A traditional Indigenous bushfood could be the next superfood

Monday, 12 February, 2024

A traditional Indigenous bushfood could be the next superfood

Sera Susan Jacob from the ARC Centre for Uniquely Australian Foods has identified the properties and potential of wattleseed, an edible seed or legume from the Australian Acacia, traditionally used as a staple bushfood.

“Wattleseed has an incredible nutritional profile that is very different from traditionally known legumes, which creates an interesting market,” Jacob said.

“The legume is currently used as a flavouring ingredient because of its taste and aroma, but my studies show there are different ways to take advantage of its nutritional properties by using it as a major ingredient.

“Most existing consumer products only use one variety of wattleseed, A.victoriae, when there are many others to consider,” Jacob said.

“Wattleseed has similar protein content to other legumes but is very high in fibre and low in starch.

“It also contains compounds with a lot of anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic benefits, which are important to today’s consumers.”

As part of her PhD research, Jacob worked with Northern Territory industry partners Karen Sheldon Group and Kungkas Can Cook to create recipes that contain over 20% wattleseed, compared with the 3% found in most existing commercial products.

The recipes included a curry-style savoury dish and a muesli bar to appeal to consumers in regional and remote northern Australia, and a gluten-free vegan burger patty for the wider market.

Sarah Hickey, Karen Sheldon Group Director, said the recipes meet the recommended daily intake of iron, vitamin C and fibre in a child’s diet — components lacking in the diet of those with limited access to affordable, nutritious food.

According to Hickey, there is a market for products that showcase wattleseed because of their taste and nutritional value.

“Our objective is to ensure Indigenous Australians are involved in every stage of supply and that any value-add products are made where they’re wild-harvested.

“Our intent is to close the circle of supply, so the seeds harvested on Country also end up on the plates of those living on Country, improving their diets along with their economic prospects.

“It’s about honouring and respecting Indigenous Australians who have taken such great care of these foods for more than 60,000 years so we can all continue to enjoy them,” Hickey said.

Jacob said there were ample opportunities for the use of wattleseed, with more than 20 different species documented by Indigenous communities. Combining scientific evidence and Indigenous knowledge can be a powerful tool to successfully market wattleseed.

Educational materials from the research findings will also be created to be used in remote schools and community stores to pass on Indigenous knowledge and science.

The research paper is published in the Journal of Food Science.

Image credit: Megan Pope.

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