View Full Version : Traditional Australian Plant Foods (Bush Tucker).

Darryl Shaw
12-17-2008, 06:18 AM
The Aborigines have lived in Australia for at least 40,000 years, and in all those long generations the land provided them with everything they needed for a healthy life. They also learned to manage their country in such ways that its resources renewed themselves and were not used up.

How did they do this? To quote Edward Curr, an early settler, they 'tilled their ground and cultivated their pastures with fire'. By controlled burning, they kept the bush open and allowed the growth of new seedlings in the ash-bed. Aborigines in Arnhem Land still do this. Many Australian plants will re-grow quickly after a fire; indeed some plants such as the grass-tree (Xanthorrhoea spp.) flower more prolifically after fire.

At least half of the food eaten by Aborigines came from plants, and it was the task of the women to collect them. Just as we eat root vegetables, greens, fruits and seeds, so did the Aborigines. Fruits, seeds and greens were only available during their appropriate seasons, but roots could usually be dug up all the year round, because the earth acted as a natural storage cupboard. Important foods were replanted. The regular digging-over of the soil, and the thinning out of clumps by collection of plants, together with burning to provide fertiliser, is not very different from what we do in our own gardens, and the whole country was in a way an Aboriginal garden.



Arien Malec
12-17-2008, 06:38 AM
On this theme, I'd recommend the book 1491 -- it really pokes a major hole in the vision of paleo man as living in harmony with nature. Humans all over the world engaged in massive reshaping of nature to suit their needs.

Darryl Shaw
02-16-2009, 06:40 AM
Australian Aboriginal plant foods: a consideration of their nutritional composition and health implications.

Janette C. Brand-Miller and Susanne H. A. Holt.

Human Nutrition Unit, Department of Biochemistry, University of Sydney, NSW and
CSIRO Division of Human Nutrition, Adelaide, SA, Australia


For at least 40-50000 years, plants played an important but supplementary role in the animal-dominated diet of Australian Aboriginal (AA) hunter-gatherers. New knowledge of the nutrient composition and the special physiological effects of their foods provides another perspective in the current debate on the composition of the ‘prudent’ diet and the diet on which humans evolved. In the present paper we have calculated the average nutrient composition of over 800 Aboriginal plant foods (in total and by food group) and highlighted the differences between these and modern cultivated foods. The data enable us to calculate the absolute contribution of plant foods to total food and nutrient intake of traditional living AA. If plants provided 20-40 % of the energy in the diet (the most likely range), then plants would have contributed 22-44 g protein, 18-36 g fat, 101-202 g carbohydrate, 40-80 g fibre and 90-180mg vitamin C in a 12500kJ (3000kcal) diet. Since all the carbohydrate came from plant foods, the traditional AA diet would have been relatively low in carbohydrate (especially starch) but high in dietary fibre in comparison with current recommendations. Over half the carbohydrate could have been in the form of sugars derived from fruit and honey. The low glycaemic index of their carbohydrate foods, however, would generate a relatively low demand for insulin secretion and this characteristic may have protected AA from a genetic predisposition to insulin resistance and its consequences (non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease, obesity). The dietary pattern and active lifestyle of recent hunter-gatherers such as AA may be a reference standard for modem human nutrition and a model for defence against diseases of affluence.