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About 900 of the 1300 acacia species are native to Australia. Except in very wet regions they grow in all parts of the country. Acacias grow as bushes or small trees, their leaves are mostly slender, sometimes feathered and thin like conifer leaves. The flowers are yellow, few varieties have white or red flowers. The most important species for harvesting seeds are:
- Mulga (bot.: Acacia aneura)
- Witchetty bush (bot.: Acacia kempeana)
- Dogwood (bot.: Acacia coriacea)
- Acacia cowleana
- Acacia dictyophleba
- Bramble wattle (bot.: Acacia victoriae) and
- Strap wattle (bot.: Acacia holosericea)
Nutritional value of wattleseeds
Wattleseeds are high energy sources. They contain 18 - 25 percent protein and, depending on the species, a high fat content. Several medical studies suggest cancer-preventing properties of the seeds. Due to their low glycaemic index, foods with wattleseeds are suited for diabetics.
Culinary use of wattleseeds
Traditionally Aborigines harvested wattleseeds unripe and green as well as ripe, when their pods are brown and papery. They have to be cooked when unripe, otherwise they taste very bitter. Hard ripe seeds were ground and mixed with water to bake damper, a simple bush bread.
Nowadays wattleseeds are roasted to a dark colour and used as a spice. This technique was invented by accident by Vic Cherikoff, one of the pioneers in the rediscovery and spreading of bush tucker. Roasted wattleseeds have aromas of coffee, chocolate and hazelnuts and may be used in sweet as well as savoury dishes. The spice is sold under the name wattleseed and is available ground or as a liquid extract. Wattleseed is added to ice cream and chocolate, used as a spice in bread mixes and taste good in sauces and cream desserts.
In sweet recipes it may be combined with vanilla and cinnamon, for savoury dishes lemon myrtle, bush tomatoes and bush pepper all go well with it. In general 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of wattleseed per 500 grams of other ingredients is used, for cake and bread 1 tablespoon per 500 grams.