People and Places
24/09/2019
Indigenous foodstuffs flourish from earth to sea

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Did you know there’s an incredible range of Indigenous plants growing from coast to coast across the Mornington Peninsula? From high on Arthurs Seat to the shoreline, Indigenous edible fruits and flowers flourish, bursting with nutrition and flavour. But you have to know where to look and what to look for. 

Indigenous educator Lionel Lauch from Living Culture explains: “Indigenous culture plans seven generations ahead to ensure there will be enough for those who follow. Our culture on the Mornington Peninsula dates back to over 100,000 years. Indigenous people were the first villagers to make bread from crushed native seeds like millet and kangaroo grass and are therefore the oldest bread-makers in the world, dating back at least 30,000 years, which was well before the Egyptians. Implements like grinding tools have been found on archaeological digs. We made ‘kitchen cupboards’ in trees and stored our grain for up to a year in watertight spaces within their trunks and in miniature huts. Our Indigenous flora is delicate and can be easily damaged, so it’s not advised to go off looking by yourself.”

From pigface growing along the coastline with its purple/pink flower and kiwifruit-tasting edible fruit to black wattle seeds tasting like sesame seeds and growing wild on Arthurs Seat, the food supply across the Peninsula is plentiful. Lionel continues: “The edible sap from the black wattle tree, which represents the elders, was used as bubblegum or jelly, while the bark can be crushed up and used as a medicine for digestion problems and open wounds. The tree is also used in smoking ceremonies and the wood is used for tools. Then there’s the witchetty grubs that live in the tree — the beetle larvae in the trunk and the moth larvae in the root. You can either eat them raw or cook them, and they are packed with protein. The cherry ballart, which represents children, has a stone fruit where the pit grows on the outside. It is high in antioxidants. Indigenous people have been making energy drinks from the manna gum’s sweet sap for generations.”

Our First People’s deep connection with their environment and surrounds is boundless. From smoking eels coated in oil in trees in Red Hill to kitchen middens dotted along the back beaches, hunting and foraging techniques that focus on forward thinking have been passed down through the generations with the understanding that there is enough if enough is all you take. With respect.

LIZ ROGERS 

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