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Bushfood is the term for all foods native to Australia and used by Aborigines. It is also known as bush tucker. Aboriginal diet consisted of foods derived from plants, such as seeds, starchy roots, fruits, vegetables, spices and nuts, as well as meat, insects, fish and seafood. Only few fungi are known bush tucker. Other foods included wild honey, nectar and gum.


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Aboriginal use of bushfoods

Aboriginal alimentation differed from region to region, depending on what the land had to offer, and even from tribe to tribe. Many foods had a specific season, either when they were ripe or when for example their toxicity levels were lowest. Some foods were only eaten in small amounts as a medicine or a treat, while others were staples and could be found year-round. Aborigines in general did not store food and used different cooking methods. Most tribes had no pots or other containers and cooked food directly on the fire, coals or ashes or in an earth oven. Apart from some tribes in the far North, they did not boil water.

All foods used by Aborigines have a connection to the Dreaming or spirit world. Food customs and laws developed out of spiritual beliefs and many Aboriginal people still follow these rules today. Some foods were only collected or prepared by women, others only by men. While certain animals might have been sacred in one tribe, other tribes hunted and ate them.


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Modern use of bushfoods


While most bushfoods were thought to be inferior or even inedible by white settlers, they were nonetheless often dependent on it for survival. Settlers, who learned how to find and prepare native foods, had a far greater chance of survival than those, who tried without. Some foods traditionally used by Aborigines are now respected, more easily obtained and have even become quite fashionable. Examples are kangaroo meat, spices like wattleseed or lemon myrtle and fruits like quandong or kakadu plums. Others like many insects and lizards eaten by indigineous Australians will probably never be widely spread. Restaurants increasingly use bushfood ingredients, although often in a different way than Aborigines used them. Fruits are now used to prepare jams, sauces or chutneys, spices flavour everything from steaks to cappuccino, and some bush tucker plants have become popular as tea.


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