There’s something incredibly grounding about venturing out in your local neighbourhood in search of seasonal produce. It allows us to connect with the deep parts of our evolution which no longer seem to play an active role in our modern lives. For the most part, our nutritional needs can be catered for in a single visit to a single supermarket. But does this feed our souls? I think not. Nothing can replace the feeling of going out into nature and discovering beautiful foods hidden in the most unexpected places. For some, this may mean a trip to the local farmers market or farm gate, to connect with the people who nourish produce with their hands for months and can tell us the story of its journey. For others it may mean stopping on the roadside to pick blackberries and apples. Even more intrepid souls may leave with bags at the ready to explore out wild places for nature’s gifts.
In South East Queensland, the end of summer brings forth a couple of very tasty options. A trip to a local farmers market revealed an ingredient I’ve been keen to try for quite some time – Rosella calyx’s (Hibiscus sabdariffa). These beautiful deep red buds can be made into tasty, slightly tart syrups, jams and sorbets. I chose to make syrup with mine. Once the flowers were strained out they proved beautiful and delicious so they’ve been saved in the fridge for use as edible garnishes for desserts.
Another ingredient, a local bushfood called the Bunya Nut (Araucaria bidwillii), can be found at markets and even gathered from the roadside at this time of year. Giant cones weighing up to 10kg fall from the trees and may contain between 30 and 100 nuts. They required some work to dehusk and prepare but rewarded my efforts with a huge haul reminiscent of pine nuts (although closer in size to a brazil nut).
No matter where we live, our local environment doubtless has culinary treasures to be found. Hunting them down and learning to prepare them is a wonderful way to reconnect with our authentic selves.