Those of you who follow my posts will know about my passion for wild plants for food and medicine and now, thanks to my daughter, Jainee, I have a special treat to share with you - the bunya nut (Araucaria bidwillii). When Jainee gave me one I couldn't contain my excitement as this bush food is something I've always wanted to try and although we don't live too far from the Bunya Mountains in Queensland this is the first chance I've had.
My four year old grandson, Jayce (Jainee's boy), pictured above, peeled the whole lot for me - he even worked out the quickest way to do it and had them done in no time.
The freshly peeled bunya nuts are edible so, using a hammer, Jayce opened a couple for us to try. They weren't hard like other nuts and while the flavour wasn't unpleasant it wasn't anything to get excited about so the next step was to roast them. If they can't be roasted straight away its best to keep the unshelled nuts in the fridge to keep them soft otherwise they become too hard to crack open at the tips to let the steam out. Thankfully we had Patricia Gardener's instructions to follow, which made the whole process much easier, especially knowing how to crack the nuts with a hammer. After doing them 'my way' and getting a few blood blisters on my fingers my husband, Pete, took over and cracked them with the hammer the correct way and they were soon in the oven.
Here is the result of our efforts pictured on a side plate or as we called them in the 'olden days' a bread and butter plate. Even roasted they were quite bland, but we did find they absorbed a lot of flavour after we added them to a curry. To get the best absorption they need to be crushed a little before adding them to stews, soups, curries or sauces.
While the experience was interesting it was a lot of effort and unless we were desperate for food I doubt we'd do it again.
It's interesting to note that while bunya nuts are an excellent nutritional bush food research has shown that extracts of the nuts have antibacterial bioactivity against a broad range of bacteria. This demonstrates the nuts' potential as food additives to inhibit bacterial spoilage and foodborne illnesses without the need for chemical preservative additives. The nuts also showed promise as antimicrobial agents for medicinal purposes.