cultures.

The Pindan walnut, which tastes of almond when eaten raw but of cashew when roasted, grows in Western Australia’s West Kimberley and north western coastal hinterland. It is known to the Jugun, Yawuru and Jabirr-jabirr mobs (people) who live in and around Broome as yarl-mang-ngurr or kumpaja, and more widely as the ‘Kalumburu almond’.

Cultivation trials have been carried out in the West Kimberley for the past 10 years and a training program with local people has led to the development of techniques to grow the tree. It is considered to be at risk from a greater incidence of wildfires and industrial expansion resulting from the search for minerals, oil and gas in its habitat.

Pat Torres from the Broome Aboriginal community is working on the establishment of a ‘bush orchard’ 150 kilometres north of Broome to cultivate many of the West Kimberley’s endemic fruit and nut trees. She said that she hopes the Ark listing of the nut will lead to greater awareness of the importance of the walnut and other traditional Aboriginal foods.

The finger lime is endemic to rainforests in the eastern border region of New South Wales and Queensland, and is one of only six Australian citrus species. It is sometimes called “citrus caviar” after its pearl-like fruit that are housed in a cigar-shaped skin. Having no pith or segments like most citrus, it is particularly easy to eat. It is considered to be at risk from agricultural development in its habitat but a 15-member co-operative is now cultivating and harvesting the fruit.

With these two new additions, the Ark of Taste lists 13 foods in Australia and 1192 internationally. The only other endemic Australian food to be listed is the bunya nut from South East Queensland. The other Australia Ark foods were introduced with European settlement but are now at risk of loss or extinction in their place of origin. They include the Victorian Goldfields’ bullboar sausage, Kangaroo Island Ligurian bee honey, Tasmanian Leatherwood honey, Wessex Saddleback pig, Australian Dairy Shorthorn cattle and five varieties of Perry pear (Yellow Huffcap, Green Horse, Gin, Red Longdon and Moorcroft), which are used for making an alcoholic beverage.

For more information on the Ark of Taste and to find out how to nominate a breed, plant variety or product from your region please visit the website:

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